BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY: 1960s-2010s
In 1965, the Boston Public Library was comprised of the general library, which functioned as a central library, and 26 regional branch libraries. This organisation was divided into five divisions: (1) Division of General Library Operations, (2) Division of Personnel, (3) Division of Home Reading and Community Services, (4) Division of Information and (5) Division of Reference and Research Services. The Division of General Library Operations and the Division of Personnel provided indirect services, while the Division of Home Reading and Community Services and the Division of Reference and Research Services offered direct services to library users (Fig. 4.23).
The Boston Public Library at that time consisted primarily of function-based and subject-based organisations. Divisions in charge of indirect services provided specialized operations such as human resources and construction through organisations divided by function. The Division of Home Reading and Community Services and the Division of Reference and Research Community Services were main organisations handling direct service areas.
The Division of Home Reading and Community Services provided assistance ranging from technical services to public service areas. This organisation was subdivided by age groups of library users (adults, young adults and children). The 26 regional branch libraries were also tied to this organisation. However, the regional branch libraries did not provide technical services; technical services were instead concentrated at the central library.
The organisational structure of the Division of Reference and Research Services was built to serve general library users, particularly researchers. This organisation was based on highly specialized subjects (Boston Public Library, 1965) and provided selection and reference services by library staff members with specialized knowledge in advanced subject areas. The specific subjects in 1965 consisted of the four primary subject areas, namely Art, Humanities, Science and Technology and Social Science. Other detailed fields under these four categories consisted of a total of 13 subjects. General reference services, on the other hand, responded to broader reference-related inquiries.
The Division of Information provided information services using methods other than general library services. Specific services consisted of (1) public relations, (2) project exhibitions and (3) publications by the Boston Public Library. The library was already equipped to disseminate information to external audiences. Management challenges during this period
Figure 4.23 Organisation and functions of the Boston Public Library (1965).
included the need for new library buildings to house increased volumes of documents.
Up to the 1960s, the Boston Public Library did not effect any significant changes to its organisation. The library developed a more complex organisation after 1960. The Boston Public Library in 1994 was comprised of five divisions, including Administrative and Technical Services, Community Library Services, Research Library Services, Resources and Processing Services and Eastern Massachusetts Regional Library System. The library organisation was primarily regional-based, and it is apparent that the library pursued operational efficiency by segmenting each division based on areas of specialty in library operations as well as expanding general organisational functions. Similarly, it is also evident that the Boston Public Library improved services for people living in remote areas by establishing regional libraries through the Community Library Services Division.
The Boston Public Library after 1991 was continuously conducting major renovations of the McKim Building, which serves as the central library (Boston Public Library, 2002). In 1998, the library issued a strategic plan (Boston Public Library, 1998), which compiled the development process of the major renovation. This continuous renovation of buildings and facilities was steered by joint members from regional development authorities in the city of Boston and the Boston Public Library. The objective was to renovate deteriorated buildings, improve the library functions and services, and implement associated organisational reforms.
For instance, the joint members implemented operational reforms upon investigating various issues within the organisation. Fig. 4.24 shows specific issues mentioned during the investigation. They reveal that the joint members reviewed improvement of the operations environment at the library and user services almost equally. In particular, many of their requests were related to systems such as information technologies and the improvement of library facilities. Regarding library facilities, the library needed to solve space problems and improve desk space and bookshelf space for documents while it improved user services and the operations environment. As for system improvement, the joint members decided to bring computers to the library after they became available globally in the late 1990s. The objective was to provide electronic reference materials and multimedia collections.
In 2009, the library implemented big management reforms and simplified the organisation, which had become complex through specialisation and segmentation (see Fig. 4.24). Under the 2009 organisational reforms,
Figure 4.24 (Continued)
the library pursued streamlining library management by reducing the number of management personnel and integrating overlapping organisations (Boston Public Library, 2009). Humanities and Natural Sciences were integrated into the public services area, while interlibrary loans (ILL), catalogue information and telephone reference were consolidated into the technical services and system-related departments. This integration increased the ratio of function-based organisations in the organisational structure and reduced the rising number of organisations and the increased level of organisational hierarchy. Bookmobile services to people living in remote areas were discontinued that year.
Additionally, the library emphasised information technologies and systems and established the Resource Services and Information Technology Division. Organisations related to electronic documents were consolidated under this division, integrating entities previously separate, i.e., document digitisation and technical services. Along with this development, function- based organisations related to technical services were merged, forming a media-based organisation based on electronic documents. The expanded electronic media-related divisions absorbed the reduced technical service- related divisions. Subsequently, organisations based on electronic documents were created.
Furthermore, the Boston Public Library started to focus on bolstering finance and accounting (Finance and Administration) organisations in its management. Funds-procurement functions were particularly strengthened. However, it has been declining since reaching its peak in 2001. Moreover, the numbers of line organisations and subject-based organisations have been decreasing. The organisational hierarchy had six levels in 2001 but decreased to five levels in 2009. Thus, the entire organisation became simpler, whereas it had been complicated and specialized until the first half of the 2000s. In summary, the library began to emphasise organisations related to library management and indirect operations (finance and accounting, in particular) in the 2000s. More advanced knowledge and abilities became essential to perform these indirect operations.
The researcher conducted interviews with the manager in charge of public services and involved in library management. The manager has been working at the Boston Public Library since 1982 and is a manager with sufficient knowledge of the library. Documents investigated were strategy-planning documents from the 1960s to the 2010s. According to her, for a long time only a few management reforms were implemented at the Boston Public Library. She mentioned that relatively major changes include the ones generated by the introduction of OPAC and the expansion of regional libraries in various Boston areas after the 1980s. The next change was the organisational reform that took place around 2010.
The manager who was interviewed stated that changes in operational processes by such information technologies and systems are the most significant shift that has occurred at the library. For instance, she mentioned that public services at the library became diversified in providing not only paper-based documents but also materials including databases, electronic documents and online information. In addition to offering general public services, this also prompted library staff members to provide reference services via telephone or online, which had not been available in the past.
She also mentioned that not only types of operations but also operational procedures were changed significantly by information technologies and systems. She stated that the way operations are currently carried out by a reference librarian and a cataloguer are different from those in the past. This change suggests that basic functions of library services have expanded and operation of procedures have also changed because of significant advancements in operations tools brought by information technologies. Library staff members must acquire skills related to new services as well as to continuously review skills necessary to perform current library operations. Thus, the role of library staff continues to evolve along with information technologies and systems.