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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress 7 MANAGEMENT ISSUES Throughout its explorations of the Library of Congress (LC), the committee has repeatedly seen the acting out of an important principle: the wise application of information technology to organizational tasks is far more often a question of management than of technology. In this chapter, the committee outlines its findings and recommendations insofar as they affect the practices and vision of management at the Library. The fundamental management resource of the Library is people. This is an organization with 4,000 staff members ranging from highly specialized professionals, through dedicated clerical and technical staff supporting professional tasks, to a broad range of other support personnel. The committee members were deeply impressed by the loyalty and professionalism of everyone they met but were at the same time distressed by the obstacles that exist to effective management of these human resources. The source of the committee’s greatest fear—and the subject of its most anxious deliberations—has been the uncertainty about whether any amount of goodwill, planning, and structured intent can achieve the necessary change, given the constraints of funding and procedure that are imposed on LC from above and without. Most pervasive is the culture of civil service human resources (HR) practices as implemented at LC. It is beyond the scope of this report to examine closely the boundary between what is necessary (because of statute and other controlling forces outside LC) and what is contingent (the result of LC decisions and practices), and the committee welcomes the HR21 effort (see below) that seeks to get a better handle on what is sus-
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress ceptible to control. Here the committee simply observes that the collection of these practices makes it harder to recruit, hire, train, and retain staff than is generally the case in the commercial and academic sectors and in particular makes it extremely difficult to attract and retain IT staff. In the 1970s, a group of LC employees filed a class-action case against the Library alleging racial discrimination. Known as “the Cook case” (see Box 7.1), the case was settled in the mid-1990s with a consent decree that adds several layers of court-ordered procedural steps to all hiring and review of personnel. The resources of LC have been focused as never before on achieving a more diverse workforce with greater equality of opportunity. That remains and should remain a central institutional priority. In an environment of limited resources (in terms of both dollars and management attention), however, one undeniable effect of this decree has been to divert attention from other institutional priorities. In the short term, hiring has become slower and more cumbersome, just at a moment when technical staff particularly are pursued with increasing speed and agility by virtually every other sector of the economy. The committee has been encouraged to think that both sides in the case may be nearing the point where they can agree under court direction to terminate the consent decree and move toward hiring practices that are more flexible and that at the same time more effectively build opportunity for all. Achievement of this goal would have a positive effect on morale, productivity, and management throughout the Library. The Library is in many respects an aging institution with long-established practices. The committee was surprised that information technology initiatives are still spoken of at LC as exercises in “automation,” in a way that is seldom heard elsewhere. There are many reasons to leave that language and that habit of thought behind, not least because it is suggestive of outmoded management practices that are rightly held in low esteem by staff representatives. Civil service regulations and the Cook case may explain partly, but cannot account for completely, why LC continues with management practices that are redolent of old, assembly-line methods. Reinventing the processes will mean reinventing the work, an effort that will in turn require close collaboration between LC management and the unions.1 They must find and share a common vision of a workforce that is more highly skilled and more highly paid and then seek a strategy to approach that vision in a way that maximizes opportunity for all those 1 The Library of Congress has four labor unions: AFSCME 2477 (representing nonprofessional staff), AFSCME 2910 (representing professional staff), the Congressional Research Employees Association (representing all employees of CRS), and the Fraternal Order of Police (representing all of the police officers at LC).
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress BOX 7.1 The Cook Case In 1982, Howard Cook and a number of other LC employees filed a discrimination suit in U.S. District Court (the case is commonly referred to simply as “the Cook case”) after having had their initial claim rejected by the Library. Cook and the others claimed that LC discriminated against African-American employees and applicants for employment in its hiring and promotional processes. Two years later, the court certified a group of black employees as a class, and in 1987 the Library admitted to liability on the group’s claims. However, in December 1988, Judge Norma Holloway Johnson expanded the class to include claims by all black employees, including those qualified for professional and administrative positions from 1975 to the present. In August 1992, Judge Johnson granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a partial summary judgment, finding the Library’s three-stage personnel selection process to be so subjective as to discriminate against black applicants for administrative and professional positions. Nearly 2 years later, in April 1994, the attorneys for both sides of the case reached tentative agreement on a settlement that provided for a total of $8.5 million in back pay, 40 promotions, and 10 reassignments. The agreement represents the “greatest monetary relief ever awarded by the federal government to settle a race discrimination case.” Despite protests by several plaintiffs and their supporters, Judge Johnson gave her tentative approval to the agreement in August 1994 and scheduled a fairness hearing for May 1995. Following this hearing, after listening to approximately 200 objections regarding the distribution of the money, promotions, and reassignments, as well as three requests to opt out of the class action suit, Judge Johnson issued the final order approving the settlement agreement in September 1995. She insisted, however, on retaining jurisdiction over the case until December 1, 2000, to oversee (1) implementation of a revised hiring process, (2) reporting requirements related to the hiring process, and (3) competitive and noncompetitive selection decisions. In 1998, the plaintiffs challenged the Library’s implementation of its obligations under the agreement, and the parties are working toward resolving the issues related to the plaintiffs’ challenge. During the period of time that the agreement is effective, LC’s hiring and promotion practices for professional, administrative, and supervisory technical employees must be accomplished according to a process agreed to by both LC and the plaintiffs’ counsel. Any exceptions to the hiring process that occur with special programs, such as the Leadership Development Program or the Selective Placement Program for the Disabled, must also be agreed to by the plaintiffs’ counsel. SOURCE: Text derived largely from “Cook Case Chronology,” The Gazette: Weekly Newspaper for the Library Staff, November 29, 1996, pp. 12-13. See also “Court Clears Way for Cook Case Payout,” by Gail Fineberg, in Library of Congress Information Bulletin, November 18, 1996, available online at <gopher://marvel.loc.gov:70/00/loc/pubs/lcib/1996/vol55.no20/1>.
