Restructuring support staff classification levels for academic health sciences library positions* By Jett C. McCann, M.S.L.S. Head, Serials Services Department and Associate Professor
Shelley E. Davis, M.A. Head, Audiovisual Services Department and Assistant Professor Donna J. Trainor, M.L.S. Head, Circulation Services Department and Instructor D. Kay Waller Library Administrative Manager
Robert B. Greenblatt, M.D. Library Medical College of Georgia Augusta, Georgia 30912
Nonprofessional library support staff traditionally hold what are considered to be low-paying, nonchallenging positions. These negative factors make retaining creative and productive employees difficult. This article outlines the approach taken at the Medical College of Georgia's Robert B. Greenblatt, M.D. Library to devise a structure of library staff positions that becomes progressively more demanding. A new nine-level Library Staff Classification Plan resulted. This plan also enables and encourages employees to acquire more skills and to accept more responsibility in order to qualify for higher-level library positions or to advance their present position to receive comparable rewards. The plan expresses the level of responsibilities expected, the employee qualifications desired, and lists representative duties across the spectrum of typical library tasks.
EVOLUTION OF LIBRARY STAFF POSITIONS Traditionally, academic health sciences library faculty, administration, and library governing boards recognize that nonlibrarian staff comprise the backbone of library operations. The staff that is generally defined as "classified" or "support" plays a major role in the continuity and stability of library programs. This manuscript is an expanded version of a paper "A Restructuring of Levels for Non-Faculty Library Positions" presented November 3, 1988, at the Southern Chapter, Medical Library Association, Jacksonville, Florida, and as poster sessions "Creating a Career Ladder for Library Positions" presented November 3, 1988, at the Southern Chapter, Medical Library Association, Jacksonville, Florida, and "A Restructuring of Classified Employee Levels for Medical Library Positions" presented May 23, 1989, at the EightyNinth Annual Meeting of the Medical Library Association, Boston, Massachusetts. *
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Nonlibrarian staff comprise the backbone of library operations. The staff that is generally defined as "classified" or "support" plays a major role in the continuity and stability of library programs. Academic health sciences libraries have experienced a shift in job tasks and staffing requirements throughout the past fifteen years. This shift coincided with the position taken by the American Library Association (ALA) in the 1970s. As a standard, ALA stated that librarians should concern themselves with planning, organizing, communicating, and administering both programs and services; identifying needs, setting goals, analyzing problems, and formulating solutions; and not performing the clerical tasks so often associated by others with the operation of a library . This statement implied that nonli293
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brarian staff would then perform both their present tasks and the tasks relinquished by librarians. The rapidly advancing computerization of libraries in the mid-1980s became another factor affecting support staff job tasks. Both the automation of library systems and services, and the widespread use of microcomputers within libraries, allowed for the relegation of many of the low-level functional tasks to computers and to the lowest-level staff positions. The ALA philosophy coupled with library computerization resulted in more involved and more challenging duties being assigned to higher-level support staff. The contemporary health sciences library is a personnel-intense environment. Librarians successfully perform the new roles of teachers and information brokers within a service-oriented program, while library assistants and other nonprofessional-level employees execute the task-oriented, day-to-day operations of the library. The delegation of important operational tasks to nonlibrarians requires that they possess superior library skills, sound judgment, and creativity to ensure a consistently high level of service during all hours of library operation.
