Use of Teams in ARL Libraries

Philip Calvert (Victoria University of Wellington)

Library Management

ISSN: 0143-5124

Article publication date: 1 July 2000




Calvert, P. (2000), "Use of Teams in ARL Libraries", Library Management, Vol. 21 No. 5, pp. 271-278.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

At first it is very hard to tell what this book is about. On closer inspection it turns out to be the results of a SPEC survey of ARL libraries, the objectives of which were to gain a more specific sense of the trend towards the use of teams, and to study how extensively libraries are either making use of teams or reorganising into team‐based organisations. The results show that teams are at least being experimented with in most ARL libraries, but the use of teams is still secondary to traditional, “functional” organisational units. Only five libraries described their organisation as team‐based. More than half of the respondents said they had at least one permanent team, and about the same number said they had at least one project team. That nearly three‐quarters of responses showed that no teams existed in the organisation more than five years ago suggests that teams are a recent development for most libraries. Teams are used for a variety of purposes, covering every function in the library: some examples are in bibliographic services management, library services assessment, regional depository outreach, Web oversight, document delivery, Japanese studies, and digital collections.

Not all organisations use the word “team” of course, preferring to use “group” or “task force”, or even traditional names such as “committee”, “department” or “section”. Only 16 per cent use a written definition of team. More than half the libraries have started some training for staff‐related teams, which is good to see considering the newness of teams to most library staff.

In 40 per cent of all libraries responding to the survey, team accomplishment was rewarded by the organisation, but only one library had a compensation/reward system in place for teams. Perhaps as a result, not many libraries could claim a “strong positive” impact of teams – only 26 per cent, in fact. There remains a reluctance to restructure the library staffing structure into a totally team‐based organisation. Perhaps this is because it seems such a different way of working, and hence a profound change for most staff. The traditional command‐and‐control hierarchies may not be loved, but at least staff know what to expect from them. The idea of using teams seems especially difficult for middle managers, who perhaps see no place for themselves or their skills in a team‐based organisation.

So, results apart, the book contains copies of the actual responses sent in by libraries. They are in the original format, font and all, so the total impression given is rather chaotic and not at all easy to use.

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