Becoming a chief librarian: an analysis of transition stages in academic library leadership.
THE AUTHOR EXPLORES HOW THE FOUR-PART MODEL of transition cycles identified by Nicholson and West (1988) applies to becoming a chief librarian of an academic library. The four stages--preparation, encounter, adjustment, and stabilization--are considered from the micro-, mezzo-, and macrolevels of the organization, as well as for their psychological and social impact on the new job incumbent. An instrument for assessment of transitional success which could be administered in the adjustment or stabilization stage is considered.
Whether midlife or not, job transitions are well-studied and documented phenomena in the literature of industrial psychology, organizational behavior, and personnel management. This article will examine midlife job change among librarians, particularly movement into senior academic-library administration positions such as chief librarian. The analysis will be organized primarily around the Nicholson and West model of "Transition Cycles" (1988), examining the issues around role expectations of both the individual and the institution that are uncovered in the process of job transition. The article will briefly touch on other theories associated with job change, such as "uncertainty reduction theory" (Kramer, 1996, p. 59), "social exchange theory" (Kramer, Roberts, & Turban, 1995, p. 152), and "person-organization fit" (Cable & Parsons, 2001)--"theories" that the author has now experienced firsthand.
In addition to considering the stages of transition and associated psychological and social impacts upon the individual making the change, this paper will also consider organizational impacts at the micro-, mezzo-, and macrolevels within the organization. While the examples will, in some instances, reflect personal experience with two job transitions to increasingly significant chief librarian positions, this article will not dwell on subjective analysis. Actually the opportunity to reflect on the literature on transition, together with the benefit of hindsight, has taught me some valuable lessons which I hope will be useful to readers in preparing for and accomplishing their own transitions. It comes as no surprise that there is much to master in a new senior position. The new chief librarian, like others assuming new jobs, must "build an image or role, build relationships, construct a frame of reference, map relevant players, locate themselves in communication networks, and learn the local language" (Louis cited in Kramer, 1994, p. 385) among many other things.
Additionally, this article will consider a measurement instrument for determining whether an individual is satisfying role expectations at the mezzo- and macrolevels, as a guide to increasing the organization's ability to analyze and to assist the transition. The "Report Card" approach used by the author in two universities is discussed as a sample instrument.
TRANSITION CYCLE MODELS
The Nicholson and West Transition Cycles Model has four distinct components which, as represented visually, illustrate a circular process in which completion of one phase leads into initiation of another. The four stages, which will be explored in this article, include preparation, encounter, adjustment, and stability.
While the time span of transition is not precisely articulated in the graphic, I would suggest that this four-stage period of transition could last about twelve to sixteen months if the period of preparation was compressed to a brief period of several months leading up to an actual move. There are numerous other models, such as Gabarro's (1985, p. 110) five-stage process of "taking charge" which, despite its similarities to the encounter, adjustment, and stability phases, lacks the important preparation stage of Nicholson and West. Nortier's (1995, pp. 1, 13) five-stage model of transition not only lacks the preparation stage but seems more negative, using characteristics like "reflex," "malfunction," and "confusion," which though they may well be part of transition, seem a backward means of analysis. Regardless of the specific model selected, the transition period in a new chief librarian job is one characterized by periods of significant learning as well as incremental learning, decisive action and slower consultative action, proactive planning and remedial actions.
While Nicholson and West (1988) characterize the preparation stage as one of "psychological readiness" (p.8), there will be some who make career changes without investing much conscious time in this stage. While precipitous termination is not common in a tenure-based university environment, it occurs regularly in the corporate world where business failure, mergers, acquisitions, and other factors can short-circuit an individual's psychological preparation for career or job change.
The preparation stage is also one for skill and competency readiness assessment. I would suggest that librarians, whether or not they have a career plan or advancement aspirations, have, by virtue of being professionals, many of the component parts of preparedness in their working existence. As someone whose career aspiration was focused on establishing a broad-based expertise and reputation in a specialist subject area, I was recruited into a library administration leadership position without having set my sights on that specific course. Nonetheless, well-rounded preparation can occur even within a more narrowly focused game plan, and a subconscious psychological readiness may well have been developing.
Librarians, particularly in universities, are regularly investing in their own professional development. Most are members of professional and scholarly associations and read the literature of those associations on a regular basis. In order to perform our jobs in a complex and dynamic information environment, we engage in a number of methods of exchanging different types of knowledge. The work of academics like Chun Wei Choo (1998; 2000) suggest that there are three categories of organizational knowledge: tacit (personal knowledge), explicit (codified knowledge), and cultural (knowledge based on shared beliefs). The literature of our field has the potential of contributing to the building of knowledge in all spheres, but particularly contributes to our explicit and cultural knowledge. Furthermore, engagement in committee work and participation in collegial decision-making contributes to building our skills and knowledge base in preparation for change. In addition, librarians attend conferences and seminars to enhance competencies on the job. What enhances one's competencies for the present may well also serve one's future needs.
Knowledge is not only the base of present job competency (Matthews & Perry, 1997), but it also builds the foundation for job or career transitions. A librarian who is consciously building a career plan or who has aspirations to a particular advancement, should, of course, develop a strategic plan for their professional development. While institutes and conferences sponsored by the ALA (including subgroups like LAMA), the Association of Research Libraries (www.arl.org/training), and others can be useful for preparation for advancement, there are other more specialized institutes such as the Frye Leadership Institute (http//www.fryeinstitute.org/) and the International Summer School on the Digital Library (http://cwis.kub.nl/~ticer/summer01/) that can be selected strategically to aid in preparedness. In Canada, the Northern Exposure to Leadership (http://www.ualberta.ca/LSS/NELI/) looks to attract those with leadership potential in the first seven years following graduation from a library or information science program. And of course, for the truly committed, M.B.A., L.L.B., or Ph.D. qualifications may also be desirable depending upon the position sought and the institution's expectations. If one's own career plan is neither part of the institution's plans nor resourced by them on your behalf, then vacation time, leave (sabbatical, research, or unpaid leave), and personal funds may be expended in undertaking these initiatives for your preparation.