The delegation of important operational tasks to nonlibrarians requires that they possess superior library skills, sound judgment, and creativity to ensure a consistently high level of service during all hours of library operation. Although this new personnel thrust is recognized within library programs, few mechanisms exist to acknowledge or reward support staff through the parent institution's classification system. Resulting staff recruitment and retention difficulties often prove seriously restrictive to libraries desiring to implement innovative programs. THE SETTING In an effort to improve its programs and services through the use of computer-based informational services, the Greenblatt Library redesigned all phases of its program through automation, provision of a Library Information System, equipping offices with microcomputers, and establishing a microcomputer laboratory. The Greenblatt Library uses as its base the Library Information System (LIS) developed at the Georgetown University Medical Center's Dahlgren Memorial Library. LIS includes all library operations-serials, catalog record, acquisitions, circulation, student reserves, and databases (miniMEDLINE, Current Contents, library online catalog-accessible directly, by modem, or via the campuswide broad294
band local area networks (LANs) or Datapoint LANs). Most library faculty and support staff are provided with a microcomputer with a hard disk connected to the LIS, which provides shared applications, files, communications, and electronic mail. The Microcomputer Labs, housed within and administered by the Library Audiovisual Services Department, consist of various microcomputer groupings including an IBM PC Lab, an Apple IIe Lab, a Macintosh Lab, the School of Medicine Educational Computer Systems Lab, and an Electronic Classroom, fully enclosed and networked, each containing one dozen PCs and Macintosh microcomputers.
Some departments repeatedly lost outstanding employees to others due to lack of a mechanism for upward mobility within their own departments. The Greenblatt Library had eleven professional librarians and thirty-seven EFT support staff. The recruitment and promotion process for library support staff at the college conflicted with, rather than supported, the need for high-level, self-motivated, and computer-literate staff. Prior to the classification restructuring, the library offered no systematic path for employees who wished to advance in responsibility or in salary. Staff often made interdepartmental transitions between the seven departments-circulation, reference, audiovisuals, serials, cataloging, academic computing, and administration-e.g., moving from circulation to serials or from cataloging to reference positions. No department had enough positions to allow for upward mobility. In each of the several years prior to and during this project, 30% of library support staff moved to positions within other library departments because this was the only way for them to advance. Some departments repeatedly lost outstanding employees to others due to lack of a mechanism for upward mobility within their own departments. Furthermore, each time a new position was created, a rather arbitrary approach was used to list job tasks, devise a title, and establish a salary level. Job descriptions that were rewritten to reflect changes in duties or to place them in higher pay brackets were handled on case-by-case bases. This created a frustrating staffing situation within each department, and made creating or upgrading appropriate support positions difficult. Many staff members also transferred to other departments on campus or left the college to work at other institutions that offered higher pay, better hours, and clearer, more standardized advancement opportunities. Over the five years prior to the library's classification restructuring, movement to other departBull Med Libr Assoc
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ments on campus approached a ratio of 5:1 out of the library program. Departing library support staff often accepted positions in the fields of education and social work, or in other libraries. Twenty percent of the support staff took positions external to the library during the project year. Previous attempts at reclassification did little to retain staff for three reasons. Positions, not people, were reclassified; this locked individuals into low-level job classifications and, even if they learned new skills and performed at significantly higher levels than previously, they could not advance until the positions were reclassified. Reclassified positions often assumed the level of performance of the incumbent who was sometimes a highly skilled employee. Those same skill expectations became part of the job description for persons hired subsequently, regardless of actual program need. Although the college's Division of Personnel approved many reclassification requests, the institution provided no additional funding for activation of the approval; additional dollars came from the library's existing budget. Thus, the library was caught in the trap of seeking to recruit individuals with high-level skills while offering noncompetitive salaries and rigid job structures.
TASK FORCE FORMATION Circumstances at the college in late 1986 favored pursuing restructuring. A new director of the Division of Personnel was employed. Exceptions to the traditional approach to reclassification were being considered because of a lack of institutional competitiveness in areas such as Nursing Services and some fields of allied health. A move toward program quality rather than quantity, focusing on measurable outcomes, was being discussed throughout the campus. By the 1985-1986 academic year, computerization within the library allowed for the delegation of many of the lowest-level tasks to computers. Rapidly increasing numbers of nonprofessional support staff began to perform duties that historically had been performed by faculty/professional librarians, e.g., the serials assistant started to handle correspondence concerning subscription problems, a duty formerly reserved to the serials librarian. Early in 1987, the director of Libraries formed a Task Force on Library Classified Positions to officially address the library's staffing dilemma. The group first met in the spring and targeted a reporting date of December 1987, to coincide with institutional reclassification and budgeting cycles. This ad hoc task force, comprised of faculty and support staff employees, represented all areas of the library: administration, AV services, cataloging, circulation, and serials. Its mission was to study the restructuring of support staff positions and to create a personnel classification seBull Med Libr Assoc 78(3) July 1990
ries that would reflect increasing responsibilities and performance. The director of the Division of Personnel was invited to a preliminary meeting of the task force so that input on the classification restructuring could be solicited and support gained for the project in its early stage. Extensive literature searches, reviews of presentations made at professional meetings, and contacts with other library programs produced little useful information to help frame or direct the project. Following lengthy discussions over a period of several months, the task force agreed upon a course of action.