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress who now work at LC. Information technology is most powerful in organizations where it is seen as bringing opportunity to all. HUMAN RESOURCES The Library of Congress has a number of unique strengths that make it an attractive place to work. Its low turnover2 is a source of pride and an indicator of job satisfaction. People at all levels independently remarked that the most satisfying parts of their job relate to the variety of materials they get to handle, view, and work with. From mailroom clerk to senior manager, many enjoy their access to beautiful or unusual or obscure books, maps, images, and recordings. Another appeal is working for LC on Capitol Hill in support of the national government. Several segments of the LC population (particularly the Congressional Research Service and the senior staff) can contribute directly to the running of the United States government on a regular basis, a role that is highly valued by some employees. Library of Congress Challenges Recruitment and Retention The Library has a number of formidable management challenges that make it difficult to hire new staff and to keep staff with skills in areas that are in high demand. Libraries are increasingly operating in an environment of rapid change, but federal hiring and procurement constraints can impede certain kinds of change (see Box 7.2). To the eye of those on the committee who deal with hiring and management of IT personnel, the federal salaries and grades for IT professionals seem to be desperately below what the market offers. To be sure, the National Library of Medicine seems to be more successful than LC with its IT hiring: even though NLM has the same federal constraints, it can offer as an incentive a more research-oriented environment (see Box 6.2 in Chapter 6). IT organizations in particular need a steady stream of fresh talent to stay current. It is practically impossible for the Library to hire new college graduates in computer science because of the salary differential between entry-grade government hires and what industry can pay. There are market imbalances everywhere between skilled technology workers and what employers offer, which must make whatever pressures there are on the LC staff in general that much greater for IT staff. LC is able to pay only 60 2 As reported to the committee at its first plenary meeting in February 1999, turnover at the Library is only 2 or 3 percent per year.
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress percent of the going salaries for IT workers. The differential in total compensation closes at the more senior levels, where the steadiness of federal service, regular work hours, and the assured benefits package also have increased appeal. Indeed, LC reports that hiring senior people is not as problematic as hiring junior IT people. Hiring graduates from new schools of information (such as those at the University of California at Berkeley or the University of Michigan) is also difficult, in part because these graduates have many career options in corporations, universities, and other settings.3 In general, the Library is able to fill its vacancies for librarians, but the question unanswerable by any outsider is how far the current structure of incentives achieves the right mix of talent for the organization. Thirty to forty percent of the LC staff will be eligible for retirement by the year 2004.4 The Library’s management sees this as a particular concern in areas where the necessary skill sets are hard to come by (such as certain foreign languages) or require extensive time on the job to acquire (such as a knowledge of collections with large arrearages). For example, CRS staff members who had worked on the Nixon impeachment analyses were able to bring their experience to bear during the Clinton presidential impeachment process. In the committee’s view, the upcoming transition in LC’s staff can and should be made an opportunity to rethink and redesign jobs and bring fresh talent and viewpoints into the Library. The committee expects that 10 years from now there will be fewer traditional librarian positions in LC and more positions for IT-savvy librarians, although many of the latter may well be filled (if the committee’s remarks below about a culture of training are heeded) by persons now filling librarian positions. The changes in technology and infrastructure in the late 1990s and thereafter—for example, the Integrated Library System (ILS)—and the lack of incentive to learn these new ways of doing business may cause those eligible to retire to do so.5 The committee’s sense has been that candidates with prior government service (including retiring military personnel) have loomed large in candidate pools for LC positions. That population is unlikely to have the professional and technical skills needed by the LC of the future, and the committee recommends that 3 See “Libraries Compete for Staff with Dot-coms Seeking Information Managers,” Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2000, p. A1. 4 Of course, the actual number of retirees by any given date is likely to be far lower than the total number of those eligible to retire, so the transition is likely to be less dramatic than those numbers imply. 5 The committee believes staff could be given incentives to learn; for example, goals could be set in annual performance reviews. It believes that ways should be found to tie successful completion and application of the expanded staff development recommended by this report with salary increases or recognition awards.
