|Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship||Spring 1998|
The World Wide Web offers unlimited opportunities for learning organizations to try such experiments. A learning organization has been defined as an "organization skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge and at modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights" (Riggs 1997). Behavior modification, as indicated here, is no small challenge for academic libraries. Yet, the extent to which library managers offer employees the opportunity to exercise leadership, initiative, and creativity more fully through teamwork, may determine how effectively that library meets the future information needs of its clientele (Maxwell 1990). The academic library of the future will be much different than the one we know today (Taylor 1995). It will behoove those in academic librarianship to investigate and participate fully in changing today's library.
The purpose of this article is to describe how the TTU Library WebTeam functioned, what it achieved, and the lessons learned, with the hope of encouraging other academic institutions to implement such a team structure to accomplish specific tasks either related or unrelated to web site management. This article describes that experiment from the perspective of the Team Leader, focusing on the role of authority and leadership in small group dynamics. The WebTeam phase of web site development at TTU Libraries has formally concluded. The successful implementation of our WebTeam suggests that small working groups of professional librarians and paraprofessional staff can manage their own agenda to help the academic library more effectively achieve its mission. Our Team was on the "front lines" bringing a new technology into the academic workplace where the rate of change is dizzying and where technological changes are not always welcome.
In order to preserve continuity across our institutional site, a small group of public service librarians was formed to put up the first official web pages which were originally housed on a server in Academic Computing. With the establishment of our formal web presence, responsibility for site enhancements fell on the Associate Dean. But, with an already "full plate", little time remained for building upon the foundation of the original committee. It was then decided to try an experiment with a new working group, a WebTeam which would have complete responsibility for creating an outstanding site with members from across all areas of the Library. This pattern of establishing a "new service" within an established hierarchy is fairly typical (Honea 1997).
Briefly, the WebTeam consisted of six members from both technical and public services. This strategy was effective for pooling complementary skills from within a diverse organization (Loehr 1995). All library personnel were given the opportunity to request appointment to the Team with the recommendation of their supervisors. Those with the necessary hypertext skillss were assigned to the Team and a Team Leader was appointed by the Library Administration. The primary task of the Team was to insure that the Library's web presence achieved overall consistency and to provide the technical support needed to help librarians add professionally relevant material to the site.
The issue of authority was never formally discussed by the team but two aspects of authority gradually developed. The first involved the relationship between the Team and those outside the Team. We decided to allow access to the server in Academic Computing to the Team only. All information added to the site along with routine updates were made through the Team. Since nearly everyone with an interest in contributing information to our web site was a Team member, this initial access restriction was not challenged. Later, as more individuals became web savvy, they were given access to specific areas on the server which then resided in the Library's Technical Services Department.
The second aspect of authority occurred within the Team. While one individual served as Team Leader, everyone's input and participation was equally valued. Varying strengths and abilities were recognized and these differences were viewed as complementary rather than competitive. This sort of project offers the opportunity to show off one's technical skills, yet it also serves to keep egos in check since the suite of skills needed to build a truly notable site are not possessed by individuals, but by groups of individuals. Both professional librarians and paraprofessionals served on the Team. Interaction between these groups was quite extensive, after all, we were all on the same Team. While paraprofessionals were more commonly involved with tasks requiring extensive technical knowledge and professionals were more active with liaison duties between the Team and other Library or campus computer personnel. Equal input was received from all members regarding content and design elements of our web site. Team members were given 10% release time for Team assignments but more often than not, the work of the Team spilled over into one's personal time.
Probably the largest single task of the Team Leader was to make sure that input from all Team members was incorporated into the decision making process. Some have referred to this function as that of a coach (Poon-Richards 1995). In other words, the Team Leader's main concern was the development of collaborative skills in others (Honea 1997). This was not difficult when members were present during our biweekly meetings, especially when practical questions addressed such concerns as which image to place on a page or how to word a form. Discussions were frank and open. Participation and interest by all Team members was evident. It was much more difficult to secure input via e-mail, especially when trying to formulate Team goals, draft a general policy statement, or handle similar issues of a broad or more ambiguous nature. The Team Leader lacked the authority to require such input. A member could be asked to participate, yet no mechanism existed to insure compliance. What sort of leadership style is most suitable for managing such a working group? Flexibility, technical competence, and mutual respect were most successful with influencing an individual Team member's performance. Team members possessed a strong sense of social justice. "Equality meant not only equal treatment but treatment as an equal" (Martell 1987).
The WebTeam operated in a general atmosphere of ambiguity. We were forging new ground. Offering leadership in a climate of ambiguity was a daily challenge but an essential responsibility of the Team Leader. The very nature of the web contributes to a sense of ambiguity and growing complexity. In fact, the capacity to hold contradictory notions and possessing a mind that enjoys complexity are important Team Leader attributes. It is the ability to translate a vision into practical reality that makes for an effective small group leader (Taylor 1995).