METHODOLOGY The task force used Ricking and Booth's Illinois Library Task Analysis Project descriptions of standard library tasks as a basis for the first draft of library tasks . This system's approach to personnel use offered task clusters by performance level. Approximately 270 tasks, somewhat less than half of those listed by Ricking, were selected from among the eight task subsystems or function designations: collection development, collection organization, collection preparation and maintenance, collection storage and retrieval, circulation, collection interpretation and use, management, and staff development. Ricking designated three performance levels-professional, technical, and clerical-based on various intellectual, educational, and judgmental qualifications. Some tasks used by the task force resulted from combining separate tasks from Ricking, while others were modified slightly for local relevance. The task force also added tasks performed at the Greenblatt Library but not covered in Ricking due to recent advances in librarianship and the information professions. The final Greenblatt Library task list included approximately 300 tasks. A database was produced that automatically assigned each of the 300 tasks to a unique identifying number. Nahsoba's Filemaker-4 was used, generating a database searchable by task description, unique identification number, rating assigned by each member of the task force, reference to Ricking source, Ricking subsystem type (e.g., circulation, reference), and Ricking level (i.e., professional, technical, clerical). Each task was ranked, based on the perceived level of difficulty, skill, knowledge, or education required to perform the task, using a scale from "1" ("simple tasks") to "100" ("complex tasks"). Responsibilities of similar difficulty and skill were ranked at similar levels. For example, the following three tasks from the reference, cataloging and circulation/interlibrary loan (ILL) departments were deemed comparable, and each rated a "96": task #127, "Provides assistance and guidance in the use of the collection to individuals and groups"; #85, "Exercises final ap295
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proval on interlibrary loans"; and #33, "Assigns subject headings using standard tools and the library's own authority file." The review of rated tasks proved difficult. Duplicate tasks were identified and eliminated. Some tasks required division or additional explanation to more clearly define duties in accordance with the library's program. Concurrently, department heads reviewed library job descriptions to assure completeness of the task list and also reviewed the list for potential inclusion of tasks within existing job descriptions. The most difficult and time-consuming step in this process was reaching a general agreement on task ratings; this was achieved by face-to-face discussions of each task and its rating. Over one third of the task ratings were altered somewhat during the process. As an added benefit, task force members gained a comprehensive view of the duties that are performed in each department. This information as then transferred from the Filemaker database to a Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet program to generate mathematical models and graphs from the ratings. This allowed for a higher level of mathematics, continual sorting, and eventual graphic depiction of the data. The task force focused next on grouping the rated tasks within several general employee levels or classifications and placing comparable tasks at the same level. Based on its knowledge of libraries, staff expertise, and daily work experience, the task force believed that from seven to eleven levels would result. Subsequently, the spreadsheet calculations demonstrated that the tasks clustered at nine broad levels, with reasonably clear breaks between the levels. Using this computer-generated mathematical model, the task force agreed upon the high and low cutoff points for each of the nine levels. After additional review and reflection, they agreed to move some tasks up or down one level. This review provided a second chance to consider ratings assigned to the various tasks. The final resulting classification levels were designated as level one (low) through level nine (high). The task force reviewed each classification level for three issues: * responsibilities (types and level), e.g., performs work of a highly complex nature, exercises very high level of independent judgment, establishes and maintains good relationships with the public * expected qualifications (educational and experience), e.g., college degree, three years' related experience * representative duties (from the task list of 300 items), e.g., edits OCLC records and downloads to local library database, assists users in use of audiovisual equipment, prepares special indexes, schedules staff to accommodate service needs, supervises bindery