The librarian's professional network is beneficial in adding to an explicit and substantive knowledge base. Additionally one's network may contribute to knowledge of the social and cultural dimensions of the workplace. It is a very small world indeed in academic library circles, and whether we anticipate change or not, we have a very valuable information asset in our networks with other librarians elsewhere and within our own institutions. For the person establishing a career plan, an environmental scan is particularly enhanced by the strength of one's network. Choo's (1999) work suggests that personal networks of business associates are deemed to be highly rated "for their ability to provide accurate and usable information" (p. 9).
A career plan is like a good business plan and includes an environmental scan, itemization of "assets," and consideration of competitors. McCall (1998) provides a concrete guide to self-assessment and development for career-planning (pp. 203-232), which could be used as a developmental framework. One might want to cultivate knowledge of a particular institution, its academic priorities, the librarians and faculty there, who any competitors might be, and what their attributes are. Based upon one's capacity for relocation, one might want to scan a number of universities, identifying term periods for existing chief librarians and anticipating a series of moves, just as in a chess game, because one move in the senior ranks can set off a ripple effect. Knowing your various opportunities can provide strategic advantage.
An environmental scan of the library in and of itself is not adequate. A strong knowledge of the university culture, faculty perceptions of the role of the library, and the history and future of the budgetary commitment to the library are all part of what might be considered in contemplating a move to another university. The disadvantage to the person recruited to a job and not equipped with a personal strategic plan is that the time period for this reconnaissance is considerably constrained, and hence having a strong network in the first place is advantageous. Preparedness can include environmental scanning even within one's own university, for there is much to learn relative to new position demands, and senior administrators may possess information and plans that are not common knowledge to librarians within the ranks.
Every hire--particularly that of a chief librarian--comes with a set of institutional expectations. Preparedness includes eliciting what those expectations might be. They could be made explicit in a job ad, they could be made further explicit in the interview or in subsequent prehire meetings with the president, principal, vice president academic, or other senior academic administrator. This environmental scan stage of preparation is the homework at which librarians should excel, both through their networks and through Web-based and other research. Job changers today have an outstanding capacity to mine data from an institution's Web site and from related online resources which can help them position various factors.
The academic librarian is responsible for his or her own curriculum vitae, for adding to it through a list of accomplishments that make it a "living" document. Preparation, planned or otherwise, is abetted not just by building the knowledge base through conference attendance, but by experience in presenting papers, publishing, undertaking research, and serving on the executive boards of professional associations. In the first senior job to which I was recruited, my professional reputation and communication skills gained through committee leadership were instrumental in bringing me to the attention of the search committee. Annual job appraisal or performance review gives librarians the opportunity to establish regular learning outcomes for their personal and professional development. Mentoring can also play a role in preparedness, either by mentoring another or by being mentored by someone who has the capacity to enrich your skills and competencies. Mentoring programs are often available formally, but the best may actually be self-initiated and need not be confined to the institution or even to the profession. (e.g., Clutterbuck & Megginson, 1999).
Another important element of preparation is one's own psychological and social preparedness. Why would one want to become a chief librarian? Hernon, Powell, and Young (2001) cite "ego, belief that they can make a difference, prestige of the university, spousal accommodation, personal reasons, move to a university with a positive attitude towards the library, desire to leave an unpleasant situation, and preference to move to a better budgetary situation" (p. 140) as factors that might be considered at the preparation stage. Preparedness can be compressed by the job invitation scenario, but it should never be omitted. Being prepared involves one's own personal reflection on risk-taking, stress tolerance, learning capacity, values, capacity for self-sacrifice, and family capacity for change and sacrifice. In one move I had to contemplate my capacity for long highway commutes, not just as someone used to short public transit (convenient, environmentally responsible, economical), but for real costs associated with gas, car maintenance, parking, etc., as well as two to four hours daily of unproductive car-based time, most of which would be absorbed at the family end. Certainly all really senior jobs require long time commitments, and while very few truly dedicated librarians are clock punchers, many senior jobs include irregular hours and/or have demands which require flexibility. It is, for example, "more difficult to have a private and research life" (Hernon, Powell, & Young, 2001, p. 140).
The "expectancy-valence theory" (Vroom cited in Nicholson & West, 1988, p. 8) particularly considers what the role expectations are for any position, and while the institution may have some that are explicit, the job changer must come to terms with his or her own personal possible outcomes or suffer the consequences of missing this stage of preparation. Be knowledgeable about the demands of the position. Bandura (as cited in Anderson & Betz, 2001, p. 98) suggests that persons seeking certain career advancement should possess reasonable levels of "social efficacy"--that is, competence in behavioral domains such as social-approach skill (as opposed to avoidance behavior) and performance and persistence in social situations. The chief librarian has a role to play in the university at large, as well as in the profession and in the community, and analysis of one's strengths in this domain is essential.
While the concept goes back a long way to Merton (1957, p. 265), "anticipatory socialization" is part of the preparation for a job change. This is based on understanding and embracing the values associated with a position and the behaviors associated with it, and reconciling these to one's own personal dimensions, including one's academic background, the social dynamics of one's work environment, and many other factors. A cause of dissonance in a new position is incongruence with the values between one's anticipated socialization and the actual work experience. Here the value of networks, homework, and preparedness are paramount.
The work of Cable and Parsons (2001) and Schneider (cited in Cable & Parsons, 2001, p. 1), for example, considers the concept of "person-organization fit" and how "individuals and organizations are attracted to each other based on similar values and goals." Attraction based on similar goals may not always be the case, and requires both preencounter reconnaissance and reflection on the part of a candidate. Difficulty in adjustment may occur if values are not reconciled. For example, while all universities value the broad and underlying concepts fundamental to postsecondary education, the organizational culture of an "applied" university, its beliefs, values and expectations, are distinctive from those of a medical, doctoral, and/or research-based university, particularly regarding the library. Thus the preparation and encounter stages, for both the candidate and the institution, are very important since the "person-organization fit research has shown that the discrepancy between actual and ideal organizational culture (i.e., discrepancies between what the organization and the individual values) can influence important organizational criteria" (Chatman cited in Goodman & Svyantek, 1999, p. 257). The extent to which these values are bridged in the various stages of transition, from the selection through the encounter and adjustment stages, will be a major determinant of whether or not the new individual is able to contribute "contextual performance" (Goodman & Svyantek, 1999, p. 257). Indeed, Cable and Parsons (2001) refer to the value of the "investiture process" by which newcomers are not just oriented to a new position or workplace but are led to internalize the values of the organization. This is similar to what Choo (2000) refers to as "cultural knowledge" (p. 397), which includes shared assumptions, beliefs, and values.