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress BOX 7.2 Hiring Employees in the Federal Government Although the federal government became more flexible in its hiring practices over the past decade, it remains much more rigid than the private sector and more encumbered by strict rules and regulations. This rigidity, which often extends to the work environment, is blamed in part for the “people crisis” faced by the federal government. With a wave of retirements and other staff departures expected throughout the federal government in the next 5 years, it is not clear where fresh talent will be found, because many young people do not see the federal government as offering the high starting pay, casual work environment, and other advantages that they want.1 Some critics argue that needless layers of bureaucracy and convoluted career paths prevent the federal government from offering the challenging work sought by talented Americans.2 The federal hiring process is an important reason that the government cannot compete with private and nonprofit competitors. The process includes special requirements, such as the required advertising of jobs even if a manager already knows of someone who would be highly qualified (some of these requirements are intended to ensure fairness in the hiring process). Indeed, few managers even go recruiting, leaving it to personnel and administrative officers, and most ads for job openings are nondescript.3 Resumes must be highly structured and go into greater detail than the typical private-sector resume. Certain applicants, such as veterans and the disabled, are favored in the federal hiring process, whereas nepotism (the practice of officials appointing, promoting, or recommending their relatives) is specifically prohibited. Men born after 1959 must have registered with the Selective Service System or have an exemption.4 Background investigations of prospective employees are routine. Not surprisingly, it can take 3 to 6 months to hire a government employee,5,6 whereas in the private sector, new employees can be hired virtually overnight. Perhaps the greatest handicap associated with the federal hiring process, especially in the high-tech field, is rigid pay scales. For example, in the year 2000 a graduate with a bachelor of science in computer or information science would typically become a GS-7 in the federal pay scale, earning just $28,000 to $30,000, whereas the same person could get a job at a high-tech company for as much as twice that salary. The greatest difficulties in hiring are expected in the computer LC’s Human Resources Services Directorate review hiring practices to make sure that job descriptions are written to appeal to applicants outside of the government. The retirements, if and as they happen, should become an opportunity to staff in areas of librarianship and technology needed to meet the digital challenge. Speed and Flexibility The need for workforce flexibility in the digital age is in direct conflict
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress field. By 2006, the government will need to replace 32,315 technology workers because of retirements and other factors and hire 4,600 additional workers to fill newly created computer jobs, according to the latest estimates.7 Some agencies are attempting to offer improved compensation and benefits and to streamline the hiring process. For example, in 1999, the Department of State launched two major initiatives targeted at the recruitment and retention of IT professionals: the payment of recruitment bonuses for new federal employees with critical IT skills and retention allowances for current employees with those same skills or for doing Y2K work.8 The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has launched a pilot program with 11 federal agencies to help OPM develop new IT job titles, adjust salaries, tweak benefit packages, and accelerate the hiring process.9 The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, an agency of the Treasury Department, has adopted a pay banding system to attract IT workers.10 1 “Retirement Wave Creates Vacuum,” by Stephen Barr, in Washington Post, May 7, 2000, p. A1. 2 The New Public Service, by Paul C. Light (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 1999). 3 See Barr above. 4 Office of Personnel Management (OPM), “Applying for a Federal Job,” OF 510 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995). 5 Excerpts from The Book of U.S. Government Jobs, by Dennis V. Damp, 1999, available online at <http://federaljobs.net>. 6 At the Library, processes that were introduced as a result of the Cook case can often cause the hiring process to extend beyond 6 months. 7 See Barr above. 8 See “Investing in Human Capital—An Organizational Priority,” a publication of the Chief Information Officers Council, available online at <http://www.cio.gov/docs/investinginhumancapital.htm>. 9 See “E-recruitment,” by Heather Harreld, in Federal Computer Week, May 1, 2000, available online at <http://www.fcw.com/fcw/articles/2000/0501/cov-box2-05-01-00.asp>. 10 See “ATF Uses Banding System to Lift IT Pay,” by Shruti Date, Government Computer News, June 12, 2000, available online at <http://www.gcn.com/vol19_no15/community/2196-1.html>. with rigid HR rules at the Library of Congress. The Library’s ability to be speedy and to be flexible in writing job descriptions so that it can hire worthy candidates who cross job categories has been further impaired by virtue of its having been adjudged (under the Cook decision) discriminatory in its hiring and promotion practices. This ruling has caused the organization to be even more attentive to procedure in the hiring processes, from writing job descriptions to selecting and screening candidates to interviewing and offering employment packages. This care and deliberateness may satisfy the need to demonstrate fairness and an effec-
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress tive commitment to diversity, but other solutions must be found if the Library is to compete with private-sector firms that also need skilled technical staff. The committee urges that the contract employment model widespread in private industry and among nonprofit organizations be used more often. Staff Development Implementing the ILS means that much of the hardware and software in daily use is changing. People who have been accustomed to the mainframe-dumb terminal interface have been given some encouragement to become proficient users of PC hardware and software. The ILS project has addressed that issue by offering 60 or more hours of training. However, this training does not really address the fact that few of the staff have a workable mental model of what is on their own machine, how to store things on a server, and what is a reasonable user interface. Some of the pockets of staff inexperience at LC in mid-1999 were astonishing to members of the committee. The ILS will support different and more effective processing flows than were possible with the Library’s old stand-alone applications. Such revised processes will, however, require procedural and organizational changes likely to be found