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Final report, October 5, 2010

George Needham, Consultant


1. To improve efficiency in implementation, reorganize the administrative and management

structure of the Library.

2. To remove ambiguity in reporting structures and decision making, update the Employee Manual
and the Policy and Procedure Manual to remove references to “participative management.”

3. To make it clear that the Library Director has staffing authority, revise the Board Bylaws.

4. To clarify roles and to place institutional attention on the Library’s strategy, evolve the Outcome
Leads to full-time positions as positions and funding become available.

5. To refresh the leadership of the Library, open all changed positions for application by
incumbents and other staff.

6. To infuse the Library with new ideas and to get full credit for the excellent work of the Library,
support staff participation in state and national library associations.


In June 2010, the Salt Lake City Board of Directors and Library Director Beth Elder engaged me
to consult with the Library “to help ensure that the Salt Lake City Public Library’s plans are well aligned
with community’s needs and expectations and that the Library’s resources are effectively mobilized in
support of those plans.”

The motivation for this engagement was to resolve issues between the staff and the Library
Director over implementation of the Library’s strategy, which had been introduced and approved by the
Board approximately one year earlier. Late 2009 and early 2010 had seen considerable dissention within
the Library, with the strategy serving as the focal point of this concern.

George Needham Report and Recommendations / Salt Lake City Public Library System Page 1

Upon the award of the engagement, I began a document review and held several conversations
with Library Director Beth Elder.

I made the first visit of my engagement on June 30 and July 1, 2010. During this visit, I met with
Library Board Chair Hugh Gillilan; Library Director Beth Elder; Assistant Directors Deborah Ehrman and
Colleen McLaughlin; the Management Team; and the Board of Directors. I also toured the Main Library
and visited all five branches of the Library on this visit.

Following this visit, I held several phone call meetings with Ms. Elder. I also spoke to retired
Library Director Nancy Tessman. I continued to review documents pertaining to the strategic plan and
the reactions to the plan, including the recommendations of the expert committees for each of the
outcome groups.

On August 23, 2010, my consulting partner Joan Frye Williams and I held a day-long meeting for
the Management Team and the Board of Directors. The purpose of this meeting was to focus attention
on the work that needed to be accomplished, to identify beliefs and practices that were getting in the
way of moving forward, and to try to agree on specific roles and responsibilities for each of the key
groups of players involved in the Library’s operations. The first two objectives of this meeting were
accomplished, but the group remained divided about decision-making roles and lines of authority.

After another series of phone calls, I returned for the final visit of my engagement September 8-
10, 2010 and shared both my observations about the Library’s current processes and my initial
recommendations for moving forward. This visit included a three-hour meeting with the Management
Team that closed with general support for the Library’s strategy and a commitment to improve
communications across all sectors.



Reorganize the administrative and management structure of the Library.

The current structure of the Management Team is too large and unwieldy to be effective. The
structure has given rise to a sense—perceived or real—of delayed decision-making, and frequent
disagreements over who has the authority to make which decisions.

The Management Team is also a heavy overhead burden for the Library. If 30 people are
meeting twice a month for an average meeting of four hours, and the average hourly salary and benefits
of the people in the room is, for purposes of example only, $35, the annual cost of the Management
Team meetings to the Salt Lake City Library is over $100,000. This does not include travel time for
branch staff or the opportunity costs of what else these staff members could be doing during this time.

George Needham Report and Recommendations / Salt Lake City Public Library System Page 2
I recommend that an Administrative Team of five to six people—the Library Director, the
Assistant Directors, and the Associate Directors—be created. This team will have the general authority
to carry out the instructions and tone set by the Board of Directors, under the Library Director’s
guidance. This includes decisions about the highest level of concerns for the Library, including the
annual budget, staff deployment, creation of new systemwide library services, selection and
development of new locations, approval of systemwide grants and other funding opportunities, and
similar areas that affect the entire Library system.

In this structure, the Assistant Directors will each supervise a group of Managers who report
directly to them. The Assistant Directors, with input and advice from their Managers, would hold
decision making authority about systemwide programming, collection management and development,
special events, and other, shorter term goals and objectives of the Library within the budget and
directions set by the Administrative Team. The Outcome Leads should also be represented in the
meetings of the Managers with the Assistant Directors, to coordinate the day-to-day work of the system
with the outcomes described in the strategy.

To build trust and to ensure success, the Administrative Team should provide the Managers with
a clear understanding of the overall strategy of the Library, the budget within which each unit and
committee must work, and the metrics by which each Manager will have his or her work evaluated.