Self-analysis at the preparation stage, as indeed throughout one's life course, ought to include reflection upon what value one places on numerous factors. Cable and Parsons (2001) call this examination "pre-entry values congruence" (p. 8). Situations taken for granted in one workplace might be a source of discontent when absent from another. For example, the discovery that a pension plan was not portable to another university, entailing the necessity of making decisions around locking in or creating a self-administered fund may be unwelcome, and when combined with other factors such as losing sabbatical, sacrificing portable scholarships, and other financial considerations, can become negative baggage associated with the move from one university to another. Conversely, some financial considerations such as higher salary or the opportunity to self-manage pension investments could become enticements. Also, as will be discussed under the following section on adjustment, the extent to which one values the "character" of one type of university over another may become a factor, since it has more to it than just the international reputation of the universities. For example, the difference between a research-intensive university and a primarily undergraduate applied university includes access to the whole leading edge information loop for library innovation, as manifest in the ARL and CARL networks.
The encounter stage of transition is where more of the social factors come into play. This stage encompasses both the "early" encounter stage of job interview (and any formal presentations, meetings with senior administrators, etc., as part of the selection process) as well as the first few weeks on the job for the successful new hire. This article focuses on the latter, since there is a large body of literature on the interview as encounter.
Merton's "anticipatory socialization" (1957, p. 265), referred to above, may have constructed a sense of place and circumstance for the position incumbent that, depending upon the strength and accuracy of one's network and homework, may or may not be borne out in the early stages. The oral history of a place and its inhabitants, if carefully constructed from reliable sources, can reduce the "reality shock" of the new position. There is much written on the preparation for socialization of newcomers both from the individual and institutional perspective. For example, in choosing to use the Nicholson and West four-stage model, I considered a subset of the literature that was more narrowly focused on the socialization that goes on in the encounter and adjustment stages. Van Maanen and Schein (1979) constructed a six-tactic model that was antithetical: collective and individual socialization tactics, formal and informal, sequential and fixed, variable and random, serial and disjunctive, and tactics of investiture and divestiture. These elements can certainly be found throughout all the stages of the Nicholson and West model, and although not referred to specifically in the antithetical sense, surely underlie much of what transpires in the transition to the office of chief librarian.
This article also focuses on how the organization prepares for the encounter and deconstructs the organizational response to three levels: the micro-, the mezzo-, and the macrolevels within the organization. As explained below, each of these is important to the position transition, and like herding cats, may leave the incumbent's head spinning in the early stages as he or she comes to terms with the multiplicity of social levels and the information in the new work environment.
The microlevel refers to those individuals directly associated with the new position incumbent in the office of the chief librarian. These individuals are the secretaries and/or administrative assistants working in the office of the chief librarian at the time of the transition. I have been truly blessed to work with individuals who are knowledgeable, pleasant, and hugely responsible for keeping the library as well managed as can be. In addition, these have been, in my experience, people whom I have liked a great deal and have respected enormously. This is a great bonus, but one that should not be counted upon in making a job transition. It is highly possible that one of the steps that will be necessary for a new chief librarian will be to effect change at the microlevel: to either adjust one's own style somewhat to work with the staff in place, to retrain the staff to adapt to one's working style, or to effect some significant career transition for the library office staff concerned.
The microlevel analysis of the encounter stage should also be viewed from the perspective of the library office staff. With the term nature of chief librarian appointments, these office staff may have survived transition in the past. However, in all likelihood they have been disenfranchised from the selection and hiring stage. They do not have the professional network that the librarians on the search committee have for learning about the new incumbent or for contextualizing what they do hear via the "grapevine." They are, however, far more intensively involved in the success or failure of the early stages of encounter than people at the mezzo- or macrolevel. They have role expectations based both on their experience of the previous chief librarians they have worked with and on their understanding of the mezzo- and macrolevels of the university. They may not have been party to the discussions around role expectations that were part of the recruitment and selection process. In fact, if some major change in vision or direction at the mezzo- or macrolevel is to be signaled by the new appointment but not communicated clearly to the library office staff, then there may be further problems in the encounter and transition stages at the microlevel. Thus the early stages of the working relationship between the chief librarian and his or her assistant are fundamental to the establishment of trust, expectations, and sound communications.
The mezzolevel of encounter involves specifically those librarians, staff, and faculty who have been involved in the development of the job advertisement, the search, and the interview process and who will be working in a professional relationship with the new director. It is likely at the chief librarian stage that the short-listed candidates have also given a lecture and therefore have had the encounter with a broader spectrum of the same strata. The faculty group that attended the lecture may be seen to be more "library friendly" and ought not to be considered to accurately reflect the faculty at large, although this can be the case. The candidate's ability to construct a reality from the lecture encounter may be in direct proportion to the controversial nature of his or her lecture content and the size of the audience it draws. How the lecture was promoted within the university provides another signal about the role and value of the position and the library itself, which become part of the incumbent's processing of the role and identity of the library at the recruitment stage. Everything tells you about something!
The members of the internal network at the mezzolevel construct their own information and role expectations about the incumbent based upon their own networks and homework--much like one's own environmental scan from the preparedness stage, but in reverse. They too have prepared, and the encounter stage for them, as much as for the candidate, is one at which the socially constructed role is examined. This is especially true of the other librarians in the university. Their understanding of you is based upon their understanding of the needs of their organization (both the library and the university), your interview, the questions you bring, and the manner in which you challenge their thinking, your "public" published record, their own professional networks, and other such means of constructing understanding.
As the usual committee for a chief librarian search is comprised of faculty as well as librarians, their take on the early encounter, both pre- and posthire, is context sensitive. Faculty role expectations may be constructed in various ways, some of which are faculty specific. For example, a dean of science may have a strong role expectation based on the need for digital full text information, whereas the humanist faculty might have an interest in building depth or breadth of particular niches, regardless of format. All of these are part of the role expectation that the new chief librarian also has to contextualize, putting the various contacts, overtures and explicit expectations into the knowledge base that he or she has constructed of the university and library environment as a whole. Since individuals and groups at the mezzolevel begin their own "sensemaking" (Choo, 2002, p. 79) at the encounter stage, constructing and deconstructing role expectations of the new chief, it is essential that candidates strive to articulate a basic vision and statement of priorities for the university library.