The Team Leader also reviewed statistics on web site usage. Use statistics were initially generated for the web server activity in a spreadsheet format. Later, software was purchased with which more sophisticated reports could be generated "automatically." It was the responsibility of the Team leader to communicate levels of use to the appropriate web author or administrator. The statistical data on which these reports were based came from Technical Services at the Team Leader's request. These requests did not always receive high priority, however, resulting in delays disseminating the reports. This underscores the importance of the relationship between the WebTeam and the Technical Services Department.
Use data has traditionally been valued by librarians and employed in various ways to justify acquisitions or new services. Usage statistics played a central role in the lively discussion which arose as to the importance of having a site that was logically organized and structured according to some kind of hierarchy. One view held that patrons found information on the web via search tools rather than browsing. The other view held the position that patrons found what they were looking for on the web by following related links to the item of interest in a logical sequence. The latter view believed that general or top level pages would receive a much greater proportion of hits while more specific pages would receive correspondingly fewer hits. In fact, patrons probably find information using both strategies. But our statistics suggest that a web site should be logically structured so patrons can intuitively find the information they seek (Table 1).
Table 1: Sample Web Server Activity for Top Level Pages
|Web Page||July Activity||August Activity|
|Table of Contents||150||236|
|Other Library Collections on Campus||100||188|
As you can see from Table 1, usage grew as the site became better known and the top-level pages received greater use. Our page went live on its own server in June.
There were few e-mail queries through our web site. Efforts were made to respond to each question in a timely fashion, but no statistics were maintained on this activity due to the low number of questions received. Frequently, a request was referred to a more qualified colleague to answer the question. Thus, many questions were not directly answered by the Team Leader.
In the early stages of our work, the University Library served to host, advise, and assist other campus libraries as they developed their own web sites. The Texas Tech School of Law and the Southwest Collection are two local examples of libraries whose web presence was initially supported by the University Library WebTeam. The Texas Tech Center at Junction in central Texas is an example of a remote facility which got its start with help from the University Library's WebTeam.
Organizations structured along traditional lines are more successful when conditions are stable. A sense of ownership contributes to team success because of the relatively higher level of commitment built into the decision making process (Martell 1987). Specific reasons for using self-managed teams in libraries include:
While these benefits can motivate an organization to try utilizing self-managed teams, success depends on the team members' shared vision of the manner in which these benefits can be translated into career betterment and company or institutional improvement (Stokes 1991, Moore 1995, Taylor 1995). The cumulative effect of these benefits is the increased responsiveness to library users as a result of greater innovation (Moore 1995). If libraries are to survive in the rapidly changing environment characteristic of the beginning of the 21st century, it is essential that they become expert innovators. Change is normally met with resistance. After all, few really embrace change. Library leaders must become masters of persuasion to meet this resistance to change (Moore 1995).
Whether or not libraries have been successful at making their collections easily usable is often debated (Taylor 1995). It is time to try another approach to this challenging goal and teams may provide the best solution. In order for teams to have the desired effects, however, it is necessary to do more than simply put a group of people together with a job to do and expect it to work perfectly. Teams require support. Training is critical, for team work is fundamentally different than working alone. It is not well suited to everyone, but it is much more likely to be successful with adequate training. Adequate time must be allowed for a team to succeed. A budget is important. Developing new products and services takes an investment in resources.
Due to the limited amount of space required, the temporary nature of the space requirement, and the positive exposure the course offered Texas Tech University Library all other Team members concluded that the request was not an inappropriate use of Library resources.
In addition to Team support, the Head of Technical Services, the Head of Information Services, and the Associate Dean agreed that housing distance education students' web pages temporarily on the Library's server was justified. A compromise was reached whereby students could fully participate in the class and temporarily establish a live web presence.
Another conflict arose over the nature of the content to be placed on our web site. The Library Administration chose to house only professionally related material on the server, leaving personal information off. A few Team members sought to challenge this position. Most were satisfied with the professional focus, though one Team member left the Team over this issue.
Honea, Sion M. 1997. Transforming administration in academic libraries. The Journal of Academic Librarianship 23(3): 183-189.
Johnson, Peggy. 1996. Managing changing roles: professional and paraprofessional staff in libraries. Journal of Library Administration 22(2/3): 79-99.
Loehr, Linda. 1995. Composing in groups: the concept of authority in cross functional project team work. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication 38(2): 83-93.
Martell, Charles. 1987. The nature of authority and employee participation in the management of academic libraries. College and Research Libraries 48: 110-122.
Maxwell, Gerald C. 1990. Teamwork aspects of situational management In: Proceedings of the IEEE 1990 National Aerospace and Electronics Conference, NAECON 1990, Dayton Convention Center, 21-25 May, pp. 1018-1020. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Piscataway, NJ.
