In the Process of Becoming: The Organizational Culture of the Metropolitan Academic Library
25 June 2011, 3:30PM – 5:00PM, Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, Room 395
Purpose of the Study
This study investigated and ascertained the organizational culture of an academic library located in a Southern, metropolitan university.
What is the primary culture of an academic library and how does this culture manifest itself?
Definition of Organizational Culture
A pattern of shared basic assumptions that was learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems (Schein, 2004).
- Case Study of a large, metropolitan university located in the Southern U.S.
- 66 Full-Time Librarians and Library Staff
- Martin Culture Survey
- 45% Response Rate
- Analysis of Annual Reports
- Field Notes
- Interview Jottings; Diary; Field Notes; Planner
- Interviews Analyzed by Hand
- Created Own Coding
- Development of Themes
- Multiple Mentions of an Idea
- Several Iterations of Themes and Combinations
Schein’s Five Levels of Cultural Assumptions
- Assumptions about External Adaptation Issues
- Assumptions about Internal Integration
- Assumptions about the Nature of Truth and Reality
- Assumptions about the Nature of Time and Space
- Assumptions about Human Nature, Activity, and Relationships
Assumptions about External Adaptation Issues
- Shared Knowledge of Library’s Mission and Goals
- Librarian Image
- Positive Image within the University (Self-Perceived)
- Not Equal to Teaching Faculty, Just Different
- Campus Outreach and Engagement
- Contributes to Positive Image
- Lack of Resources an Impediment; Can Still Do More
Assumptions about Internal Integration
- The library values people
- Bringing People Together is Important
- Library is Made of Unique Personalities and Characters
- Ritual: The Christmas Party
- Defining Boundaries: Librarians and LTAs
- Limited Divide
- Librarians, Big Picture; LTAs, Day-to-Day Activities
- The Library is a Nice Place to Work
- Saga: The Humble Origins and Renovation of the Library
- Teaches Hard-Work and Sacrifice
- Scarce Resources
- Especially People
Assumptions about the Nature of Truth and Reality
- Change in Leaders and Leadership Styles
- Old Director
- Not Open
- New Dean
- Old Director
- None to a Rapid Rate
- Difficult Transition
Assumptions about the Nature of Time and Space
- Historical Time
- Many Stories and Participants in History, Need to Share More
- Moving to Decision Making
- Ritual: Meetings
- People Coming Together
- Ritual: Professional Development Day
- People Coming Together
- Hierarchical Use of Space
- Represents Old Administration
- Bland Colors
Assumptions about Human Nature, Activity, and Relationships
- Value Variety and Freedom in their Jobs
- Passionate about the Profession of Librarianship
- Service to the Patrons
- Top Priority Amongst All Departments
- Diversity of People
- Symbol: Reference Desk
- Coming Together
I found the culture of the Metropolitan Academic Library to be “in the process of becoming.” The culture present in the library was not deep or rich; however, I did find some shared values, symbols, and sagas. With a recent turnover in administration, change was a dominant story of the Metropolitan Academic Library. The librarians and library technical assistants valued campus engagement, the people within the library, and service to the library patrons. These values find symbolic recognition in the Christmas party and the reference desk. Popular sagas of the Metropolitan Academic Library include the story of its humble origins and the building renovation.
Although this is a case study, lessons may drawn from the research which would help all academic libraries.
- The importance of shared Knowledge of the library’s mission and goals. This ensures everyone is working towards the same ends.
- Importance of outreach and advocacy in raising the profile of the library. High profile departments and units receive the funding and attention they need.
- Developing a positive self-image amongst the librarians and library staff is critical for a high-functioning library.
- Libraries need to show what they value through rituals, and valuing the people of the library is of utmost importance.
- Libraries can not afford to become stagnant. Change is difficult for an organization, especially when it is not common. Libraries need to focus on stimulating the organization and emphasize learning.
A good library leader will be able to capitalize on the passions and values of those within the library in order to create a dynamic organization in which the librarians and library staff are constantly challenged and rewarded. This is the real value in knowing the culture, the shared values, norms, and beliefs, of those within your organization.