One particularly noteworthy element that emerges at the encounter stage and carries on into the adjustment stage is the dynamic around interaction with any internal candidates who have not been selected as the successful candidate. They have their own personal and professional identities and allegiances (or adversaries) within the library and the university. These can color the transition and the culture significantly, according to their professional standing and emotional capacity. The unsuccessful professional who is mature and focused on the success of the organization has more capacity to move the organization forward in working overtly and covertly with the new incumbent, adds positively to the organization's future, and reflects a degree of rational capacity that should be valued and recognized in the transition process. My most recent transition has in fact been significantly aided by such a professional individual. A dysfunctional transition situation may include overt welcome and covert discontent and requires that the successful incumbent divert attention to address this behavior.
The members of the macrolevel of the university, its president, vice presidents, provost, deans, and even board of governors usually play an important role in the recruitment of a chief librarian, some for their role in actual encounters with the candidate and some for the message they send by virtue of their own appointments. The macrolevel plays a role in the formal orientation of the new chief librarian through particular orientation processes and should ideally be responsible for the investiture processes by which the highest leadership values of the culture are communicated. In attempting to cement the person-organization fit, fins can sometimes be accomplished through the use of "serial and investiture socialization" (Cable & Parsons, 2001, p. 7) tactics such as mentoring that, even done informally, can help the newcomer inculcate the norms and values of the organization.
The candidate, in agreeing to apply for a senior position, constructs his or her own assessment of the university, its leadership, and the caliber of those with whom they will engage in their role as chief librarian. It is not common to have governors on the selection committee, but the candidate does seek out information about governance of a university as part of the preparation and encounter stages. What information can be discerned from a university's Web site or other documentation about the board or governing council may be useful in constructing a sense of such things as how interventionist it might be in the management of the university, how strongly it supports any major endeavors that might be in the works (say, a capital campaign for a nevi library), or similar matters. Lack of publicly available information about university governance ought to be cause for further inquiry.
At both the presidential and vice presidential level it is reasonable to anticipate both knowledge and expectations of the university library and opinions on the library leadership being sought. While the university president is not normally on the search or selection committee, there must be both strong background research on the leadership this person brings to the university and a personal meeting with this administrator before the encounter stage at the macrolevel is complete. The chief librarian and the university library will be highly dependent upon the vision and leadership of the president, so although the chief most likely reports to the vice president academic (or provost), one should see evidence that the library is important to the president. Although the in-person meeting is an excellent opportunity to explore issues identified in the recruitment stage, be certain to review any major speeches or "University vision" documents that the president has presented. At Ryerson University, for example, the president's "Knowledge for Life" document, setting forth a five-year vision for the university, provided this candidate ample opportunity at the encounter stage to elicit the role of information and the library. One might attempt to determine whether the budgetary resourcing of the university library is proportionate to the goals set out in such vision documents by researching benchmarking documents and by consulting many of the commercial magazines and books which rank universities by various measures.
The timing and breadth of a search, where and how a university has advertised (in professional journals, at conferences, or using a head-hunting firm) all signal something useful to the encounter. The vice president academic or provost may play an important role in what he or she signals to the search committee during interviews or afterwards, as well as what they signal to the candidate in independent meetings with them. One difficulty that may be encountered has to do with the term of appointments of those at the macrolevel. Presidents' and provosts' terms end, such that the chief librarian may find himself or herself working with an individual who in fact played no role whatsoever in his or her selection. Part of one's networking should include information on the term of the person you would report to and what processes are being undertaken around that incumbent's continuance, renewal, or search for their successor. You would be amazed what useful information you can determine from that line of inquiry alone. In my most recent transition, I had all of my early encounter meetings with the outgoing vice president academic, as the new one had not yet been appointed. For some this may be crucial, especially since this new vice president incumbent has for himself or herself a period of transition that may or may not impact on the chief librarian's ability to realize some of his or her expectations of the first months of employment. In this situation I had to rely on the expectation of a shared vision between the outgoing and incoming vice presidents academic, a well-articulated university vision, and a host of signals sent out through the recruitment and interview processes, as indicators of an environment and culture, leaving to our professional willingness and "good fortune" the chemistry of the actual working relationship.
From the personal perspective, the encounter stage is one in which the chief librarian signals readiness for change. He or she will form an understanding of the true role and status accorded the position that must be reconciled with his or her own personal expectations. For the librarian, the matter of the peer relationship and the collegial foundations of the academic librarian's role must be reconciled with what the institution (at the macrolevel) and the librarians (at the mezzolevel) expect (e.g., see Hecht, Higgerson, Gmelch, & Tucker, 1999). Some want the chief librarian to be a colleague and a superior, others are more explicit of the distance they expect between the rank librarians and the chief. Expectations around this have to do with the local culture, the size of the staff, any past experience of chief librarians returning to the ranks at the end of a term appointment, and what, if any, circumstances exist around the unsuccessful bid of an internal candidate for the chief position. Some of this may come out in the early weeks of the new appointment, but some librarians may be on "best behavior" early on, looking to take their own read on the style and priorities of the new chief librarian.
Also at the personal level in the encounter stage (both during the recruitment and in the first weeks on the job) come the first signals about the local organizational culture of the library. Some of this may have been apparent on the search committee, but the new chief will be interested in internal culture for its impact on the person-organization fit. Consider the difference between two possible opposite cultures: one environment in which the culture is very homogenous (age, race, gender, and other socio-demographics), the behaviors very conditioned and patterned (common breaks, arrival and departure times), in which individuality is subsumed to common identity; and one culture which is diverse (age, race, gender, etc.), the behaviors mature, flexible, and for the most part trusting of difference, and where both individual and group identity shine by virtue of those attributes. Such polarities do exist, and the new recruit should consider the importance of that culture in making a decision to accept a position. Some knowledge of the internal culture should have been discerned in the preparation stage as well as in the early encounter, and this knowledge will be crucial to signaling action and direction by the new chief librarian during the adjustment stage. If one has any expectations about culture change, they should be made explicit in the interview process so that, after an initial period of learning, the new set of expectations is not out of context. Mixed (or at least nonexplicit) messages one sends to the search committee that do not threaten either the status quo or more frank individual meetings with the administration about embedded problems can lead to a situation in which different parties may actually want to hire you for differing and conflicting reasons. While this may not necessarily be negative, keep the message singular and honest to all parties. Having the support of the senior administration while having a course of action seen as a threat internally likely requires a longer process of legitimation and communication, and in the end this situation may ensure that one party is less satisfied than the other.
