The Shortcomings of Strategic Management in Library Management

In practical library management, evaluations have been primarily based on long-range planning, strategic planning and MBO. This involved the same content as government policies promoted from the 1960s to the 2000s, and it is fair to say that among theories of strategic management, library managers have often referred to planning and evaluation as highly compatible with the policies of the government and ALA. This is also clear from the large volume of literature on theories strongly related to planning and evaluation, such as long-range planning, strategic planning/stra- tegic management, performance indicators, evaluation and measurement and LibQUAL+.

In the private sector as well, the execution of strategies has been discussed alongside theories of strategy since the late 1970s. As a result, the concept of strategic management in profit-making organisations shifted focus from planning to execution. However, the strategic management referred to in practical library management was that of Steiner and Drucker’s from the 1960s to the early 1970s, and their theories were based on long-range planning (thus, not emphasising execution). Based on this, it can be interpreted that throughout the history of library management, strategic management has not been pursued in an appropriate form. For example, a case study analysis revealed a divide between the planning/evaluation stages and execution stage in library practice. In the cited case studies of long-range planning at Denver Public Library and the University of Colorado Libraries, the formulation of long-range planning was promoted primarily by bodies affiliated with the libraries, as the library staff at the sites did not possess the skills needed to formulate management plans. As a result, library staff did not know how best to implement the plans, and went no further than establishing objectives. In short, this indicates that plans that did not have the full cooperation of the library management staff were not executed appropriately. Furthermore, in many of the case studies in this research, libraries began to investigate their own management style and techniques due to pressure from affiliated bodies, such as the government and universities. As in the case study of the University of California Riverside Libraries, which drew up their own strategy plans, in some instances the plans drawn up by library staff were also quickly brought up for revision. This situation within library management was likely a result of the facts that (1) management planning and evaluation work within library management differed from traditional library work; and (2) the management skills of library staff at the time were insufficient.

Hence, library managers were unfortunately left in a state of incompatibility, as it is termed in this book, where upon reaching the point of actually implementing the management plan as strategic management, they were unable to do so appropriately. This incompatibility may have resulted from the development of the planning- and evaluation-centred philosophy within library management. For example, in the case study of the Denver Public Library, it was stated that:

Since 1956 the library had been organized on a function-based. The librarian preferred that each department develop its own plans, but he found that some librarians were unable to develop such plans. (Kemper, 1967, p. 161)

Where individuals lacked a knowledge of the planning process, the planning activities became centralized at top administrative levels. Only by training these individuals in the complexities of planning could the librarian's philosophy of decentralization be achieved. (Kemper, 1967, p. 176)

The inability to make appropriate plans and the continued centralisation of planning (as opposed to decentralisation) indicate the incompatibility of business management theory implementation. Many of the strategic management theories applied in libraries have been centralised management theories focused on commercial enterprises, and their implementation was not based on the library’s culture or philosophy. Likewise, the management theories of the ALA and ARL focused on planning and evaluation, and as such did not emphasise execution.

 
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