functions, performs simple searches on complex bibliographic databases Subsequent to the release of the classification levels defined by the task force, each library department head reviewed job descriptions of each respective staff member for placement within the nine levels. They weighted each employee's actual involvement with the tasks performed as being primary, secondary, or tertiary. These indicators of involvement expressed time, effort, and responsibility within prescribed tasks. This process differentiated between one who performed a task each day for a large number of hours and another who performed the same task only occasionally, as the first individual's backup. The Guidelines for Task Level Assignment for Library Employees specified * primary (given a rating of three)-a major part of the job in terms of responsibility, effort, or time commitment; * secondary (rating of two)-regularly part of the job, but is not the major thrust of the job or not regularly part of the job, but as a substitute for others; * tertiary (rating of one)-occasionally part of the job; or regularly part of the job, but as a minor issue; or not regularly part of the job, but occasionally as a substitute for others.
RESTRUCTURED STAFF CLASSIFICATION PLAN The task force prepared an overall description for each of the nine resulting levels. These descriptions indicated responsibilities, qualifications, and representative duties. The tasks listed within each individual's job description were in turn checked against the description of each of these levels and then weighted as to primary, secondary, or tertiary involvement. The data entered into an Excel spreadsheet yielded numerical totals that allowed the assignment of an official classification level to each job description. This process also produced graphs depicting employee work profiles for visual comparisons. (The graphics production capabilities within Excel were used for rough chart production, but for final production, the data were exported to Microsoft's Chart.) Figures 1 and 2 demonstrate the level of tasks performed, according to the job description and the involvement weighted on a primary to tertiary basis. The two positions depicted-ILL office supervisor and an ILL assistant-illustrate a typical visual display of the job analysis. The ILL office supervisor performs higher-level tasks (levels 6 through 9) and does so more often, as noted by the dark black (primary) task profile. However, this position also per-
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Restructuring Figure 1
Interlibrary loan supervisor 80
70 60 50 -
Number of task 40 30 20 . 10
5 Level of tasks perfo
Figure 2 Interlibrary loan assistant 70
40. Number of tasks
30. 20. 10 .
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5 Level of tasd p eromed U
McCann et al. Figure 3 Serials assistant 60
Number of tasks 30 20
5 6 Level of tasks performed
forms on levels 2 through 7 as secondary tasks and levels 1 through 4 as tertiary tasks when necessary. Conversely, the ILL assistant performs most primary tasks on a lower level (the black task profile); however, when substituting for the ILL supervisor, this individual also performs tasks on a much higher level, but only as secondary or tertiary involvement (Figure 2). Both the task force and the director of the Division of Personnel agreed that those individuals in positions such as the ILL assistant should be rewarded for those tasks performed on a higher level, even though not performed on a primary basis. It was agreed, however, that the classification for the ILL office supervisor should not be influenced by the occasional lower-level secondary and tertiary tasks. Figure 3 illustrates a job description profile demonstrating a typical library staff's job level variance. This serials assistant working within a small department performs tasks on levels 3 through 8 as primary tasks, levels 2 through 8 as secondary tasks, and levels 1 through 8 as tertiary tasks. This may be a common occurrence in many smaller departments where an individual acts as a one-person backup to a librarian/ faculty member, and also as a supervisor and backup to one other support staff member. The individual in 298
this position is expected to perform regularly at levels 6, 7, and 8, and in the restructured system would be rewarded for that effort. The visual graphic display of each library support staff job description strongly suggested a position classification level; however, each position needed a written description based on level of performance and weighted importance of job duties. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, each position was subjected to mathematical computation, resulting in an official assignment to a classification. This process also generated the Guidelines for Task Level Assignment for Library Employees and the development of a list of classification descriptions for each library support staff level (Appendices A and B). The task force also suggested base pay rates after examining the list of rates assigned to campuswide support staff. Formal job titles were devised to correspond with each level. (See Table 1 for suggested levels, position names, pay grades, and 1988 salaries.) The highest level (level 9) was not attained by any present library support staff, thus allowing room for advancement from the next highest level. Level 9 consisted primarily of tasks usually performed by librarians. Although the task force had completed the philoBull Med Libr Assoc 78(3) July 1990