In the early weeks of the encounter, some library staff may in fact be nervous and some may be enthused by change. Some may be on best behavior, getting to know the new director before showing their hand, and some may come out of the gates in confrontational mode. As the new chief moves into the "adjustment" stage, the learning will continue on all sides. The opportunity will exist to take the positive energy that has been assembled across the university from the search and hire activity and channel it into an actionable endeavor that signals the value of the library in the university. This could thereby contribute to staff morale and affirm the selection in the university.
At a truly individual level, the success of the first weeks in the job may also be impacted by such tangible (and seemingly mundane) matters as the size, shape, furnishing, and location of the new office, the personal impact on one's travel and transportation arrangements, the appearance and condition of the library, the size and adequacy of the library collection or budget, and the transition files left by or the transition meetings arranged with the previous incumbent. Some of these matters may not be mundane and may actually have played a role in shaping one's decision to accept a new position and certainly impact the early stages of adjustment to the new job.
There is a large body of literature on organizational socialization that documents strategies, successes, and pitfalls of adjustment at the individual and organizational levels. The individual's likelihood of success in the adjustment stage is enhanced by success in the preparation and encounter stages and is highly dependent upon good communication in all directions. Certainly at the chief librarian level there will be no hand-holding, as a self-starter is expected. One's prior work experience should contribute significantly at this stage, since the senior librarian is expected to have a strong capacity to learn more independently about processes, individuals, and values. That said, it does not absolve the university (and particularly one's superior) of responsibility for assisting in transition through formal and informal orientation and training sessions on matters particular to the university.
A pioneer in the issues around workplace adjustment, Bridges (cited in Nortier, 1995) identifies the value of letting go of one's old situation as part of the adjustment process. In so doing, one captures the best of one's learning from past experiences but opens up to the capacity to learn from the new. This has both personal and professional risks, but it also importantly signals to all levels one's willingness to recognize the new institution for what it is uniquely.
An indicator of adjustment, along the road to stability, is the ability to combine the skills brought to the job (cognition, skills, knowledge base) with the experience and social networks of the new environment, and then to apply these "knowledges" in such a way that results in actions and decisions. "To transfer one's knowledge to a new organizational culture" (Hernon, Powell, & Young, 2001, p. 126) requires learning and understanding that culture. In effect, the adjustment stage of transition is much like the knowledge-management process, in which the desired outcome is a compression of the "knowing-doing gap." Like Broer's (2001, p. 3) "knowing-doing gap," Burke and McKeen (1994, p. 17) identify the "alternating phases of intensive learning and intense action" as characteristic of the process of taking charge new managers experience. For a new chief librarian in the encounter and adjustment stages, one decision will be what actions to take during the "honeymoon period" of the new tenure. To act too soon could be precipitous and mean that one has not had the opportunity to collect all the appropriate background. To linger too long, however, could signal either lack of decisiveness or that one is offering only custodial management rather than leadership. There is no correct course to take here, but the appropriate balance of learning and action will be situationally resolved according to the circumstances of the library or issue.
For the individual, adjustments to micro-, mezzo-, and macrolevels may not progress simultaneously. Early adjustment to the operation of the library and the establishment of strong working relationships require success in the micro- and mezzo realms. There will exist structures for regular meetings (such as a library council), and in situ visits to all departments are essential. Sometimes the library will host a welcome reception or event at which staff can get to meet you individually. Certainly one must stretch one's mental capacities to get to know staff members' names and what they do, whether your staff is 40, 70, or 200 individuals. Ensure that librarian managers invite you to departmental meetings. The object of all this is not to micromanage units and functions that are running well, and staff ought to be assured of that! It will be up to the new chief librarian to define how much you want staff to know about you as a person, but it is certainly within reason that one share a brief professional biography so that all are aware of the professional background or library experience brought to the position. At early staff or library council meetings, be certain to communicate what goals were communicated to the search committee (and the president and vice president academic), so that staff can have an early sense of one's vision.
The omission of informal socialization from the macrolevel negatively impacts transition. Gabarro (1985, p. 119) suggests that the communication networks established and the quality of the working relationships enhanced through informal socialization help distinguish "successful and the failed transitions." To be included in outings for coffee or lunch, for example, is both part of the recognition of a person as an individual within the institution and part of the opportunity to employ Bandura's (cited in Anderson & Betz, 2001, p. 98) "social efficacy" concept. It permits the development of informal networks that become the vehicle for information sharing, for vetting ideas, and for building partnerships. It effects "alignment" (Hernon, Powell, & Young, 2001, p. 132) at a number of levels.
Ideally, the chief librarian will find some welcome and informal socialization at the macrolevel too, for further networking opportunities. The chief librarian can function best when acculturated to the institution, learning about its achievements and its difficulties through an informal network of others committed to the same academic mission. An institution's "oral history" is a living story, embellished by its many players. The same level of informal socialization may not be required of an individual promoted within the institution but, for one coming from outside, the support of those already here during the early stages of network cultivation is invaluable. The new chief librarian must plan a course of meetings too, taking his or her vision of the library to deans and other senior individuals for affirmation and reconciliation early on in the adjustment phase.
There is more difficulty at the macrolevel if the library has not previously been well placed on the communication radar of the appropriate offices or committees. The administration's assumption that what was fine for the previous incumbent ought to be fine for the new chief may simply not work, particularly if the new person is coming in from another institution. For instance, one's superior needs to understand and even anticipate some of the chief librarian's information needs, which may be communicated through regular update meetings and the appropriate dissemination of reports and documents. The size of the university and its bureaucracy can either assist or inhibit these efforts. For the new person at a senior level much of the onus is on the position incumbent to be the master of his or her own integration in information networks. Get to invited meetings and schedule those you need in order to meet the key players. This is where one's network with comparably placed librarians at other institutions is invaluable in prompting you to investigate what you ought to be doing within your own university. For example, the Ontario Council of University Libraries, and its directors' meetings and listserv, have been instrumental in both my learning and acculturation.
