NASIG 2013: Losing Staff — the Seven Stages of Loss and Recovery

CC BY-ND 2.0 2013-06-10
“Autumn dawn” by James Jordan

Speaker: Elena Romaniuk

This is about losing staff to retirement, and not about losing staff to death, which is similar but different.

They started as one librarian and six staff, and now two of them have retired and have not been replaced. This is true of most of technical services, where staff were not replaced or shifted to other departments.

The staff she lost were key to helping run the department, often filling in when she was out for extended leaves. They were also the only experienced support staff catalogers.

The stages:

  1. Shock and denial
  2. Pain and guilt
  3. Anger and bargaining
  4. Depression, reflection, loneliness
  5. Upward turn
  6. Reconstruction and working through
  7. Acceptance and hope

The pain went beyond friends leaving, because they also lost a lot of institutional memory and the workload was spread across the remaining staff. They couldn’t be angry at the staff who left, and they couldn’t bargain except to let administrators know that with less people, not all of the work could be continued and there may be some backlogs.

However, this allowed them to focus on the reflection stage and assess what may have changed about the work in recent years, and how that could be reflected in the new unit responsibilities. The serials universe is larger and more complex, with diverse issues that require higher-level understanding. There are fewer physical items to manage, and they don’t catalog as many titles anymore, with most of them being for special collections donations.

They are still expected to get the work done, despite having fewer staff, and if they got more staff, they would need more than one to handle it all. Given the options, she decided to take the remaining staff in the unit who have a lot of serials-related experience and train them up to handle the cataloging as well, as long as they were willing to do it.

In the end, they re-wrote the positions to be the same, with about half focused on cataloging and the rest with the other duties rotated through the unit on a monthly basis.

They have acceptance and hope, with differing levels of anxiety among the staff. The backlogs will grow, but as they get more comfortable with the cataloging they will catch up.

What worked in their favor: they had plenty of notice, giving them time to plan and prepare, and do some training before the catalogers left.

One of the recommended coping strategies was for the unit head to be as available as possible for problem solving. They needed clear priorities with documented procedures that are revised as needed. The staff also needed to be willing to consult with each other. The staff also needed to be okay with not finishing everything every day, and that backlogs will happen.

They underestimated the time needed for problem-solving, and need to provide more training about basic cataloging as well as serials cataloging specifically. There is always too much work with multiple simultaneous demands.

She is considering asking for another librarian, even if only on a term basis, to help catch up on the work. There is also the possibility of another reorganization or having someone from cataloging come over to help.

[lovely quote at the end that I will add when the slides are uploaded]

ER&L: When Two Become Three — adding additional staff to eresource management

Speaker: Carolyn DeLuca, Dani Roach, & Kari Petryszyn

Over the past six years, they have seen an increase in users, use, and eresources, but not in staffing. In fact, they lost staff. This is not unlike most places.

You need to illustrate the staff need story using the data you have already, both for internal and external comparison. Pie charts showing the percentage of staff dedicated to eresources versus the percentage of the budget spent on them can be poignant.

Initially, they pulled in staff from other areas to do bits and pieces, but it was decentralized and not without problems. Some of the tasks were so splintered that no one was seeing the big picture, or taking ownership.

They took the HERMES report and adopted the lifecycle workflow to redesign locally. That worked, until ebooks, which are even more complex and un-standardized.

In order to convey your needs, you must speak your leader’s language. They don’t need to hear about the problems all the time, they need to hear about the solutions. Then, when they had finally reached the point where eresources took on 70% of new acquisitions, things finally began to change. Their leaders had a soundbite.

In the spring of 2010, they lost seven positions across all departments. They had one position coming back, and because they had been pounding the pavement for years, their director decided to follow the money and put it in adding and eresources staff person. You don’t need people to leave. Space issues can also lead to staffing reorganization.

By re-centralizing the team, they are able to focus the work so that they have the right outcomes in mind. Liaisons benefit because there is one more person to troubleshoot eresources issues. Collection development gets additional assistance. Users benefit because the data is kept cleaner and more accurately.

Fit is as critical as job skills. And once that person is hired, you note only need to train them on the tools, but you also need to indoctrinate them with your philosophy so they understand why things are the way they are.

Tools & strategies: online tutorials and webinars — use the stuff that’s out there already. Talk to other library staff in order to get the big picture.

Unexpected outcomes: the effect of new eyes, fresh energy, and enthusiasm. It also freed up other staff to work on different projects.