sophical and functional framework, much intrainstitutional educating and negotiating lay ahead. Approvals by the director of the Division of Personnel and the college administration constituted the next steps. An additional personnel budget spreadsheet was generated to illustrate projected dollar increases-both individually and in total-that were necessary to support the plan as a one-step, one-year implementation. The director of the Division of Personnel and the Division of Personnel's Wage and Classification officer were invited to a presentation of the final proposal. A two-hour presentation included the library program history and development; the philosophy behind these library classifications, methodology, and mathematical calculations; and a comparison with graduated levels within other departments at the college. The existence of other graduated levels, one for physical plant employees, for example, helped illustrate the intent of the revised library levels. Response was positive and supportive, leading to a formal recommendation to the college administration that the Library Staff Classification Plan be accepted as presented. Budget support remained the final consideration. Two methods of funding existed: using institutional dollars additional to those in the original library budget or using dollars from vacant positions within the library. Although not the ideal, the director of Libraries chose what could be implemented immediately, a blend emphasizing the second method. This choice created a better overall salary situation for staff recruitment and retention, although several positions within the library were lost. The college administration approved the plan and agreed to fund the new base rates, effective July 1, 1988. Each department head discussed the changes with support staff in their departments and encouraged employees to be candid in expressing concerns about the plan and about the new levels and titles. Overall, this potentially threatening step proceeded smoothly, and the majority of the support staff responded positively to the restructuring.
RESULTS The entire restructuring process took about six months to complete. The resulting Library Staff Classification Plan affected approximately 75% of the overall library support staff. The plan excluded institutionwide classifications that were not library-specific, such as accountant, secretary, administrative assistant, and programmer. Of the affected individuals, all had base salary rates placed at a higher level, and 60% actually received an annual salary increase above the typical amount granted at the college during the project year. This favorable outcome should allow the library to Bull Med Libr Assoc 78(3) July 1990
Suggested Medical College of Georgia Greenblatt Library employee classifications with pay grades-July 1, 1988 Hourly Suggested Library assistant 1 (level 1)
Ubrary assistant 2 (level 2) Ubrary assistant 3 (level 3) Ubrary assistant 4 (level 4) Medical library associate 1 Medical library associate 2 Medical library specialist 1 Medical library specialist 2 Medical library specialist 3 (level 9)
Annual Pay grade salary 11 18 22 26 30 38 44 48 54
$9,173 $9,922 $10,733 $11,606 $12,542 $14,685 $16,579 $17,936 $20,170
$4.41 $4.77 $5.16 $5.58 $6.03 $7.06 $1,381.58 $1,494.67 $1,680.83
recruit support staff with more educational experience, work experience, and library-related skills. It should also contribute to the stability and continuity of the library program through an improved retention rate. The task force anticipates that library support staff will be able to continue performing the types of work in which they are interested, and will be recognized and rewarded for doing so. Library support staff will be able to do so without moving throughout library departments, elsewhere on campus, or to other institutions.
Library support staff will be able to continue performing the types of work in which they are interested, and will be recognized and rewarded for doing so. The Greenblatt Library now enters a period of assessment and evaluation. Although the new system cannot be considered successful until several budget cycles and an upcoming review are completed, some early positive indicators occurred in the year following implementation. Support staff resignation for reemployment in positions on and off campus decreased, and transfers among library departments were down. Application of this restructuring plan by the institution led subsequently to reclassification of five support staff positions to a higher level due to higherlevel responsibilities assigned during the project year. Other favorable signs include library support staff working on higher degrees in library and information science while retaining their present jobs, and increases in staff requesting attendance in workshops and seminars to further develop skills toward better job performance, as well as job satisfaction. 299
McCann et al. REFERENCES 1. Library education and personnel utilization. Chicago: American Library Association, 1970. (A Statement of Policy Adopted by the Council of the American Library Association, 30 Jun 1970.)