threatening and uncomfortable by many managers and staff members of the Library. This reorganization and rethinking of business processes will be even more difficult than the technical implementation of the Voyager ILS. It is sobering to realize that the Library of Congress encourages as little professional development as it does. The committee judges that most professional and technical staff have had far too little opportunity for professional training, continuing education, or development in recent years. Employees regularly reported that they have not been encouraged to explore technology that is not directly applicable to their current job. This makes them less adaptable. The low level of worker exposure to modern technology and the introduction of the ILS have necessitated classes in basic computer skills like using a mouse. But a cataloger who gains a certificate indicating proficiency with a mouse does not necessarily have the ability to mount the shared reference documents from a server or to find what is needed within the LC network, nor will a professional trained in library work necessarily be able to use the library-like resources—such as databases—online or on the World Wide Web. Training, an important source of current ideas, is underbudgeted (see Box 7.3). Internal training cannot make up all of the difference because it cannot, for example, impart cutting-edge technical skills. While it may be that some employees are not interested in learning (they “just want to
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress BOX 7.3 Training at the Library of Congress A number of units at the Library are responsible for formal training. The Library-wide directorate for training is the Internal University (IU). The charter of the IU is to provide (usually by procuring outside services) training that is pertinent for the entire institution. Courses such as time management and office automation (e.g., training on word processing packages) are offered, as is a seminar on facilitative leadership, which is taught by LC managers. In addition, the IU coordinates training activities throughout the institution through its Training and Development Advisory Board, which includes representatives from major organizations within LC; coordinates a mentoring program; and initiated LearnITonline, a pilot computer training program. The major service units also conduct training. The Technical Processing and Automation Instruction Office (TPAIO) offers courses in subjects such as cataloging, acquisitions, and the Integrated Library System, as well as general courses in online public access cataloging, searching, and word processing. TPAIO also coordinates registration for IU courses within Library Services. Information Technology Services provides courses on the use of various software packages, including Microsoft Office and Corel WordPerfect Office. Other units within the Library, such as the Congressional Research Service, also have training programs. push buttons and think of going to Disney World,” is how some employees were characterized), there is little support for those who are. Even though a number of training courses are available, there is no evidence of a culture of learning in the organization. There is, for example, very little encouragement for, and even some discouragement of, professional travel for conferences, nor is there sufficient use of temporary project assignments as training opportunities.6 Creating such a culture requires strong pressure from Human Resources Services, the Internal University, and HR units throughout the Library, but the effort can succeed only if promoted by senior management and supported by managers throughout the organization. Physical Work Environment Staff at LC report that among the least satisfying aspects of the LC workplace are the physical spaces. Several people let committee mem- 6 Although it is not in the area of information technology, the Affirmative Action Detail Program that began in mid-2000 is a step in the right direction within the realm of administrative and managerial work. See “Detail Program Provides Career Opportunities,” by Dorothy Coley, in The Gazette, April 7, 2000, p. 5.
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress bers know that the Madison Building, while attractive to visitors, was engineered to house books, not offices. In addition, space on Capitol Hill in general is precious, making it even more difficult to provide offices and other rooms with adequate space. The committee saw a mix of settings that often bore out the complaints. Unsatisfactory lighting, desks, and chairs strain eyes, arms, and backs. Crowded workspaces make it a challenge to find a flat work surface on which to lay a book. Posters remind workers to address posture and placement of furniture to avoid injury, but the actual circumstances of work and the furniture available often do not allow good ergonomic choices.7 The pathology of obsolete workflows is evident in a variety of places in LC. Many tasks are repetitive ones, differentiated by degree of difficulty. This leads to competition for the easy tasks when the reward system emphasizes the volume of work accomplished but not the difficulty of the problems solved. Union rules and agreements on this and other issues would need to be renegotiated to bring about changes great and small. The committee sees this pathology as both symptom and opportunity. Mechanically and mentally repetitive tasks represent opportunities for technological enhancement, but their continued practice in jumbles of dysfunctional space is a sign that management has not acquired the habit of thinking through such symptoms to the opportunities that lie beyond. Similarly, within a particular work group, the tasks are often narrowly defined and managed, following an older industrial model of work. Each worker moves materials from one status to another. Workers handle batches of materials held together with one kind of clip, band, or folder and move them to processed status with a different kind of clip, band, or folder. Physical manipulation of these batches shows how the work is progressing. However, not all of the batching techniques make for stable stacking. The threat of the objects of work spilling out of order is constant in some departments. The apparently ad hoc status of the physical binding leads to equally ad hoc solutions for storing excess clips, binders, and folders. Clearly, there is an opportunity to reappraise work and the workflow, to use technology judiciously, and to empower workers to make their jobs more interesting and productive. If the committee may extract a principle from these observations, it is that technology is most often introduced at LC “from the technology in” rather than “from the 7 One person reported buying her own ergonomic keyboard because the red tape involved in getting an approval from management would have caused a delay of several months at least. This employee believed that such a delay would have turned her wrist injury from a minor aggravation into a major disability. Pockets of management responsiveness have been found, but there remain problems.