The Assistant Managers will, in turn, work closely with their Managers to ensure proper
communication flow, from the front line staff, through the Managers and Assistant Managers, to the
Assistant Directors and the Library Director. The cascading nature of accountability is described more
fully in Recommendation 4.

I recommend that the entire supervisory team, (Library Director, Assistant and Associate
Directors, Managers and Assistant Managers) meet quarterly for informational and problem-solving
sessions. I also recommend that, at least every other year, this Team meet offsite for at least a full
working day to review strategy and confer on direction.


Update the Employee Manual and the Policy and Procedures to remove references to “participative

The term “participative management” appears several times in the Employee Handbook and the
Policy and Procedure manual. The term is frequently invoked, and underlies the culture of the
organization. However, this term is not consistently understood or applied, and has resulted in
uncertain lines of authority.

“Participative management” has resulted in a snarl of decision making, or, more accurately,
decision implementation. In extensive discussion with the Management Team and other leaders in the
Library, it was clear that there was no consistent understanding of this term.

George Needham Report and Recommendations / Salt Lake City Public Library System Page 3
As part of this process, I recommend removing all references to “participative management” in
the Employee Handbook and the Policy and Procedure Manual. I further recommend condensing the
12-page “Administration” chapter of the Policy and Procedure Manual, deleting nearly all the sections of
this chapter, as they either contradict or duplicate the Employee Handbook and/or the Board of
Directors Bylaws. I recommend retaining the section on the Government Records Access and
Management Act.

I recommend replacing the concept of “participative management” with “collaborative design,”

as described in Appendix 2.

These revisions should be carried out as quickly as possible by the Director and the Assistant
Directors, and submitted to the Board for approval.


Revise the Board Bylaws to make it clear that the Library Director has staffing authority.

I recommend rewriting Article VI, Section 2, of the Board Bylaws to make it clear that the Library
Director has the authority to appoint, promote, discipline, and dismiss staff, with such decisions
reported monthly to the Board. The Board should also consider establishing an Executive Committee to
field issues between meetings and to manage the evaluation of the Library Director.


Evolve the Outcome Leads to full-time positions as positions and funding become available.

Holding responsibility for the completion of one of the major Outcomes of the system is not a
task to be taken lightly, nor one that should be diluted by other day-to-day responsibilities. I
recommend that the position of Outcome Lead evolve into a regular, full-time job within the Library

These positions should be seen as stretch assignments for individuals who want to learn more
about the system and who want to make themselves eligible for Manager or higher level positions
within the system.

Under this construct, the Outcome Leads would be responsible for designing the techniques
through which the strategy will be implemented. They would submit their implementation plans for
review and consideration by the Assistant Directors and the Managers who report to them. Using the
consensus process described in Appendix 2, the Assistant Directors and Managers would approve the
final plans.

There is cascading accountability in this construct. The Managers would be responsible for
implementing those designs, and would be accountable to the Assistant Directors for this

George Needham Report and Recommendations / Salt Lake City Public Library System Page 4
implementation. The Assistant Directors, in turn, are accountable to the Library Director. The Library
Director is accountable to the Board, which approved the strategy in the first place.

For this to work, the Library must provide training in library outcome measurement for Outcome
Leads and Managers, to remove any obstacles to success.


Open all changed positions for application by incumbents and other staff.

As management job responsibilities change, and as Outcome Lead evolves into a full-time
position, it is reasonable to re-open these newly refocused jobs, and to have the incumbents re-apply
for those jobs in which they are interested. The successful candidates should bring enthusiasm,
appropriate talents, commitment to the larger goals of the organization, and proven skills to their new

Some Managers will apply to continue in the jobs they currently hold. Others may take
advantage of this opportunity to try a different leadership position, or to return to a line staff position.
Still others may find that this new administrative structure is not what they prefer, and will move on.
This is a natural part of the change process, and while it may be uncomfortable, especially in a system
where so many staff have come up through the ranks together, it is necessary to create new ways of
thinking and operating.


Support staff participation in state and national library associations.

The staff of the Salt Lake City Public Library are rightly proud of the work they have done. At the
same time, as noted above, many staff have come up through the ranks, earning their library degrees
online or through distance programs while working for the Library, but having little or no experience in
other systems.

The Library should encourage active participation by its staff, especially its newer professional
staff, in the Utah Library Association, the Public Library Association, and/or the American Library
Association. (The Urban Libraries Council is a similar participation opportunity for trustees, the Library
Director, and top administrators.)