In addition to the informal socialization of new-position incumbents, many universities have formal orientation processes for new faculty and staff, often structuring specific orientations for new senior academic administrators. These are important processes for ensuring the transfer of core (explicit knowledge) information on budget processes, collective agreements, administrative channels, governance, etc. At one university I was particularly fortunate to be part of a senior-level planning retreat just three weeks into my job, providing me an excellent opportunity to meet an important group of academic and administrative leaders, to hear the vision articulated and discussed "publicly" by these leaders, and to be able to articulate the convergence of the library's mission with the university's. Since it is unlikely that both formal and informal processes of orientation and socialization will be equally achieved, be prepared to fill what gaps you perceive through your own initiatives.
Kramer (1994) actually warns of the situation in which "peers and supervisors may surmise that it is the other's responsibility to socialize new employees; as a result it is possible that neither provides the necessary information" (p. 395). Indeed the newcomer might not even know what information is missing if it has not been shared in the first instance. Conversely, "strategic ambiguity" (Eisenberg, 1984, p. 228) may be an effective technique employed in an organization to provide a less encumbered framework for change and independent action.
The position of chief librarian may in fact be a very isolating one--never truly a peer or colleague of the librarians by virtue of the status of the position, not one of the deans (who have their own cohort of other deans for support) and not one of the vice presidents or other executive administrators (see Hecht et al., 1999, p. 22, for example). This can be particularly challenging in the adjustment phase for a chief librarian, as he or she seeks to establish information networks, mentors, and to establish a person-organization fit. Some of the fit may well have to do with the age, gender, or academic credentials of the incumbent, as well as institutional factors and cultural assumptions. Librarians can relate to the uncertainty that exists in many universities across the continent on the librarian-faculty fit discussion, and this uncertainty does not evaporate when one becomes chief librarian! It could be a "now you fit, now you don't" status that, while not to be taken personally, merely reflects the values and understanding around the role of the library as a whole in the academic process. Above all, remember the changing dynamics of universities, and keep a healthy perspective on your professional role.
Adjustment is a continual process in dynamic organizations, and the day one feels that one is truly in a stable environment one is either delusional, dead, or ready to move again. That said, there is a point at which the adjustment is less conscious, and the individual is relatively stable and comfortable in the understanding of their job, the work environment, and what is expected of them. Kramer (1994) suggests that adjustment is accomplished when "employees have reduced uncertainty by developing cognitions or schemes for routine activities ... [such that] they are able to move from `mindful' to `mindless' activity in which automatic routines are enacted ... enabling them to be perceived as competent in their jobs" (p. 385). According to Nicholson and West (1988), "For the manager, the crucial process in stabilization is relating across levels of the hierarchy to bosses and subordinates" (p. 14). This would mean, for example, that the new chief librarian has achieved enough learning to determine the virtual boundaries of his or her role, and to understand the boundaries of his or her discretion such that he or she is able to act in areas of leadership and decision-making. Nicholson and West place particular value on the development of a critical relationship with one's supervisor as signaling adjustment.
Once adjusted to the position and fully functional, the chief librarian may be called upon to identify goals and to participate in the appraisal of his or her undertakings. This may involve a formal process of performance review and goal setting, or a less formal one. For the chief librarian, the review of personal achievement may well be bundled with the review of organizational achievement, since the chief librarian is responsible not just for his or her own individual achievements but those of the library as a whole.
It is extremely important to clarify expectations, at all three (micro-, mezzo-, and macro-) levels. The microlevel affords the opportunity for daily engagement and can particularly benefit from the use of a regular Monday morning planning meeting. At the mezzolevel, one technique I have used to assist both personal and organizational understanding of progress in the transition of the new chief librarian is the "report card" assessment. All library staff are provided a scoring instrument (in the appendix to this article) to which they may reply anonymously. Replies are sent to the chief librarian's assistant who then compiles the information into a report that protects the identity of those replying through the use of aggregate scores and anonymous anecdotal comments. Return rates are usually very high, based on two experiences with this method. The benefits of this simple (although unscientific) instrument are many, but should not be deemed to be wholly accurate as indicators of transitional success, particularly if staff are not wholly forthcoming in their assessment. Indeed, the use of this formal written feedback is not without risk, as Miller and Jablin (1991, pp. 95, 97) indicate the potential "social costs" of admitting that you are looking for information.
The potential benefits of some formal feedback mechanism can be deemed to support Kramer's (1994) "uncertainty reduction" theory research which shows that "receiving feedback from peers ... reduces stress and role ambiguity, and increases knowledge of how we use communication to accomplish ... tasks" (p. 396). Information, solicited or not, contributes to increasing organizational knowledge. While unsolicited feedback is deemed more useful, solicited feedback at the peer and supervisory level has considerable value that, for the author, has outweighed the "social costs" risks. To have staff affirm that "morale has improved significantly" or to suggest that more activities should be delegated can help direct management style.
The report card gives the chief librarian an opportunity to identify those areas in which he or she is presumed to be performing and for which they seek feedback. Thus, it serves as a means of reinforcing for staff the understanding of what a chief librarian ought to be achieving and sets the stage for new levels of preparation, encounter, and adjustment. Furthermore, the report card gives an opportunity to summarize some of the actual achievements in this area, as reminders to those answering the survey. By providing a Likert-type scale or a grading scheme (A, B, C) it provides for a range of response beyond the "pass/fail" or "achieved/did not achieve" realm. Additionally, room for anecdotal comment invites staff to offer input not elicited through the questions. The data, once assembled, should be shared with the staff and with one's superior and can be used to help focus performance and strategy in the stabilization period. At its weakest, the report card may only serve as a method of assessing staff approval of a managerial style and may be short on substantive analysis, but if communication and managerial style are part of the plan for a new chief, then this instrument has much merit.
Employing a report card assessment after six months or one year gives the chief librarian an opportunity to act on certain matters before problems are solidified. Taking the instrument in some form to academic leaders outside the library (deans, for example) enables the chief librarian to determine whether he or she is being effective in meeting the needs of the faculties or whether communications with deans are effective, and the evaluation may well serve as a means of reminding deans of their obligations for keeping the chief librarian and the library in their planning and communication loops. Given the size of the "dean-pool," there may not be much room for anonymity if a written instrument is used, but a list of appropriate discussion questions could be distributed to them and followed up in individual meetings to convey the willingness of the chief librarian and the university library to understand and meet the needs of their constituency.
