Assessing and prioritizing

May 21, 2012

This excellent blog post by Meredith Farkas is all about setting priorities.  It could not have come at a better time, and it is gratifying to know that these issues occur in every workplace!

Trying to prioritize is something that is extremely difficult.  As librarians, we observe the needs of the faculty and we also know what efforts we need to devote to our own jobs.  We try to balance these, and we try to do it all, while doing it well.  It is a constant push-pull, and it can really dampen your workplace atmosphere as it leaves little ability to undertake anything creative without letting something else go.

One thing that could be helpful is doing an assessment of the projects happening in this moment in time in your workplace.  A SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is a good starting point.  You can also take a look at both your library’s and your institution’s missions/vision to see where to focus.  More time-consuming research can also be undertaken, interviewing or surveying faculty in order to determine faculty needs and finding ways to fulfill them. 

Reaction to changes cannot be undertaken in a vacuum–librarians need to have the opportunity to take time to discover their unique workplace needs and demands.  There may have been changes in the environment that we have not noticed but that have evolved  over the past 20 years.  Instead of offering more of the same, taking time to discover where the gaps exist and finding ways to fill them can be extremely satisfying for everyone involved.

Some may say that it is easier to just keep doing “what we have always done.”  I don’t think that is necessarily true.  Often, we keep doing what we have done because we haven’t been able to look honestly at our current activities and eliminate or reorganize those that don’t fit with what our institution and faculty actually need.  Reassessing the workplace needs the support and encouragement of administration, and can actually help to make things better for overworked and overextended staff.  Becoming “leaner and meaner” can energize the staff and make it easier to support the mission of your institution.

Prioritizing in these ways must also have the support of the whole staff, and everyone needs to be open and honest in communicating what each sees as his/her duties and priorities.  Everyone also needs to be open to change and new ideas.  Without this openness and trust, it will be difficult to be successful in moving forward with new efforts.

The most important priority:  keep focusing on your faculty and students and their needs.  When thinking of each priority, bring it back around to how it benefits your constituents.  By staying focused in this way and coupled with your research, you can be assured of garnering success for your library.

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