2. RICKING M, BOOTH RE. Personnel utilization in libraries. Chicago: American Library Association in cooperation with the Illinois State Library Association, 1974.
Received October 1989; accepted January 1990
Medical College of Georgia Library Classified Employee Level #7 Medical Library Specialist 1 General types of responsibilities: A. Performs work of a highly complex nature B. Exercises very high level of independent judgment C. Establishes and maintains good relationships with the public D. Demonstrates excellent oral and written communication skills E. Works independently, with minimal direction F. Is supervised by department head G. Has very thorough knowledge of library policies and procedures; contributes to their creation/revision H. Assists in creating departmental reports I. Responsible for selected departmental operations J. Assists in program planning and development K. Plans, assigns, and directs the work of staff; supervises, trains staff L. May contribute to budget planning M. Interprets policies, regulations, and procedures to staff N. Develops and evaluates staff; contributes input to appointments and terminations
Qualifications: College degree OR some college course work AND three years' related experience. Representative duties!tasks: Responsible for all overdue materials, and acts a liaison with extralibrary programs (registrar, cashier, etc.); edits OCLC records and downloads to local library database; assists users in use of microcomputer hardware and AV equipment, including troubleshooting; prepares special indexes (NLN, ANA, pamphlet file, etc.); schedules staff to accommodate service needs; supervises serials automated integrated library system functions; supervises bindery functions; coordinates repair and maintenance of computer equipment; performs simple searches on complex bibliographic databases (by computer); informs users of materials relating to their special interests and needs; downloads and edits records for system use (from Georgetown University database). Pay Grade-44
Medical College of Georgia Library Classified Employee Level #4 Library Assistant 4 General types of responsibilities: A. Performs work of limited complexity B. Exercises limited independent judgment C. Maintains good relationships with the public D. Demonstrates good oral or written communication skills E. Works under direction of others F. Is supervised by department head or unit supervisor G. Has moderate knowledge of library policies and procedures; offers procedural input H. Gathers/compiles data for departmental reports
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Restructuring Qualifications: High school diploma, some college/technical school course work preferred; some work experience, library experience preferred. Representative duties! tasks: Notes gaps in serial collections, makes back issue needs file; answers questions regarding library's holdings and identifies availability using automated integrated library system; performs simple classification of materials identified in standard tools; acquires, organizes and maintains collection of catalogs; operates and programs telefacsimile equipment; compiles record, manually or by computer, of materials added to collection; creates item records for newly acquired material (linking barcode to MARC record in automated integrated library system); sends interlibrary loan requests by electronic mail; maintains dial-up user records; maintains functionality of AV Services Office evenings and weekends.
FROM THE BULLETIN- 50 YEARS AGO
Medical libraries -what they mean to the physician and to the patient By Lily Hanvey Alderson, Librarian, St. Louis Medical Society, St. Louis, Missouri There is no group of sciences which has so many current periodicals as medicine. Medical periodicals can be roughly divided into three classes: those devoted exclusively to purely scientific and experimental researches; those devoted to the specialities; and those which include clinical and surgical cases, reports of progress, abstracts, history, etc. There are approximately 2,000 periodicals published currently. Many libraries find it impossible to subscribe to all periodicals which must be referred to in case studies. This is also true of the increasing number of monographs and textbooks on medicine in daily use. This problem has been solved by the use of inter-library loan with other large libraries. Through this inter-library loan system, physicians can obtain material from any medical library upon application through the local medical library, the only expense incurred by the borrower being the transportation charges. Bull Med Libr Assoc 1940 Dec;29(2):98
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