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress work out.” In the absence of any vision of how technology could improve processes and leverage investments, technology arrives when it has been suitably hyped and imposed on the organization from outside, most often for high-profile tasks or tasks performed in common across many kinds of organizations and hence discussed widely outside LC. It is precisely the most idiosyncratic LC tasks that remain mired in assembly-line piece-work management and practice.8 Lessons Learned from Library Projects A vital sign of successful management is its flair for learning and for facilitating internal technology transfer from one successful project into other settings. Signs of such flair at LC are few but hopeful. The National Digital Library Program (NDLP) was established with ambitious goals. In order to accomplish them, the program took an unusual (for the Library) shape. A separate department, independent of existing structures and largely without LC organizational constraints, was established. Both management and staff were brought in from outside the Library. By many reports this was a very successful model. The NDLP staff have been nimble and creative and have earned great respect for their productivity and competence. The committee frequently heard the observation, “It could never have been accomplished through the normal channels.” It is worth noting that with its clear mission and energetic management, the NDLP has succeeded in attracting an excellent and effective technical staff. The hiring of contractors with special skills necessary for this project was accomplished in record time, particularly given the hiring constraints listed above. A small number of regular employees transferred into the project, even without guaranteed return to their former jobs or employment status (the NDLP positions were typically temporary appointments—NTE, “not to exceed”). The hiring of staff for this special project demonstrates that LC can, when pressed, hire individuals with the technical skills needed to do more than the day-to-day LC operations. Another instructive project at the Library was the effort to adopt whole-book cataloging. Until 1992, cataloging was organized linearly, with descriptive cataloging (describing the specific characteristics of items) and subject and classification cataloging (adding access points and placing the item in Library of Congress and Dewey classification schemes) 8 During the summer of 1999, several committee members visited the Copyright Office and the Cataloging Directorate to observe work processes. These visits included meetings with line managers as well as informal discussions with staff.
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress of providing information. Decisions about IT use in a library are not marginal in any way—they are core business decisions of the institution. Vision and Implementation Once the provision of services and budgeting are rationalized, there remain the questions of vision and direction. How shall LC conceive and enact its technological future? The committee believes that LC’s technological future is so intimately bound up in its whole institutional future that it is inappropriate to separate decision making on technology from fundamental policy. Accordingly, in the next section of this report the committee makes recommendations on the structure and role of the highest management in LC. For the moment, it simply emphasizes one need that has become very clear to it—the need for transparent and accountable decision making. The committee rarely found cases of indefensible decisions made about technology or budgets, but it found many cases where suspicion and resentment flourish in an atmosphere of uncollegial decisions taken without full openness and accountability. This approach to decision making has led over time to the erosion of trust and the rise of duplicate systems (“if they can’t do it for us, we’ll do it ourselves”). The committee is not in a position to estimate the costs of this pathology to the system as a whole, but they are real and substantial. In sum, technology decisions need to be made centrally and openly, with priorities clearly set by the line managers of the Library. Technology professionals should provide expertise and deliver service, not set policy or priorities. More specifically, the Library of Congress needs an in-house technology group to evaluate Library-wide information and technology needs and provide guidance to the service units. This group must have the resources and talent to understand needs throughout the Library and to anticipate problems. Technical innovation is becoming increasingly information based: that is, more and more about how to create, find, and share information. For example, there is no overall plan to manage and disseminate online content. Various component organizations have pilot projects. The NDLP has an architecture for its own projects—online delivery of digital reproductions. But the NDLP finding aids are digital works in their own right, and that part of NDLP needs to be integrated with the ILS. The Library has not seriously considered a systemwide approach for collecting, archiving, and disseminating online documents. No one within the Library is explicitly looking at technology and technical trends, envisioning where technology will be 5 years out. No one is bringing that vision to the major service units and content innovators and saying to them, “This is what IT could bring to you in 5 years;
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress how would you use it?” Being reactive and merely prioritizing scarce resources will not answer these longer-term questions. The Information Technology Services (ITS) Directorate is chartered to provide a service to the rest of the Library. It is not chartered or budgeted to generate ideas about the Library’s future, even as that future relates to technology. Even for shorter-term technical matters, such as online content delivery, there is no organized plan for the Library as a whole. The THOMAS initiative to distribute congressional material publicly came from the Speaker of the House of Representatives, not from LC. The current ITS Directorate and staff are not well suited to provide technical vision, strategy, or technical leadership for the Library. These roles require an outward-looking organization that participates in national and international library initiatives. No other part of the Library is providing technical leadership either. There is no indication that current initiatives like the Planning, Programming, Budgeting, Evaluation, Executing, and Evaluation System (PPBEEES) will change this.14 Other parts of the Library naturally emphasize their core business and focus on the short-term technical issues needed to meet their goals. Expectations of ITS seem unrealistically inflated and unrealistically cynical at the same time. ITS was initially excluded from full participation in the Digital Futures Group, and it played a subsidiary role in decision making during the ILS process. The Digital Futures Group evolved during the time it took to prepare and write this report, and it continues to evolve. The committee’s sense is that it represents strategic “adhocracy”: that is, a gathering of people and units chosen because of their interest and willingness to participate, not because they represent the right mix of authority and responsibility across the Library. Their mission has been to institutionalize some of the NDLP project in the Library, but it has been conceived too narrowly and too tactically. This temporary alliance of some, but not all, of the relevant managers is no substitute for strategic management. Given that the Library needs technical leadership, and given that the ITS Directorate is not structured or staffed to provide that leadership, the committee proposes instead that the Library needs a new organization to provide the needed leadership—call it, say, the IT vision, strategy, research, and planning (ITVSRP) group. This group would be chartered to lead the Library of Congress, and the national and world libraries, into 14 PPBEEES is an initiative of the Planning, Management, and Evaluation Directorate, which is discussed in the “Executive Management” section.
