Academic reference librarians prepare for change: an Australian case study

Publication Date10 Jan 2008
AuthorJulia Leong
SubjectLibrary & information science
Academic reference librarians
prepare for change:
an Australian case study
Julia Leong
University of New England, Armidale, Australia
Purpose – The study aims to identify strategies to enhance change readiness and professional
competence in academic reference librarians in a time of organizational change and challenge.
Design/methodology/approach The author, as departmental head, was able to influence
strategies taken and to directly observe and record processes and outcomes. Staff also participated in
two surveys to establish and trace competence. Motivation to deal proactively with the changing
environment was built through good communication and looking at likely future scenarios. Required
competencies were established, skills assessed, goals set for professional development, and progress
assessed. Staff participated in determining directions and took responsibility for implementing agreed
Findings – The paper finds that reference staff responded positively to enhanced opportunities to
influence directions. They willingly took responsibility, developed new skills for a changing
environment, and demonstrated effectiveness in new ways. Positive outcomes included recognition
through a national award, successful grant applications and project work, and positive attitudes
shown by staff at a time of organizational restructuring and downsizing.
Practical implications – Reference staff capability to provide innovative services and to adapt to
changing expectations and opportunities is enhanced by participation in management of library
directions and through staff development.
Originality/value – This case study offers insight into practical and inexpensive approaches to
enhancing reference librarian change readiness and competence.
Keywords Change management,Reference services, Academiclibraries, Employee development,
Paper type Case study
Academic reference librarians face a challenging work environment where change is
driven by technological innovation, growing client expectations, shifts in government
policies and financial pressures. To provide effective services and products demands a
willingness to adapt to these realities (Bryson, 2006, pp. 14-15). Many organizational
change efforts fail (Sims, 2002, p. 1) and it is vital to direct the change process in order
to maximize its effectiveness. Enhancing skill levels and building change readiness
empowers staff to provide innovative services while maintaining and strengthening
their employment prospects and job satisfaction.
The academic reference librarians at the University of New England (UNE), New
South Wales, Australia have been deliberately preparing for the future since 2000. In
1999, a joint information technology/library helpdesk was disbanded. This was
followed by a reduction in staffing levels and the redeployment of staff to new
positions. The result was a renamed department, a new departmental head and a mix
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
prepare for
Received 3 April 2007
Accepted 20 May 2007
Library Management
Vol. 29 No. 1/2, 2008
pp. 77-86
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/01435120810844667

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