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Chapter VI. --Administrative Control
The relationships of the librarian, both to the administrative offices and to those employed in the libraries, are primarily problems of personnel. It is desirable, however, to consider these important questions independently and prior to consideration of qualifications and salaries, which are affected by the authority given the librarian.
The lack of control by many librarians in land-grant institutions over the selection of books was noted in the discussion of that subject. Allusion was also made to the control over book selection exercised by the library committee. The general subject of control over and by the librarian is much broader than the special question of book selection. If there is no administrative officer in charge to whom the librarian can go for final unbiased decisions on many subjects, the service may become disorganized by the conflicting claims, policies, and rivalries of various departments. Inasmuch as a library committee with certain administrative powers is not uncommon, the relationship of this committee to the library administration must be considered.
In direct relationship to the control over the library exercised by administrative officers is the control exercised by the librarian. Poor but expensive service is likely to develop when the librarian has no control over separate libraries on the campus and over the funds expended for maintenance of these libraries. Under control by the librarian arises the question of who should be responsible for the administration of departmental or school libraries. The question of control is divided conveniently into two sections: (a) Control by the administration, including duties of a library committee; and (6) control by the librarian, including the question of departmental or group libraries.
Control by Administrative Officers The library is of importance to every instructional department, to every experiment station, to every instructor and research worker. It is not limited to any special college or division or to any selected group of departments. It is a necessary and important laboratory for every phase of work conducted by an institution.
Most of the land-grant colleges have wisely recognized this fact by placing the library directly under the administrative control of the president. Out of a total of 48 reporting institutions 39 have direct presidential control. In 6 colleges the librarian reports to and is under the direction of a library committee, and in 3 cases he reports to a dean.
A dean represents ordinarily only certain limited phases of the work of an institution. A library committee, unless it is so large as to be unwieldy, also is limited in its membership to certain fields. The president of the institution is not so limited. Unless exceptional circumstances prevail, direct control by the president, without the intervention of a library committee or a dean, is the more desirable form of organization. It is supposed that the president understands the necessary relationship between library service and good instruction and will employ and depend upon the services of a thoroughly competent librarian.
Duties of a library committee. What are the functions of a library committee? Is there any real need for such a committee? Most universities and colleges recognize the need but disagree as to the functions. Only 7 out of 48 institutions report no such committee. In 26 institutions the committee acts in an advisory capacity, generally on matters referred to it by the president or the librarian. In 20 cases it makes allotments to departments for the purchase of books; in 10 cases it approves recommendations before books are purchased. In a few cases it approves recommendations for the appointment of library assistants.
It is apparent that a successful library requires the services of a capable librarian to whom authority is given. If authority to decide administrative details is given to a committee, divided responsibility will result. In all effective libraries of land-grant institutions the library committee acts only in an advisory capacity. The administration of a library in whole or in part by a library committee is not recommended as conducive to good service. This positive statement is made with the proviso that the librarian is qualified to fill his position. If he is not, one who is should be selected.
A library committee, however, has some functions. It can serve as a link between the library and the instructional staff. The work of the library is necessarily closely interwoven with teaching, but the library staff may not be familiar with the educational policies of the various departments. A library committee, meeting with the librarian, can coordinate the work of the library with that of the instructional faculty. There will be in all probability changes in the future, in instructional method as well as in content of courses, which will affect the functioning of the library and which should have the mutual consideration of members of the instructing and library staffs.
As a library develops many questions of general policy demand attention from various viewpoints. How important is the collecting of art material as compared with books in other fields? In what fields should the institution collect extensively; and in what fields should such extensive collecting be left to neighboring institutions?
A library committee can aid in the use of books by reporting to the faculty the possibilities and limitations in the use of libraries. The committee, by reports to the faculty, can stimulate interest in books and recommendations for purchase.
In a small institution such a committee should be fairly representative of all the departments of the institution. In the larger universities all the colleges or divisions should be included. The librarian, of course, as is the case in 33 of the 41 institutions which report library committees, should be a member of the committee. Several of the larger universities have not only general library committees but also special library committees for the various colleges or divisions, acting in an advisory capacity chiefly in regard to the selection of books for purchase.
It is recommended (a) that the president exercise control over the library without any intermediary; (6) that a library committee representing all phases of campus activities meet at regular intervals to discuss interrelations between instruction and research and library service, and to discuss matters of general policy, including book selection; and (c) that the committee act in an exclusively advisory capacity and refrain from consideration of administrative matters, such as decisions in regard to purchase of individual books and recommendations as to appointment of library assistants.
Many of the land-grant institutions are administering their libraries in accordance with the foregoing recommendations. There is much more variation in the fixation of responsibility in the librarian and in the control exercised by him.
