Regardless of which change management strategy the interlibrary loan office chooses to undertake, maintenance and assessment of staff performance will be a crucial aspect to continued success. To assess staff performance, it may be necessary to develop a model that is widely used in corporate America as a tool that allows assessment of employees as well as affording the manager an opportunity to understand the process from a ground level. Often when change is undertaken in any organization there will be elements that have difficulty transitioning. Some difficulties may result in the appearance of embracing the new workflow while continuing to follow out of date practices of counterproductive workflows. To that end it may be necessary to institute a staff observational idea referred to as the Professional Development Plan (PDP).


Very little is written about the methodology for evaluating library employees. The discipline recognizes the importance of the evaluation and the importance of a human resources development plan. However, there is very little written or discussed about how a manager, especially a new manager, can go about filling out the employee evaluation. The methodology discussed in this paper is the PDP. This plan can serve as a template for the employee to understand where they are in terms of the job objectives and expectations. The plan is the output from a method we have come to call a desk-a-long. The desk-a-long helps serve as a sort of participant observation of the employee performance and can help greatly in understanding many functions of the job as they are seen by those charged with completing the daily work tasks. It is our hope that through the use of this methodology we can develop better evaluations and better human resource development plans.

Performance evaluations are a crucial component to any management of a library unit; they are even more critical for the new manager. How you evaluate your employees can help with developing the correct training methods. It can help with identifying areas of knowledge gaps. It can also help root out institutional problems or errors that can cause a well-functioning unit to falter. While many of us managers in libraries are given a standard form as a method of completing the evaluation we are not given a methodology or a series of suggested steps that we can follow to fill in those boxes. The method we propose for helping with this conundrum is the desk-a-long followed by the PDP. The desk-a-long is a participant observation of the employee’s daily work activities. A desk-a-long is a daily process that can be conducted throughout the year at the manager’s discretion. The process goes that the manager or evaluator sits with the employee at the employee’s desk for the entire day observing and occasionally interacting with the employee as they go about their daily activities. The purpose is to observe and annotate what the employee does or does not do. From that the manager develops a PDP. The PDP gives the employee an opportunity to see where his or her strengths and weakness are. It is also an opportunity to provide suggestions for employee development opportunities. To see how the desk-a-long and the PDP fits into the larger evaluation process it is important to understand the roles employee evaluations play in the library.

The performance evaluation is a ubiquitous aspect of library operations. It is also a moment when managers and employees can get together to help understand and calibrate the day-to-day activities with the overall objectives of the job. This can be especially helpful for a new manager who may not already know the expertise of his or her staff, or the expectations that the department may have. It is also an opportunity to assess the overall mission of the department and make any changes that are necessary. The job evaluation is a very important part of the understanding of the management performance of a library unit. However, aside from checking a series of boxes on a provided form there is little discussed in the way of methodologies for conducting a job evaluation. The literature, though, is rich with discussion of how the importance of evaluations cannot be overlooked.

As Jean Holcomb (2006) writes in her article “The Annual Performance Evaluation: Necessary Evil or Golden Opportunity?” the annual performance evaluation is a regular occurrence that must be addressed. She writes,

At the core of the reasoning behind the existence of the annual performance evaluation process rests the belief that people want to do a good job. For an employee to do a good job, the organization must provide the tools its workers need to succeed.

The annual performance evaluation functions as one tool to measure and guide worker productivity.

It is clear for the author that performance evaluations can serve as a useful tool in helping the employee understand his or her expectations and help ease the concerns of the standards that are to guide the employee’s day-to-day activities.

Julie Gedeon and Richard Rubin (1999) describe the importance of performance evaluation in their article “Attribution Theory and Academic Library Performance Evaluation” in the following way:

Performance Evaluation is a vital part of the network of basic human resource functions. Its purposes are many...

  • Providing Formal opportunity to discuss performance.
  • Helping employees level of expected performance.
  • Provide feedback to the extent to which the employee is meeting performance expectation.
  • Identifying areas of performance improvement.
  • Recognizing outstanding performance.
  • Providing information for human resource decision such as promotion and tenure

Gedeon and Rubin (1999)

The importance of performance evaluations cannot be overlooked. The challenge is aside from the formal evaluation form there is little guidance for the new managers as to what methodology they can use to develop a comprehensive and reflective method of conducting an informed evaluation. One method is proposed here and that is the desk-a-long PDP method. In looking at the case studies we can see that this process serves to not only help the manager understand where the gaps in knowledge and expectations are, it can also serve to uncover processes that are out of date. The PDP works well to give the employee clear guidance on expectations as well and furnish him or her with the tools for success. In looking at the average evaluation numbers during Case study #1, the average evaluation for the staff prior to the implementation of the process was 3.62 on a five-point scale. This is an average score of satisfactory. After the implementation of the desk-a-long process, that average jumped to 4.26. This is a significant jump in the average from satisfactory of above average. This jump is not entirely attributed to the desk-a-long, PDP process, but it can be credited for helping align the employee expectations and behavior with the new department expectations implemented by a new management style. We can also see this type of jump in the averages during the implementation of Case study #2. Prior to the start of the new library associate in Case study #2 the average for the staff was 4.13. After the first series of desk-a-long and PDP with the new library associate those averages again rose to 4.50. This continued increase illustrates that there is definitely value added in opening a line of dialog and assessment that goes along with the desk-a-long, PDP process. Utilizing this methodology, a new manager or a continuing manager who may have lost focus on the objectives of the department can realign the mission and objectives to the group and have a demonstrable effect on improving the performance of his or her employees.

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