All of this information-gathering--beginning at the preparation stage, through encounter and adjustment, to the period of stabilization--is characteristic of "uncertainty reduction" (Kramer, 1996, p. 59) activity. Whether it is at the stage of cognitive awareness ("I know I need information on ..."), motivation ("I should clarify my information on this ..."), or communication ("I am recommending ..."), these are behavioral responses necessary to reduce uncertainty (Deci cited in Kramer, 1994). If, as Hernon, Powell, and Young (2001, p. 131) determined from one library director, the university may often be described as an "ambiguous" administrative environment, information-gathering may help in bringing some clarity.
All the information in the world is not going to absolve the new chief librarian of one of the most certain aspects of job transition: working long hours. This is one of the high activity strategies identified by Feldman and Brett (1983, p. 260) as characteristic of job change. As one's stability increases, it is possible that some of this high activity behavior can be decreased, unless of course it is eclipsed by other circumstances such as sudden budget cuts, political circumstances, changes in university leadership, or other such unpredictable (but inevitable) events.
The stabilization stage is the one in which the rubber truly hits the road! It is the stage at which the sharp learning curve is diminished in favor of application of skills, plans, longer term management, and organizational learning. True leadership, achievement, and work performance will be achieved and assessed during the stablization stage. Also during this stage, the chief librarian will determine his or her own job satisfaction. Goal-setting is essential to this stage, but the goals set are more likely for the library as a whole rather than for the individual alone. And those activities one undertakes in the office of chief librarian--the planning, the day-to-day work, and the leadership skills demonstrated on the job, in committee work, and through professional associations--all become part of the next preparatory steps in one's career, knowingly or not.
In academic libraries that operate as relatively flat, nonhierarchical organizations, librarians within the ranks or in department-head management positions should be cognizant of the platform they now occupy as the "jumping-off point" for new leadership endeavors. The age demographics of academic librarians (Wilder, 1995) are such that there will be many retirements in the coming years. New leadership of tomorrow's libraries will come from within today's ranks. The needs of our organizations are changing and dynamic, experiencing the impact of new technologies, new learning partners, and the competition/cooperation nexus with publishers and aggregators of information products and services. Important research like that of Hernon, Powell, and Young (2001) contributes to increasing the understanding of the role of library directors. Leadership of tomorrow's academic libraries is not for the faint of heart, but for the professional dedicated to the opportunities of learning organizations. Step back and assess your preparation and be thoughtful about the stages of transition. Recognize too that the stages of transition exist at the micro-, mezzo-, and macrolevels of any organization and that, while they may echo the stages of incumbent experiences, the length of those stages may vary at the different levels of the organization. Organizational effectiveness may depend upon the capacity of individuals and organizations to manage all phases of transition effectively, by developing appropriate recruiting and orientation processes for the necessary transfer of institutional knowledge and cultural values.
REPORT CARD ON THE CHIEF LIBRARIAN--MARCH 2001
I have now been at the Ryerson Library for just over six months, and want to ask for your anonymous feedback on my first half year. This will help me to set goals, to be accountable to you and to my superiors. Please complete this to the best of your ability, knowing that you may have to leave some questions blank if you are not in a position to make observations on some aspects of my performance. Please return these forms to Anna by March 9th. She will compile all the information into one report for me, and I will share the results with you at the next "All Staff" meeting, likely in late March. I will not see any of the individual replies, and aggregated responses will ensure anonymity. Thanks for taking the time to provide me with some feedback.
Mark from 7 (strongly agree) to 5 (agree) to 3(slightly disagree) to 1 (strongly disagree)
LIBRARY CULTURE AND COMMUNICATION
One of the Chief Librarian's responsibilities is to ensure that we communicate well as a staff, through formal means (Library Council, Staff Meetings, committees, etc.), and informal means. This entails my responsibility to share relevant information to enable others to do their jobs, and to be open to hearing from staff. It involves valuing the role of staff at all levels. It includes participating in Library events, from the "meet and greet" that accompanied our Code of Behavior initiative, to the holiday party. It involves coming to know what the issues are from the people involved in dealing with them.
1. Chief librarian acknowledges me as part of the team
2. Chief librarian understands the work that I do
3. Chief librarian sees that relevant information is communicated to the staff
4. Staff meetings have improved
5. Minutes of staff meetings are helpful
6. Chief librarian talks too much at staff meetings
7. Chief librarian's e-mail to staff is informative
8. Chief librarian works to support library staff morale
9. Chief librarian listens well
10. Chief librarian models positive work behavior to staff
11. Chief librarian welcomes my input and opinions
12. Chief librarian has learned appropriate information about our Library
13. Chief librarian is knowledgeable about developments in academic libraries
14. Chief librarian should be more approachable
15. Chief librarian gives credit to staff who do the work
16. Chief librarian makes too many references to other universities
Chief librarian could improve the Library culture and communication by
Chief librarian has not delivered on
COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE UNIVERSITY
Since coming to the University Chief librarian has participated in Dean's meetings, Senior Directors, has chaired a Working Group on the Province's Investing in Students Task Force for the V.P. Administration, has represented the Library at meetings (e.g., Academic Council and meetings of the Board of Governors). She has participated in the Senior Planning Retreat. She has made presentations at meetings of the Advancement Office, the faculties of Business, Community Services, and the School of Hospitality and Tourism. She has spoken on behalf of the Library at the program reviews and graduate studies approval meetings with external examiners on five occasions. She has provided two interviews (to Nexus and University's alumni magazine), initiated two press releases, and sent a "State of the Library" backgrounder to the President, as well as touring the President through the Library. She has brought the new V.P. Academic to a staff meeting and the Dean of Graduate Studies to Library Council. With Library staff she has greeted students in the Library Code of Behavior Campaign.
Overall has the Chief librarian met your expectations and contributed to furthering the understanding of the Library within the university?
Yes  No 
What: suggestions do you have to improve her communications within the University?
TAKING THE LIBRARY OUTSIDE THE UNIVERSITY
Since coming to the University the Chief Librarian has spent more time in-house, learning about the library and the University. She has attended the OCUL Directors meetings. She has begun to cultivate external advisors and potential donors. She has maintained networks with other academic librarians and the Faculty of Information Studies (and participated in their Career Day). She has encouraged application for external funding. She has encouraged other librarians to bring external groups to campus for meetings and has supported joint proposals.
