Coach, Confidante, Communicator: The Library Manager’s Role in Change Management

Group Communication

By Kevin Stehr, Vice President, North American Sales, ProQuest

As technology changes…as research habits change…as budget changes…so must libraries change. Whether the change involves a print-to-electronic transition or a space reclamation project, there are bound to be questions, concerns and even resistance.

And who stands at the center of a change initiative? The library’s management team. At ProQuest, we’ve underlined our commitment to library managers and their teams by certifying our sales force in change management – so we can walk-the-walk along with our customers and help foster a smoother transition.

The manager’s “extremely important” role

In a survey conducted by the change management authority Prosci, participants pointed to the participation of middle management as a top contributor to change management success. “In a separate study with 575 change leaders,” Prosci writes, “84% of participants ranked manager and supervisor involvement in change initiatives as ‘extremely important’ or ‘very important’ to the success of their project.”

What set of tasks will a library manager face?
  • Managing communication

This part of the manager’s job is arguably the most impactful. Keeping staff – and, to an extent, patrons – informed of change contributes to a more stress-free transition and can mitigate worries and rumors before they begin. There are plenty of ways to communicate, from strictly confidential internal email to all-access library website or social media updates. The challenge for the manager is to develop a consistent schedule of easy-to-digest information that gives a complete picture of the change process.

  • Managing resistance

In a previous blog post, I talked about how concerns over library budget, collection development and, of course, team members’ jobs, can escalate into palpable resistance. For the manager, calm and non-judgmental one-on-one or group discussion can serve to alleviate tension. Keeping everyone on the staff aware of what’s happened, and what’s next, delivers a sense of confidence and ownership in the change.

  • Managing transition

Change is a process, not an event. But fortunately, change experts can help lead libraries through the process step by step. Prosci describes its ADKAR model  as one that “represents the five milestones an individual must achieve in order to change successfully.” ADKAR is the process we at ProQuest use to assist our library customers through their own transitions.

Connection fosters understanding and acceptance

Ultimately, the most powerful thing a manager can do when helping a group navigate change is to connect with the individuals in the library– they’re the ones both affecting and affected by the change.
  • From a timing standpoint, building an awareness and a desire to make that change is the first step.
  • From there, communication and a roadmap that helps people see their respective positions in the current and future state is critically important.
Every piece of information you get – and share – as a manager helps your team appreciate the need and desire to make a change that will benefit them each individually — and help their library evolve into an even better resource.
This post was originally published on the ProQuest Blog.

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