Moore, Mary. 1995. Impact of the changing environment on academic library administration: conflicts, incongruities, contradictions, and dichotomies. Journal of Library Administration 22(1): 13-38.
Novak, P.L., D.A. Varley, D.L. Nousen, and G.W. Luczynski. 1997. Web publishing: new roles and new partnerships for communicators. In: International Professional Communication Conference - Crossroads in Communication, IPCC 97 Proceedings at Salt Lake City, UT, USA; 22-25 Oct. 1997, pp. 203-210. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, New York.
Poon-Richards, Craig. 1995. Self-managed teams for library management: increasing employee participation via empowerment. Journal of Library Administration 22(1): 67-84.
Riggs, Donald E. 1997. What's in store for academic libraries? Leadership and management issues. The Journal of Academic Librarianship 23(1): 3-8.
Stokes, Stewart L. 1991. IS without managers. Information Strategy: The Executive's Journal 8(1): 11-14.
Taylor, Merrily E. 1995. Getting it all together: leadership requirements for the future of information services. Journal of Library Administration 20(3/4): 9-24.
Morgan, Gareth. 1993. Imaginization: The Art of Creative Management. Sage Publications, London.
Probst, Laura K. 1996. Libraries in an environment of change: changing roles, responsibilities, and perception in the information age. Journal of Library Administration 22(2/3): 7-20.
Riggs, Donald E. 1997. What's in store for academic libraries? Leadership and management issues. The Journal of Academic Librarianship 23(1): 3-8, January.
|Team Member||Department||E-mail @ ttacs1|
|Vishal Agrawal (1/2 time)||WebTeam Technician||livra|
|Bill Johnson (Team Leader)||Information Services||liwtj|
|Tai Kreidler||Southwest Collection||litdk|
|Margaret McCasland||User Instruction||limjm|
|Suzan McGinnis||Collection Development||lisdm|
|Susan Poulter||Government Documents||lisam|
The purpose of the WebTeam is NOT to provide the content but to place the content provided by others in a logical place or on a "general resources/bibliographies" page. For example, if a remote link becomes invalid, the team will notify the appropriate web author who incorporated the specific link on a page who would then be responsible for providing the Team with a correct link or instructing the Team to remove it entirely.
WebTeam members are released from 10% of their time to work on the Library's web site. Members are subject to an annual review by the Team Leader which is forwarded to the Department Head to whom they report. They are also encouraged to evaluate the Team Leader. Membership on the Team is subject to the approval of the individual's Department Head. There is no set term of service on the WebTeam and the total number of members is not fixed. The Team should be representative of the Library as a whole and small enough to accomplish specific tasks. A half time Library Specialist supports the Team by doing routine maintenance. Prospective members should have a working knowledge of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). Individuals interested in serving on the WebTeam should contact the Team Leader for further information.
A designated Team member will regularly check the comments received from the e-mail button on nearly every page while a member of Reference will check the Reference queries separately. It is our goal to answer these queries within 24 hours.
It is our goal to make the site as interactive as possible by providing forms for such services as interlibrary loan and library express, as well as a searchable interface. A web OPAC (catalog) is a feature that the web Team will be involved in reviewing, along with other Library Departments, to achieve ease of transition from the web page to the library's catalog by our patrons.
A working directory will be maintained where Team Members may add new pages or modify existing ones. The Team Leader or a representative from the Automation Department will move files from this working directory to the live server. This is to foster continuity in design and conformity with institutional policy such as with the use of Tech's logo. Direct access to the live server may be provided to individuals, subject to Team approval and may be temporary depending on the nature of the need for such access.
Specific content elements of subject librarians' pages as well as departmental pages and other participants will be the responsibility of the author. The WebTeam will serve to assist with overall design and navigational features. If necessary, the WebTeam will also convert documents to hypertext or other suitable format. As a minimum, every page must have a Texas Tech logo. Authors are strongly encouraged to make each page as readable as possible so care should be exercised with the combination of colors for the text and background. The file size of images should be kept small by minimizing resolution and the number of colors used in the image. Also the number of images used on a page should be minimized and they should contribute to the information content of that page. Users with visual disabilities should be kept in mind so authors should use the "ALT" tag or comparable method to explain content elements that cannot be viewed with standard reading devices. Also, it is very important to help the viewer navigate within our site, so authors are encouraged to use the standard navigational footer used on top level pages or something similar. Other features should include authorship with an e-mail address, date of the most recent change, and a copyright notice or symbol
All employees are encouraged to provide input and participation in the development of the site regardless of their professional status. The most obvious opportunities to develop HTML authoring skills and self expression are through two avenues: department pages and subject pages. Please check with your department head about contributing information to a department's page. If an individual has an interest in developing a resource for placement on the Library's web site and it does not fall within their normal range of responsibilities, then the Team will assist them by working to establish a suitable place on the site for their material, if possible.