Breaking Down Barriers: Co-Managing and Transforming Public Services

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Since mid-2012, the division of Public Services at the University of Maryland Libraries has been involved in an ongoing experiment in the way the Libraries’ primary services are led and managed. The speakers, representing two of four directors in the division of Public Services, manage the vast majority of the division’s librarians and support staff and some of its most important collections and services, including reference and research assistance, library instruction, access services, learning and research commons, makerspace, and more.

The past five years have brought substantial reorganizations of staffing, collections, spaces, and services, to improve Libraries services to our users, and to position the Libraries and its staff for the future. These changes, based on carefully collected data and assessment, include:

  • Merging reference and circulation service points
  • Implementing new chat and virtual reference services
  • Re-defining the role of librarians and staff, and adjusting responsibilities and workloads
  • Shifting from a collection-centric to service-centric model
  • Staff development and training

These changes have required the speakers to move toward deeper collaboration, even co-managing, units which are typically separate (and, in some libraries, antagonistic toward one another.) Communication has been key to these efforts, as has a willingness to put aside old divisions and ways of doing things and to think about the best way to design and deliver future-oriented library services.

This presentation will explore the speaker’s experience with co-managing public services in a large academic library. It will cover some of the successes and failures as a way to highlight best practices and potential pitfalls of collaboration across units to create the next generation of library services.


Presentation to ReThink It! 2018 conference, January 8-10, 2018, at the University of Texas, Austin, TX