Such encouragement should include release time for annual conferences, stronger support for
the escalating costs of participation, and a requirement that staff who attend such conferences on the
Library’s tab report back to staff on what they have learned and seen.

Participation in these state and national organizations will have two immediate benefits for the
Library. First, having staff actively involved in these groups gives them the opportunity to spread the
word about the jewels that are this city and this Library. This would expand the job pool when openings

George Needham Report and Recommendations / Salt Lake City Public Library System Page 5
arise, and leverage the 2006 “Library of the Year” award while it continues to be relevant. Second, the
exposure to new ideas and fresh practices in conference programs, through service on committees or
task forces, or in hallway conversations at various events, will be salubrious for the Library. Such
participation would expand the techniques available to staff for delivering excellent customer service;
help the Library stay current with best and fresh practices; refresh the staff’s perspective; and challenge


Take a fresh look at the role of LEO in Library administration.

This does not rise to the level of a recommendation, but I would strongly suggest that the
Library Administrative Team and the LEO Executive Council take a fresh look at LEO’s role in
administrative processes. It seems to me that LEO is in an ambiguous position: its officials serve in the
grievance procedure, attend Board meetings, attend management retreats, and perform many other
roles. LEO has no official standing, as an association or corporation. This could open LEO officers to
personal liability, such as a wrongful termination suit if a grievance procedure leads to such action.

Given that all staff are, by definition, members of LEO, Managers may end up leading that
group. The President of LEO this year, for example, is invited to attend all Management Team meetings.
A Manager could find himself or herself deciding a grievance process involving a peer. As a result, LEO
could be perceived as a management-dominated organization that limits employee options.

My suggestion would be that the Library review its grievance procedures and consider adopting
one that emulates the procedure followed by the City Council office.


The Salt Lake City Public Library is a strong institution with great popular support and stable
funding. The staff is dedicated and experienced. The strategy, rooted in community needs and
aspirations, is forward-looking and progressive. With the implementation of the recommendations set
out here, the Library will be in an excellent position to claim its role as one of the leading urban public
libraries in the United States.

George Needham Report and Recommendations / Salt Lake City Public Library System Page 6
Appendix 1


This is a summary of my presentation on September 9 about the roles and responsibilities of

each of the major institutional players in the future of the Salt Lake City Public Library.


 Political structure must be part of any considerations.

 The City Council holds the power to approve the budget; this is a key role which has not been
properly appreciated in the controversies of past months.
 Utah Code also has provision for merger of library systems (9-7-410, 9-7-510).


 Utah Code, 9-7-404. Board powers and duties: “The board shall

 (a) maintain and care for the library

 (b) establish policies for its operations

 Utah Code, 9-7-405. Rules -- Use of library. “The library board of directors shall make, amend,
and repeal rules, not inconsistent with law, for the governing of the library.”

 Utah Public Library Trustee Manual:

 “…the eyes and ears of the community”

 “…bring the citizens’ perspective to board business”

 “Nose in, hands off.” William Crowe, former chair of the OCLC Board of Trustees. In other words,
the Board can express its interest in anything the Library is doing, but it only acts as a group, not
individually, and it does not manage day-to-day operations.

 Relations between individual trustees and staff members should be marked by discretion and


 Utah Code, 9-7-407. Librarian and other personnel. “The library board of directors shall appoint
a competent person as librarian to have immediate charge of the library with those duties and
compensation for services that it determines. The librarian shall act as the executive officer for
the library board.”

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 Utah Public Library Trustee Manual, 2010. (The Board will) “appoint a Library Director and
decide what he/she will do and how much money he/she will be paid; the library director is the
executive officer for your board and will manage the day-to-day operations of the library.”

 The Board’s interface with the Library and the Library staff is through the Library Director.

 The Library Director is responsible for ensuring that the right people are in the right positions to
move the strategy forward, and to ensure that all staff have the tools and skills they need to
make the Library successful.


 Could be responsible for one or more major areas of library operation

 Or could be specialists in certain areas (HR, Technical Services, Finance, IT)
 Essential that the Assistant and Associate Directors get the input they need to make decisions or
recommendations from the people who report to them
 Essential that they have the authority to act
 Influence and control over the delivery of service
 Primary responsibility for the user’s experience
 Primary responsibility for day-to-day operations


 Represent administration positively to one’s unit

 Guiding staff to do their jobs well, providing useful feedback, and evaluating their performance
 Implement projects
 Meeting metrics
 Managers do not free lance. They do not go to the Board or to individual trustees or to City
Council when they don’t like a policy or a procedure. They bring their concerns to their
immediate manager or to the Assistant Directors or to the Director.
 Utah’s Whistleblower law protects employees if they report a violation of law. But if an
employee is unhappy with a direction, or doesn’t like or can’t agree with a decision that’s been
made by the Board or the Library Director, that’s not a legal basis on which to bypass the chain
of authority within the Library.
 Once a decision has been made, it is the obligation of the managers to represent that decision
to his or her unit positively and to implement it.