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress the digital age. It would also provide strategic technical thinking for the Library. Members of the ITVSRP group would have a good grasp of current technologies, be effective communicators and diplomats both within LC and without (to help build bridges to industry and academia), and have some grasp of how LC works today. (See below for the committee’s recommendation for the leader of this group.) The ITVSRP group would be an ongoing working group of leaders from across the Library and the authority to which every unit of the Library would have to go to get approval for significant technology investments. It would have a small full-time staff. One important role of the ITVSRP group would be to pull together the best technical workers and visionaries from all sections of the Library and to foster cross-fertilization among technicians, librarians, and researchers, both within the Library and on the national and international stages. When the committee reviewed (Chapter 2) the several divisions of LC that deal with specific formats of material (maps, prints/photographs, and so on), it asked whether it would be better to expand the scope of the divisions or to create another division for digital artifacts. The committee remains cautious on this topic. On the one hand, there is expertise in, say, the Geography and Map Division that can and should be extended to deal with all forms of cartography, from manuscript to digital. On the other hand, there are cross-organizational advantages to standardizing technologies and thinking about the specific features of digital artifacts. In the end, the committee expects that digital versions of analog artifacts can and should be housed and managed in the units that would manage the items if they were analog. But this will create the specific challenge of building cross-organizational conversation and learning to ensure that digital management is carried out in the most efficient and effective ways. This is not a technological question, and it would not be appropriate for the existing ITS organization to take the primary responsibility in this area. The proposed ITVSRP group would be the natural locus for such engagement. Outside Expertise Elsewhere in this report the committee considers some areas in which LC can and should consider outsourcing parts of its technology support. This is most appropriate where existing federal HR, salary, and procurement policies make it difficult or impossible for LC to acquire goods and services economically on its own. The same analysis can and should be applied to the acquisition of technical expertise. Given the limitations on LC’s ability to hire and re-
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress tain top professional staff and given the striking lack of mobility of staff—both librarians and technologists—within the Library, it is appropriate and necessary that LC use its position and prestige to invite the advice and expertise of a broad range of experts from the for-profit, not-for-profit, and public sectors, including representative users of LC’s collections and services. The committee recommends the creation of an external technical advisory board (TAB), under a distinguished outside chair, to sit on a semiannual basis formally with the Executive Committee of the Library. The TAB would (1) advise the Executive Committee of developments and directions in information technology that the TAB thinks will be relevant to the Library’s future and (2) offer specific advice on initiatives and enterprises that the library has in hand with the ITVSRP group. In a way, this ongoing TAB would carry on and institutionalize the work of the Committee on an Information Technology Strategy for the Library of Congress. A single report by the committee can—one hopes—have value, but that value is limited. To be able to consult a body of experts on an ongoing basis would continually refresh LC’s thinking and direction. The TAB should include librarians from the United States and abroad with a broad vision of the future of libraries, as well as technology specialists with expertise in relevant areas. The prestige and position of LC should make it relatively easy to recruit new members for this body on a continuous basis. The committee further recommends that the technology awareness of LC be enhanced by creating a limited number of visiting research positions within LC for experts (junior to mid-career level) from around the country and the world. These individuals would come to LC for, say, 6 months or a year to work on projects from which they would create work of value to the library profession as a whole, develop their own careers, and, by interacting with appropriate LC staff, catalyze the technology thinking and practice of the organization.15 Findings and Recommendations Finding: Current decision making at the Library regarding information technology is neither transparent nor strategic. In 15 Comparable programs in other parts of the federal government could inform the parameters of a program at the Library: White House fellows, congressional fellows, and rotating program directors at the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Examples of more senior positions include the chief economist and chief technologist positions at the Federal Communications Commission. It should be acknowledged that LC has taken some initiative to bring outsiders to the Library for limited terms (e.g., NDLP’s American Memory fellows and the newly created fellowships in conservation).
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress particular, the lines distinguishing central responsibility from service unit responsibility are unclear. Finding: Priority setting within the Information Technology Services Directorate is largely free from review by senior management. Finding: The current level of attention to technical vision and strategy within the Library is not adequate, and the flow of information and ideas from the library community and the information technology sector at large into the Library needs to be enhanced. Recommendation: The Library should establish an information technology vision, strategy, research, and planning (ITVSRP) group. Recommendation: The Library should establish an external technical advisory board (TAB). Recommendation: The Library should not appoint a chief information officer at this time. Recommendation: The Library should create a limited number of visiting research positions in areas such as digital libraries and digital archiving and preservation. EXECUTIVE MANAGEMENT It is no longer possible, if it ever was, for senior management of large organizations to regard information technology as a black box to be controlled and managed by technologists. Certainly a library, the core of whose business is the storage and preservation of information, needs to integrate strategic and tactical thinking about information technology into every level of its management vision. One reason for the committee’s reluctance to recommend the creation of a chief information officer position is its belief that to do so in the present environment would have the effect of continuing to defer the day when the core of LC’s management takes up its full responsibility in this area. There are four places in LC today where broad strategic management occurs. In each of the four, however, there are defects that impede the achievement of LC’s mission. In day-to-day bureaucratic terms, the recently founded Planning,
