Library restructures staff

University Librarian Susan Gibbons began restructuring personnel in August.
University Librarian Susan Gibbons began restructuring personnel in August. Photo by YDN .

Library staff knew Yale would bring a new University librarian to campus this academic year, but some were surprised to find their own roles in the library changed.

For the first time in over 10 years, the library is undergoing a major reorganization of personnel in an effort to centralize library services. Since August, the responsibilities of about a dozen librarians have increased, while another dozen now report to different managers, University librarian Susan Gibbons said. The restructuring will fill vacant positions left empty during the economic downturn, and add new jobs the library now needs, such as a chief technology officer.

“[The new structure aims to] bring together people who are doing similar functions that were before spread across the organization,” Gibbons said. “We’re adding positions that are new to the library to think more about providing better access to the physical and digital collections.”

The restructuring is Gibbons’ first major project as University librarian since she started the job in July. Three different leaders cycled through the University library since January 2010, due in part to the unexpected death of University librarian Frank Turner on Nov. 11, 2010. Turner had been named to the position after serving as an interim University librarian for almost a year. After he died of a pulmonary embolism, former Graduate School Dean Jon Butler assumed interim librarian duties until Gibbons stepped into the role.

Gibbons said it is difficult for a library to recruit staff when job candidates do not know who will eventually lead the organization. Still, she said that most of the personnel changes so far have been internal promotions. For example, starting in January, Social Science Library Director Jill Parchuck will serve as the head of science libraries as well, which Gibbons said correlates with the merger of the social science and biology libraries.

Internal promotions hold special significance for Gibbons, who started at the University of Rochester in 2000 as a part-time employee. Over the next eight years, she climbed the ranks to become dean of libraries in March 2008.

“I benefited from being promoted from within. People gave me chances to grow,” Gibbons said. “I first always want to find the talent that’s within.”

In the case of the new chief technology officer position, Gibbons said she will likely hire a candidate from outside the University library as no one on her staff has the skills necessary for the job.

This week, the library posted its job listing for the position. The officer will be tasked with identifying relevant emerging technologies the library could use and determining which infrastructure elements the library should outsource. According to the job description, the new officer will lead library information technology staff as they develop their budget, Web strategies and large-scale projects.

Gibbons added that the chief technology officer will help oversee digitization projects. The last librarian in this role left the University after Microsoft terminated its online books collaboration with Yale.

Daniel Dollar, head of collection development for the University library, said he thinks the new chief technology officer will help streamline the library’s collaboration with Information Technology Services.

Some of the other structural changes in the library come in response to the departure of Ann Okerson, former associate University librarian and director of library collections. After Okerson stepped down in August, the library was left with five associate librarians.

Dollar has taken on Okerson’s responsibilities in the collections department, but Okerson’s staff members now report to other associate university librarians. Dollar, who also continues to work as a manager of the medical school library, said the position is an opportunity for him to work with subject specialists, area curators and departments across the University library.

The reorganization, he said, represents a shift toward a more centralized system that will provide uniform services across the library.

“The key thing for all of us is that our [current] collection spending meets current teaching and research needs,” Dollar said. “Certain things we just need to standardize more.”

Dollar said he hopes to find ways for the library to expand its online collections within its current budget.

Roberta Pilette, director of library preservation, said her position has not changed, although she now reports to E.C. Schroeder, associate University librarian and director of the Beinecke Rare Books & Manuscripts Library. Schroeder has taken on more responsibility across the University library system as a result of restructuring, Gibbons said.

Though staff might have felt more ownership over their departments and collections under the old, decentralized model, Pilette said the centralized system has its advantages.

“You don’t have various people throughout doing duplicated operations and you also have an easier time making sure that certain policies and procedures are constantly applied,” she said. “People for the most part are very pleased with the changes that are being made.”

The University library employs more than 500 staff.

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