George Needham Report and Recommendations / Salt Lake City Public Library System Page 8
Appendix 2


During the August 23rd session with the Board of Directors and the Management Team, Joan
Frye Williams and I introduced a definition of consensus, and a way of looking at decision making in the
context of principles, outcomes and techniques.

In my final session with the Management Team on September 9, Assistant Director Deborah
Ehrman suggested the term “collaboration” as a replacement term, noting that this carries the
implication that one collaborates in the complete process.

Instead of “participative management,” I believe that the new cultural norm should be
“collaborative design.” This reinforces the concept that every employee has the opportunity and the
responsibility to participate in the design of how the Library functions, but it does not carry the
implication of management.

Collaborative design allows all staff to provide their best ideas and suggestions, to be heard
openly and honestly, and to get feedback on what decisions were reached and how those decisions
were made. The process can be seen as a common agreement to a four-step consensus process:

1.) The process is fair.

2.) The decision-making criteria are understood.

3.) I had the opportunity for my voice to be heard.

4.) Even if the direction chosen may not be what I would have selected, I will support it in my
communications and in my actions.

George Needham Report and Recommendations / Salt Lake City Public Library System Page 9
Appendix 3


In the September 9 meeting, we discussed what it means to be a professional. There was

considerable discussion, but the four points I introduced as key were:

 Accountability

 Curiosity

 Integrity

 Commitment to continuous improvement

In this construct, accountability requires one to be accountable for one’s actions as a

professional. This means that the individual provides one’s best professional judgment to assessing a
situation, and then provides input to one’s supervisors and colleagues in a forthright, honest, but
generous way. And, as noted in the consensus discussion in Appendix 1, once a decision or direction is
decided upon, the professional supports the decision with his or her words and actions. This means that
a Manager conveys messages from administration to his or her staff without spin or rancor, without
assessing motives or doubting sincerity.

Curiosity includes the desire to know more about changes or advances in library practice in
other communities, in research about one’s field of specialty, and in technology. Curiosity can be
manifested by participation in professional forums such as library associations, by attending continuing
education programs, or by writing for professional journals or blogs. It can also mean participating in
benchmarking, to compare the Library with comparable libraries of similar size, budget, demographics,
etc., to improve service and understand other options.

Integrity is the basic ethic by which we work. Integrity means being honest and forthright with
one’s employer and with one’s staff. It also means that a professional does not speak ill of the institution
in which one works to outside parties. Discussion and dissension must be kept within the staff.
Anonymous attacks and criticism are unbecoming any professional.

Integrity also includes recognizing the importance of other professions in the operation of a
modern library. If we wish to have the MLS degree recognized and respected by other professionals, we
need to carry the same spirit for professionals in human resources, finance, technology, and

A commitment to continuous improvement means that a professional is never satisfied with the
status quo. A professional always looks for ways to make processes and procedures more effective for
the end user, for ways to improve the performance of the library. The professional accepts that
suggested change is not an indictment or a repudiation of his or her body of work, but is part of the
evolution of libraries over time.

A good maxim for professionals is the Q-TIP rule: “Quit Taking It Personally!”

George Needham Report and Recommendations / Salt Lake City Public Library System Page 10
Appendix 4


The question of the role of the Management Team was shaped at one point as, “Is the
Management Team more similar to the Senate, or to the Cabinet?”

Senators are free agents. They are elected by the voters of their states to represent the interests
of their states. They negotiate and collaborate with other legislators, but they are their own bosses.
They caucus, they run hearings and investigations, they introduce and vote on legislation, but they are
not involved in the implementation of the votes they take.

Cabinet members are appointed by the President (with the advice and consent of the Senate),
and are expected to carry out the initiatives and the policies the President directs.

The management team has to function as the body that carries out the vision and the direction
of the Library Board and Director. Senators deliberate and they legislate, but they don’t actually
implement anything. Cabinet members run the agencies that actually carry out the directions.

For these reasons, I strongly believe that managers within the Library need to behave more like
cabinet members.

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