Control by the Librarian Among universities and colleges in general there is great variation in the authority given the librarian. In few cases is he directiy responsible for all the library-book purchases, the selection of all library assistants, the location of books where they will be most useful, and the general administration of all the libraries of the institution. One of the largest American universities has written into its catalogue the following statement:
There shall be a director of university libraries, appointed by the trustees, who shall be the general executive officer, in subordination to the president, of all libraries under the control of the university.
The librarian shall have immediate charge of the expenditure of all moneys appropriated by the trustees for the purchase of books and supplies therefor;
he shall appoint all needed assistants and subordinate officers and fix their titles, duties, and compensations, provided that the total amount shall not exceed the appropriation of the trustees for that purpose All books, maps, charts, and other printed matter (except laboratory manuals) shall be deemed a part of the library, and shall be stamped and catalogued as such. Such books and other material shall be purchased by the librarian.
There shall be a library council, of which the president shall be chairman and the director of university libraries, secretary, composed of not to exceed 15 officers designated by the trustees. It shall be the duty of the library council to consider the plans and policies recommended by the administrative officers and to advise with them in regard to the administration of the library.
No such authority is given the librarians in most of the land-grant institutions. In 22 of the 48 reporting land-grant institutions departments generally may buy books for library use independently of the library and in most cases without even the librarian's knowledge. In 10 cases in which departments forward their book requests to the library, the requests must be passed on again by a committee. In only 16 institutions is the responsibility for book purchases placed upon the librarians. In about one-half of the institutions the librarian can not transfer permanently books between departmental libraries, and in 9 of the institutions he can not transfer from departmental libraries, even for temporary use, books needed elsewhere. In many colleges the assistants in charge of various departmental libraries are independent of the librarian of the college. In 25 out of 48 land-grant institutions separate libraries are administered independently of the central libraries. In 15 of these institutions the books in these separate libraries are not entered in the catalogue of the main library. This failure means that there is no place on the campus where an instructor or student can find listed all the library books belonging to the university. To ascertain definitely that a certain book is not available in the libraries of the universities he would be obliged to consult each separate library. Of the remaining 33 institutions several have small libraries, apparently hidden in professors' offices, closed in the evening and in many cases equally inaccessible during the day.
Most of the colleges and universities with library expenditures ranging from $50,000 to $300,000 have placed full responsibility upon the librarian as the head of all the libraries on the campus. In only one of the six institutions with library expenditures in excess of $80,000 do departments buy library books, independently of the library. In five of the six institutions with library expenditures of less than $10,000, departments so buy.
The hindrances to good library service shown in division of authority over the libraries of an institution are many. If various agencies are ordering books independently much duplication and resulting waste will arise, for no one agency knows of the orders of
others. A more serious difficulty, however, is the lack of knowledge of what books are possessed by the institution. With no catalogue of all the books on the campus, instructors in one department have no means of knowing of the books in another department of the institution. Books when needed can be located, if at all, only with great difficulty. The data submitted in this survey showed that several librarians had no information of periodicals in some of the libraries on their campus.
Even if all books are catalogued in the central library the books may be inaccessible. In collecting data for this survey several typical instances appeared. The graduate students of one college complained that the books they needed for their work were locked up in offices of professors and could not be obtained. In another case, an instructor at 8 o'clock in the morning desired 5 books for a 1 o'clock class. All 5 books were in different offices on the campus. It was only by 4 hours of searching that he was able to obtain 4 of the 5 books. In a third institution, a graduate student reported that he spent more time trying to find books in different departments than he did in the actual use of the books. In several cases, where the purchase of books was solely a matter for the departments, a tendency was noted to select books for the use of individual professors rather than for service to students and to members of the departments generally. With 30 or more departments buying library books independently and forming small collections, decentralization of library administration means usually duplication, wastefulness, small inaccessible collections in professors' offices, and generally poor service.
In the most successful libraries practically full authority over purchase of all library books and employment and direction of all library assistants is given to the librarian. Some administrators have stated that they would hesitate to trust their librarians with so much authority. The solution, of course, is to find librarians who are capable of assuming this responsibility. If the University of Illinois and Columbia University can find librarians who can be responsible for and capably manage centrally administered libraries with expenditures averaging more than $260,000 per year, surely librarians can be found to assume responsibility for libraries with expenditures running from $10,000 to $50,000. A capable librarian will not abuse such authority and will be eager to take advantage of the expert knowledge of faculty members.
Authorities generally recognize the value of a centrally administered system of libraries. Dr. A. C. True, as Director of the United States Office of Experiment Stations, in 1912, wrote:
It would seem obvious, therefore, that, since the station is a department of the college, the station lịbrary should be considered a part of the college library and thus come under the general direction and control of the college librarian.