Embrace change. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Those were the messages delivered today at a seminar on entrepreneurship in libraries held at the annual midwinter meeting of the American Library Association, in Philadelphia.
Scottie Cochrane, director of libraries at Denison University, described how Denison and Kenyon College combined their libraries’ technical services. The move was made to save money on purchases, streamline staff responsibilities, reallocate resources to better serve students and faculty members, and make it easier for library users to take advantage of electronic information.
The two colleges, which are 26 miles apart, already shared an online catalog, delivery services, and a storage facility when they embarked on the merger in 2003, with a $100,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Four years later, the presidents of the two colleges signed an agreement that formalized the unified technical-services organization.
Ms. Cochrane said the change was difficult for librarians and staff members: Their responsibilities were modified, and some had to get used to working at both campuses or traveling a greater distance to a new work location. “We’re in a risk-averse profession,” she said.
But she said the combined organization was working well under the leadership of a Kenyon administrator who was hired in February 2006 from the corporate sector. Librarians and staff members were afraid the new leader wouldn’t be able to understand a nonprofit environment, but “she’s got good skills and fresh eyes,” said Ms. Cochrane. “She could ask questions … and the staff had to explain to her why they were doing ‘X.’” —Andrea L. Foster