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress Management and Evaluation Directorate (PMED) office theoretically consolidates planning and strategic direction for the Library as a whole. The PPBEEES process that PMED has initiated is intended to integrate planning and to support decision making. Creation of such a capability is long overdue, but the committee believes that there has been a fundamental failure of imagination in the way that organization was created. It seems to treat all units of the Library as functionally similar and to see itself as merely an honest broker in managing the flow of paper and in encouraging people to think farther ahead than before. There can be value to such management, but it is apparent to the committee that it is precisely in the most volatile areas of the Library’s strategic future (ITS, Library Services) that this initiative is being greeted with the greatest skepticism and will make the least difference. One factor here is that PMED is staffed by individuals who have no experience with LC or with libraries generally but, rather, bring their government sector managerial expertise to bear on in-house procedures. The committee has some reservations about whether the government sector is the only place to look for external management expertise—LC was notably successful with two of its relatively recent senior management appointments precisely because it went outside the government sector—but regardless of those reservations, this office will clearly add a layer of bureaucracy and will have little of substantive strategic value to offer. The PMED office will be challenged to demonstrate that it adds value congruent with the direct and indirect costs it imposes (indirect costs: time and effort spent by other Library units in complying with PMED procedures), and there remains a need to create strategic planning capability in LC that offers the right mix of information gathering and knowledge management, R&D management, and strategic insight. The committee believes and recommends that the best way forward for LC at present is to address this need by appointing a second deputy librarian. This individual would be responsible for overall strategic planning for the Library, would supervise ITS, would chair the ITVSRP group, would manage the relationship with the external TAB, and would sit with the librarian, the deputy librarian, and the chief of staff at the highest level of the organization. This individual would not in any way be a traditional CIO but would act at a level one step higher in the strategic structure of the organization. She or he would include information technology and its implications in a broad view of the institution’s strategic needs but would focus first of all on those strategic needs. If distinction of title is necessary and useful, then the committee would suggest that the two relevant offices be deputy librarian (Operations)—the position now in place—and deputy librarian (Strategic Initiatives). The committee believes that it would be easier to recruit a highly quali-
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress fied individual for this position than for the CIO position and that the holder of the position would add more directly and substantively than a CIO to the integration of technology into every aspect of the central planning and management of the organization. The committee’s recommendations in Chapter 3—for example, regarding the closer relationship that is needed between the Copyright Office and Library Services (including the NDLP)—need to be pursued and managed at the highest level: such an individual could do that. (The committee believes that such an arrangement would quickly expose opportunities for further integration and cross-organizational learning throughout LC. Many of the individuals inside and outside LC with whom the committee spoke returned repeatedly to the relative lack of integration among the several components of the whole organization.) A second place where strategic management should occur in LC is the Executive Committee. This group meets regularly with the librarian and is the highest policy body in the organization. For example, it signs off on the final budget request to Congress. The committee has not attended the regular meetings of that group, but based on its discussions with LC staff throughout the study it has the sense that: The deliberations are mainly tactical rather than strategic, operational rather than visionary, and event-driven rather than proactive. There are significant political tensions within the organization that are played out in that group, reducing its effectiveness as a management team. Put another way, participants in that group come to the room representing their organizations and fight their battles there on those terms, but they are not seen in their organizations as representing the Executive Committee or its decisions. The director of ITS has only a rotating seat on the Executive Committee, so for substantial periods of time, ITS’s interests and capabilities are unrepresented in that group. Given that the technology budget of the whole Library is held and managed largely by the director of ITS, this is a crucial disconnect. The director of ITS should sit as a permanent member of the Executive Committee. At the Executive Committee retreat on October 31 and November 1, 1999, the Operations Committee was formed, to be chaired by the deputy librarian; it replaced the Senior Management Reporting Group and is intended to serve as a forum for senior programmatic and infrastructure managers to solve problems and share information. The Executive Committee delegated operational decisions directly to the Operations Committee. This plan by the EC to delegate tactical authority is a promising development.
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress The third locus of strategic management in LC today has grown up very recently to fill the gaps left by the existing management structures. The Digital Futures Group is largely a partnership between the National Digital Library and Library Services, with participation from ITS. It has been the source of significant new budgetary recommendations for FY01 and is clearly seen as the locus of vision for the digital future of the Library. However, the group is also based on the premise that the digital future is somehow separable and distinct from the future of libraries generally—a fatal premise at this date.16 The committee hopes that in recommending (1) the creation of the ITVSRP group and (2) the appointment of a new deputy librarian, it can show the way both to generalizing IT vision, planning, and accountability across the Library and to integrating such planning into the broadest decision making of the organization. The Office of the Librarian Finally, the Office of the Librarian can and must be the locus of strategic direction for the Library. At this moment in history, that office labors under two disadvantages: None of the three most senior members of Library-wide administration (the librarian, the deputy librarian, the chief of staff) had a background in library administration before taking up his or her present appointment. The librarian will always be a political appointment and hence chosen for qualities above and beyond those for which a CEO in a private-sector organization would be chosen. The deputy librarian and the chief of staff were appointed, moreover, to address specific organizational issues of high priority—a limited focus was accepted in return for the specific, substantive contributions they could make and have made. The committee is recommending a second deputy librarian position in just that spirit, to address the burning need of the Library for this decade—specific expertise in strategic thinking and information technology and the ability to build collaborations with the library community and information industry at the highest level in the Library. (The committee observes also that during the tenure of the present librarian, links between LC and the rest of the national and international library community have been forged at and below the level of major service unit heads, for example, at the Library Services or Law Library level. The strategic heart of 16 In particular, the committee believes that the Law Library, the Copyright Office, and CRS all have an important stake in the same “digital future” that is addressed by the Digital Futures Group.
