Management and Personnel


The library management empowers employees by letting them have a voice in the development of policy and programs. The library prides itself, however, on its lean organizational structure. The administrative staff consists of half a dozen of the library’s top executives and department heads. “We have no coordinator positions,” says Norman Holman, the deputy director. Instead, committees related to issues are formed, make recommendations, and then disband. Implementation is left to those on the working level. Although this approach enables the library to foster a democratic atmosphere, it can have some drawbacks. For example, the library administration must ensure that communication across departmental lines is open and is being used by staff.

When asked to describe the personnel situation, management team members respond, “we staff lightly” (60 percent of the budget goes into personnel and 40 percent into collections and buildings) but, on the other hand, they say, “we pay well” and, as a result, have a low 1.6 percent annual turnover rate. The low turnover, however, has meant that there are few opportunities for adding staff with new skills or different experience. As a result, the library’s administrators rely heavily on the ability of existing staff to adapt to change, keep communication flowing, and reduce the sources of tension as much as possible.

Two principles of management govern the operations of the Cleveland Public Library. First, information must be shared across departmental lines to facilitate communication. Second, there must be clear responsibility for who will get the job done. As Holman points out, “Committees don’t do the work–individuals do.” Both Mason and Holman praise their staff for coping with change, accepting innovation, and being flexible enough to handle new jobs and new responsibilities that have come as a result of growth into new areas, particularly technological areas. Mason says that small steps are important. “We do not leap toward change, we take it in small steps,” she emphasizes. “In that way, we don’t have to cover long distances in a single step. We get there gradually. . . . We take small steps toward change, then measure and see the effect before taking the next step. We never commit a lot to any one step.”

The Cleveland Public Library has framed a strong mission statement and a precise definition of what the library is to determine the directions in which it is is moving. “The library is not a social service agency,” Holman points out. “It is a library, and as such, we provide information to our patrons and users.” Keeping the focus on library services and access to information has enabled the Cleveland Public Library to maintain a balance between traditional and electronic services. One will not supplant the other, so long as it remains focused on its role as a library and information deliverer.