Overall has Chief librarian met your expectations and contributed to furthering the understanding of the Library beyond the University?
Yes  No
What suggestions do you have for further work in this area?
VISION AND LEADERSHIP
Since coming to the University the Chief librarian has worked to help clarify and hone the many exciting projects under development by the Library into a tight and strong CASE for support of our vision. To this end, she has coordinated Librarian meetings, has encouraged departmental meetings, and has brought various draft documents to staff for continuing input, worked on the Committee on the Library Mission and Goals, has met regularly with the Advancement Team, as well as taking the concept and vision to other potential partners (e.g., the Teaching and Learning Committee, Access Centre, Learning Support Services). She has brought in a number of outsiders for their advisory capabilities, and has facilitated the donation of a gift of fine art photography books valued at approximately $10,000. She has drafted terms for an Advancement Advisory Council, and is working to advance the understanding of the "common good" of the Library to all the faculties.
Overall has the Chief Librarian met your expectations and contributed to furthering the understanding of the Library vision?
Yes No 
What suggestions do you have for further work in this area?
Overall grade (pick one)
A+ A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- Fail
Anderson, S. L., & Betz, N. E. (2001). Sources of social self-efficacy expectations: Their measurement and relation to career development. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 58(1), 98-117.
Broer, W. (2001, May). Overcoming the knowing-doing gap: Practical knowledge management. Paper presented at the World Criminal Justice Libraries Network, Zutphen, The Netherlands.
Burke, R. J., & McKeen, C. A. (1994). Facilitating the new manager transition: Part I. Executive Development, 7(2), 16-18.
Cable, D. M., & Parsons, C. K. (2001). Socialization tactics and person-organization fit. Personnel Psychology, 54(1), 1-23.
Choo, C. W. (1998). The knowing organization: How organizations use information to construct meaning, create knowledge, and make decisions. New York: Oxford University Press.
Choo, C. W. (1999). Closing the cognitive gaps: How people process information. Retrieved July 4, 2001 from University of Toronto, Faculty of Information Studies Web site, Research Publications: http://choo.fis.utoronto.ca/.
Choo, C. W. (2000). Working with knowledge: How information professionals help organizations manage what they know. Library Management, 21(8), 395-403.
Choo, C. W. (2002) Sensemaking, knowledge creation, and decision making: Organizational knowing as emergent strategy. In C. W. Choo & N. Bontis (Eds.), Strategic management of intellectual capital and organizational knowledge (pp. 79-88). New York: Oxford University Press.
Clutterbuck, D., & Megginson, D. (1999). Mentoring executives and directors. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Eisenberg, E. M. (1984). Ambiguity as a strategy in organizational communication. Communication Monograph, 51, 227-242.
Feldman, D.C., & Brett, J.M. (1983). Coping with new jobs: A comparative study of new hires and job changers. Academy of Management Journal, 26(2), 258-272.
Gabarro, J.J. (1985). When a new manager takes charge. Harvard Business Review, 63(3), 110-123.
Goodman, S. A., & Svyantek, D.J. (1999). Person-organization fit and contextual performance: Do shared values matter? Journal of Vocational Behavior, 55(2), 254-275.
Hecht, I. W. D., Higgerson, M. L., Gmelch, W. H., & Tucker, A. (1999). The department chair as academic leader. Phoenix, AZ: The American Council on Education and Oryx Press.
Hernon, P., Powell, R. R., & Young, A. P. (2001). University library directors in the Association of Research Libraries: The next generation, part one. College and Research Libraries, 62, 116-145.
Kramer, M. W. (1994). Uncertainty reduction during job transitions. Management Communications Quarterly, 7(4), 384-412.
Kramer, M. W. (1996). A longitudinal study of peer communication during job transfers--the impact of frequency, quality, and network multiplexity on adjustment. Human Communication Research, 23(1), 59-87.
Kramer, M. W., Callister, R. R., & Turban, D. B. (1995). Information-receiving and information-giving during job transitions. Western Journal of Communication, 59(2), 151-171.
Matthews, C.J., & Perry, E. (1997). Skills and competencies for a successful information service: The Perry-Matthews model. Fee-For-Service, 4(3), 10-12.
McCall, M. W., Jr. (1998). High flyers: Developing the next generation of leaders. Boston: Harvard Business School.
Merton, R. K. (1957). Social theory and social structure. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
Miller, V.D., & Jablin, F. M. (1991). Information seeking during organizational entry: Influences, tactics, and a model of the process. Academy of Management Review, 16(1), 92-120.
Nicholson, N., & West, M. A. (1988). Managerial job change: Men and women in transition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nortier, F. (1995). A new angle on coping with change: Managing transition! Journal of Management Development, 11(4), 32-46.
Van Maanen, J., & Schein, E. H. (1979). Toward a theory of organizational socialization. In B. M. Staw (Ed.), Research in organizational behavior (volume 1, pp. 209-264). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Wilder, S.J. (1995). The age demographics of academic librarians: A profession apart: A report based on data from the ARL annual salary survey. Washington, DC: Association of Research Libraries.
Jablin, F. M. (1984). Assimilating new members into organizations. In R. Bostrom (Ed.), Communication Yearbook 8 (pp. 594-626). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Mech, T. F. (1990). Academic library directors: A managerial role profile. College and Research Libraries, 51(5), 415-428.
Person, R.J., & Newman, G. C. (1990). Selection of the university librarian. College and Research Libraries, 51(4), 346-359.
CATHERINE J. MATTHEWS, M.L.S., has been the Chief Librarian of Ryerson University, Toronto, since August 2000. Prior to joining Ryerson, She spent twenty-four years at the University of Toronto, as the head of the Centre of Criminology Library and later Information Service (1976-96), and then as Chief Librarian of the University of Toronto at Mississauga (1996-2000). She is the author/coauthor of a number of publications, including Canadian Criminal Justice History (1987).
Catherine J. Matthews, Chief Librarian, Ryerson University Library, 350 Victoria Street, Toronto, ON M5B 2K3, Canada
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Author:||Matthews, Catherine J.|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2002|
|Next Article:||Exploring the sabbatical or other leave as a means of energizing a career.|