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Efficiencies and responsible staff stewardship: a library manager's critical self‐reflection

Colleen S. Harris (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Lupton Library Department, Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA)

The Bottom Line

ISSN: 0888-045X

Article publication date: 23 August 2011




The purpose of this paper is to explore the myriad non‐financial ways in which library managers can motivate employees and address performance issues, reducing attrition and increasing productivity and satisfaction without increasing salaries.


A critical self‐reflection summarizing the author's experiential learning as a new assistant department head tackling a library department's productivity and cost issues with staff processing of course reserves. After an initial description of the situation, the paper explores the theories that apply to the experience, and includes analysis of the experience in light of those theories. The article includes how application by one library manager of findings from motivation, trust, and leadership theory literature was able to reduce staff attrition, increase staff satisfaction, and reduce costs.


The literature from a number of fields demonstrates that there are areas aside from financial compensation that library managers can harness to increase the motivation and satisfaction of staff members. An awareness of the factors cited in these literatures can help library leadership and managers improve unit performance. As budgets continue to shrink and open positions remain unfilled, it is imperative library managers find creative, non‐remunerative, and effective ways to address staffing needs.

Research limitations/implications

The continued economic and budget limitations facing libraries create implications for library leaders and managers in terms of replacing and rewarding staff members, and creating workflow efficiencies in necessary library services.

Practical implications

This paper brings the issue of responsible staff stewardship and practical management to the forefront in an effort to engage library leaders and managers in a discussion about engaging with other discipline literatures for suggestions on how to maintain productive, satisfied staff while faced with fewer resources for rewarding good work.

Social implications

The culture of library management practice could (and should) be affected by this issue, and the work in other disciplines may have wider application in terms of human resources management, distributions of managers' effort, and performance management issues in libraries.


The paper outlines one library manager's approach to an under‐performing library department, relating those approaches to factors identified in the broader literature as important to managers and leaders, and addresses the issue of how to address library service needs as budgets are stripped and staff attrition without replacement becomes regular practice.



Harris, C.S. (2011), "Efficiencies and responsible staff stewardship: a library manager's critical self‐reflection", The Bottom Line, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 129-137.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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