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How to Survive Departmental Restructuring in a Public Library

by on June 19, 2024

In recent discussions at conferences and within local networks, a recurring topic has been the restructuring of library departments. This multifaceted endeavor is often driven by budget constraints, the pursuit of enhanced cross-departmental productivity, and resource limitations. In our library system, the restructuring aimed to streamline operations, notably discontinuing departments that were crucial during the pandemic, such as those focused on virtual event management and instructional video production for YouTube. With the arrival of new board members and the appointment of a new CEO, our institutional objectives have undergone a significant transformation.

Whether you are a middle manager or the person being managed, it is difficult to transition. In a large system, different departments can have vastly different managers and managing styles. In my experience, I was the one being moved to a new department. The change makes
sense, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t disrupt workflow and established processes. Although the major aspects of my job and job description remained the same, it was impossible for my working style not to change. Here are some tips that I found useful.

Think Big Picture: How does this move help you or the organization as a whole? After the dust has settled, what opportunities for improvement are available? If you are someone who sees themselves as a lifelong librarian then being adaptable is essential. As much as we like to believe in libraries as a sanctuary, the truth is that nothing is free of change.

Find your people: Find someone you trust who can be a sympathetic ear when times are hard. Nobody likes someone who’s grumpy all the time, but forming an alliance and developing partnerships with your colleagues will help improve your work environment.

Communicate & Document: If you are moving to a new department with a new manager, put extra effort into communicating your learning style and what you look for in a manager. Earnest candor will help build trust and ensure success in your new space. Documentation is also
essential in understanding how your role does work and figuring out how your skills fit into the new space.

Create boundaries: Change is stressful. Make sure that you take your breaks and find ways to decompress and leave work at work.

In the midst of my ongoing transition, my experience has been a blend of positives and challenges.On a positive shift, I’ve been exposed to new facets of library work, and I am working to acquire across diverse domains. While I maintain a professional working relationship with my former department, I’m actively honing new skills in my new department. This process has been instrumental in clarifying my personal career goals. I am also fostering resilience and adapting to change. I’m optimistic that this move will contribute to positive system-wide changes while also facilitating my career growth.