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress the Library, however, has become relatively isolated from and innocent of contemporary library practice and thinking. None of the three senior officers has any specific background or special competence in the field of information technology. The net effect of these two disadvantages is that the ultimate decision-making power in the Library is underinformed and underqualified to think strategically about the future of the Library and its adoption of information technology in support of its missions at this time. This report can point out directions and validating concepts. But in the end, there is no substitute for leadership that understands the issues directly and that is proactive in leading the process of analysis and planning. What is seen is an administration that is technologically more reactive than proactive and far too inclined to make modest (although accurate) demurrals when faced with questions of the kind this report addresses. In the future, appointments within the Office of the Librarian must seek individuals who have the authority and the experience to lead rather than follow in matters that require technological understanding and to make judgments that will have weight in the Library and beyond. Until such appointments begin to be made, LC will be seen as technologically reactive and will be perceived as a follower rather than a leader in the world of libraries. Finally, the Office of the Librarian serves best when it is a source of vision for the Library as a whole, a vision that must now expand to embrace the range of technological innovation and possibility that both directly affects the Library and transforms the social setting within which the Library does its work. Similarly, the Office of the Librarian functions best as the recipient and manager of information coming up from all across the Library about what is happening and what is possible. An easy and effective flow of communication about IT initiatives and possibilities from the Office of the Librarian to the whole of the senior management team and to the Library beyond is vital, but the communication must be bidirectional and must be a constantly reinforcing source of new ideas, clarified vision, and refined application of technology in the service of LC’s users. New Tasks for Executive Management The transformation of libraries everywhere by the onrush of information technology is inevitable. But unless major changes occur, bureaucratic fossilization can and will persist, reducing the effectiveness and increasing the cost of new ideas and projects. A vital part of effective management is not simply to acquire the new or automate the old but to
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress look broadly at processes to see what can and should be changed to take full advantage of new opportunities. Many operations at LC would benefit from systematic and complete review. Such review should look at all steps of an operation to assess efficiency. More important, and more difficult to answer, is the question, Need this be done at all? Many individual steps seem unnecessary. Merely automating manual operations is not enough to ensure efficiency. The Copyright Office’s charge, for instance, produces scenes reminiscent of the struggles of the sorcerer’s apprentice. The sheer mass of what there is to contend with using a mechanism like none other in the world (i.e., created especially and only for Copyright) overwhelms those who might otherwise think of new solutions. Merely to automate what is there now is a mistake. The selection of the ILS has been guided by the need to resolve and integrate all of the existing cataloging tools—SCORPIO, MUMS, etc.—rather than by consideration of future needs (and indeed, integrated library systems tend to be retrospective tools in any event). Another example is the relatively low level of workflow rationalization in the Library. Many operations are done with paper forms that involve many steps. This costs time and money, as information is transferred from one form to another. The second phase of the ILS implementation expects to reengineer the core Library Services functions; however, that phase not only should involve attention to the processes directly affected by the ILS but also should be considered an opportunity for institution-wide reengineering. Many of the workflows of the Library could profitably be investigated. The committee was told, for example, that it takes at least a week and six signatures on a paper form to assign a new employee an electronic mailbox. In most organizations, this task is accomplished via an e-mail message from the employee’s supervisor. Wherever it looked at the actual workflow affecting individuals, the committee found such tales of redundancy and waste. The ILS implementation office has been a successful and exemplary model of cross-organizational coordination and cooperation.17 The model needs to be studied and taken as a basis for an even more ambitious study of existing business processes: how they may be improved by the application of information technology and—equally important—how they may be reduced or eliminated by astute management informed by the possibilities of information technology. Even more important are the fundamental transformations of thinking about what the Library is and how it functions, as outlined in the 17 The ILS implementation is discussed at length in Chapter 8.
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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress earlier chapters. In the end, the success or failure of the Library in the digital age will be marked chiefly by its ability to rethink and reinvent (along with comparable institutions around the world) the way collecting and cataloging are done, whether the artifacts are digital or analog. If this report has a single central message, it is this one. Findings and Recommendations Finding: The future of libraries and the future of information technology are inseparable. Finding: The Planning, Management, and Evaluation Directorate might assist usefully with the process of strategic planning, but there remains a need for improved substantive input into the strategic planning process. Finding: Before taking up their present appointments, the three senior-most members of Library-wide administration (the librarian, deputy librarian, and chief of staff) did not have particular expertise or experience in library administration or information technology. Recommendation: The committee recommends appointment of a new deputy librarian (Strategic Initiatives) to supplement the strengths and capabilities of the three members of the Library-wide administration now in place. Finding: Much of the workflow of the Library is manually based. There seems to be much opportunity for workflow automation. However, the approach should not be to use information technology to automate existing processes but rather to examine the processes themselves and rationalize them across unit boundaries before new information systems are designed and developed or acquired. The Whole-Book Cataloging Pilot Program of some years ago shows how such reengineering can be piloted in limited areas and then extended to a broader range of Library operations. The Copyright Office and the interface between it and Library Services is the first place that deserves attention. Recommendation: The committee recommends that the Library publish, by January 1, 2001, its own review of this report and an outline of the agenda that the Library will pursue.
Representative terms from entire chapter: