January 22, 2022

New Report From ITHAKA S+R: “Organizing the Work of the Research Library”

Organizing the Work of the Research Library was released today by ITHAKA S+R.

The report was researched and written by Roger Schonfeld.

From the Introduction:

2016-08-18_11-12-36In this project, Ithaka S+R examined the organizational structure of research libraries as well as related leadership and change management issues through a series of interviews with selected library directors. When discussing organizational structure, it is clear that, while some directors are students of this topic, far more interpret it through the lens of their own particular leadership experience. Some focus on professional development or on organizational culture, others focus on strategic planning or on getting things done. While this paper is focused on the structural components of library leadership, it recognizes that in organizational practice these issues are all interconnected, and in leadership styles structure is sometimes a byproduct rather than an organizing principle.


Interviewees are shown along with their then-current or former director/dean positions:

  • Martha Bedard, University of Connecticut, previously University of New Mexico
  • Jon Cawthorne, West Virginia University
  • Carol Diedrichs, Ohio State University, previously University of Kentucky
  • Charles Eckman, University of Miami, previously Simon Fraser University
  • Geneva Henry, George Washington University
  • Lorraine Haricombe, University of Texas Austin, previously University of Kansas
  • Wendy Lougee, University of Minnesota
  • Rick Luce, University of Oklahoma, previously Emory University, Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Brian Lym, Adelphi University
  • James Neal, retired from Columbia University, previously Johns Hopkins University and Indiana University
  • Sarah Pritchard, Northwestern University, previously University of California Santa Barbara and Smith College
  • MacKenzie Smith, University of California Davis
  • Carla Stoffle, retired from University of Arizona
  • Gary Strong, retired from University of California Los Angeles, previously Queens Library
  • Ed van Gemert, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Kay Wall, retired from Clemson University, previously University of Southern Mississippi
  • Karen Williams, University of Arizona
  • Lizabeth (Betsy) Wilson, University of Washington

Direct to Full Text Report ||| PDF Version (28 pages; PDF)

From the Author

Roger Schonfeld shares several thoughts about the research along with key findings from the report in a blog post titled, “How Should We Organize the Academic Library? The View from the Director’s Chair.”

Although there appears to be no single optimal model for a research library’s organizational structure, the project produced several key findings:

Library directors appear to be shifting how they structure the role of associate university librarians (AULs), moving away from seeing them principally as division leads and towards seeing them more fully as organizational leaders.

Directors are using organizational structure to drive a reallocation of the staffing and materials budgets for general collections, with a long-term objective of reducing both in favor of other priorities. The alignment between strategy and organizational structures in these areas of responsibility are especially well established.

Directors are also pressing for new approaches to outreach and engagement roles, an area with a great deal of experimentation.

Finally, directors are least uniform in the areas of library technology, where approaches range from efforts to build Silicon Valley-style product organizations to those where directors seem uncertain how best to manage technology resources strategically.

Read the Complete Blog Post

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.