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3.3 Constraints on planning: the local administration
The Library and the Political Processes
PHYLLIS I. DALTON
The success of a library administrator depends largely upon an understanding of and an ability to operate within the context of the political process. Library administrators have, in many instances, held themselves aloof from politics, ignoring political reality and thus allowing the political aspects of library service to be handled elsewhere. In the second half of this century, and especially within the last decade, it has become evident that this attitude has cost public libraries severely, in both status and financial capability. A failure to understand and utilize political processes has resulted in the lack of needed legislation and adequate tax support for public libraries.
Because political processes are not restricted to any particular size of jurisdiction, type of library, organizational structure, economic situation, or thrust of library service, all library administrators will be successful to the extent that they can cope within the political milieu. Politics involves influence and the influential. A major skill in working in the political process is advocacy. But first there must be an understanding of the political process itself-how libraries are organized in terms of other governmental functions, relationships of library administrators with government leaders, responsibility for policy making, and intergovernment relations.
Nationwide, many types of governmental organizations exist at the local library level, Regardless of the type of organization in which the public library functions, its administrator is involved in policy making, problem solving, and coping with hard decisions involving substantive issues of policy and programs. All of these responsibilities can be successfully carried out through whatever governmental organization exists. Libraries are subject to different systems of governance, One system is the board. There may be an appointed administrative or advisory board at one level. At another level there are elected or appointed boards such as the city council, the public library district boards or school district public library boards, all of which represent political jurisdictions. At a third level, the librarian's responsibility is to an administrator in a larger department or to the city manager. The most common organizational patterns at the local level are described below.
Administrative boards are groups responsible for managing departments and agencies within a local jurisdiction. They have the authority to set policy, The members (trustees) are appointed, usually by either the local legislative body or the chief elected official. The board is directly responsible to the appointing authority for the administration of the library and advises that body or person on matters of library policy as defined by the appointing authority. The board submits an annual budget to the appointing authority but usually does not have the authority to set tax rates. Most boards have the authority to employ and to dismiss the library administrator, to whom it delegates such authority and responsibility as it considers appropriate. Other library employees may be responsible to the board or to a separate personnel board with responsibility for the library or for several agencies. The administrative board controls library use, regulations, and, generally, book-selection policy. In most cases the administrative board's powers are established in state library law, in the municipal charter, or in some other "constitution" that establishes and regulates the local government agency. A general stability is provided as these laws and charters are not readily changed.
The members of an advisory board have lesser powers than those of an administrative board. Usually advisory boards are established by ordinance or resolution, with the consequence that the authority and even the existence of such advisory boards can be challenged with ease The method of selecting members of advisory boards is usually similar to that for administrative boards. Often the responsibility of advisory boards is limited to acting in an advisory capacity to the legislative body, to the library administrator, to the chief administrative officer, or to any combination of these groups, and on any matter that the legislative body may direct. The library is administered in a manner similar to that of any other local department, with the library administrator directly responsible to the legislative body or an appointed official for administrative matters.
Public Library District Boards
These special districts may or may not have boundaries identical with other political jurisdictions. The members of public library district boards are often elected but sometimes are appointed. If elected, the board members usually have an administrative responsibility. In this case, they generally can levy a tax for the support of the library. If the members are appointed, the board prepares the budget and has general advisory powers regarding library service but does not have a tax-levying power.
School District Public Library Boards
The school board, elected to manage a school district may also be empowered to administer public libraries. In some cases school board members are also the public library board members for the district. In other instances, the elected school board members appoint a public library board for the district The elected officials can levy a tax for the support of the public library. The public library board is responsible for the library operation and appoints the public library director.
City Council or County Board
In some instances, the public library may be controlled more or less directly by the city council or county board. In this form of organization, the elected members usually divide the responsibility for the various municipal or county departments among themselves. Thus, one member will serve as a liaison with the library and the library administrator. The council maintains tax-levying authority and budgeting control and is responsible for making policies and regulations pertaining to the public library, often on the recommendation of the public library administrator.
The city manager is the chief administrator for all municipal departments under the council-manager form of government. In this form of government, the library administrator is responsible to the city manager, an official employed by the city council. The public library administrator has direct access to the city manager, as do the other department heads. The library operates directly under the city manager or a delegated deputy.
Library as a Subdivision of Another Department
A variation of the pattern of governance in which the library director is responsible to another administrator occurs when the library is a subdivision of another department. Examples include those in which the library is combined with a city department such as parks and recreation or cultural affairs. A public library administrator can operate an effective library service as a subdivision of a larger department, but such a governmental structure complicates the political process. The public library administrator must compete with other programs within the department for priority and funds. Resistance to such combinations of departments is common because the disadvantages usually seem to outweigh the advantages. It must be noted, however, that various combinations do seem to operate with comparative success as long as the public library administrator is adept both as a manager and as a developer,
Regional Jurisdictions, Library Systems, and Networks
The broadening roles of state and federal governments have given encouragement to the creation of regional jurisdictions for planning, and service. Many types of regional libraries, library systems, and networks have developed as a result of this trend. There are even cases of interstate cooperation. The regional cooperative or regional library may operate under its own board or may be a part of the multipurpose planning agencies that have been formed in the Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas throughout the several states. Some of the libraries have a strongly structured regional organization with a board of trustees and/ or a professional library board. The governing board appoints the administrator and operates the library organization, but it usually does not have tax-levying power. In other library systems, the chairman of the professional board acts in an administrative capacity.
The Legal Basis for Library Administration
Charters, statutes, ordinances, resolutions, and,' or other acts of legislative bodies establish the legal basis for most libraries. Executive orders and judicial decisions often serve to interpret and/or modify these legal provisions. Awareness of the "basis in law" under which the library operates is of high priority for administrators. They must determine the source and nature of authority provided, It may be that the administrator will find that the authority is based as much in tradition as in law. In many instances, much authority, or lack thereof, is the result of the use of the delegatory powers of superiors in the hierarchy
It is important to understand that the legal basis for administration Is not static. Rather it is continually evolving as a result of many forces. Social stresses, environmental changes, political forces, economic conditions, and legal interpretations create pressures that result in news laws, regulations, and judicial decisions. In most cases, however, change of laws lags behind rather than precedes needed changes in our social institutions. Knowledge of the law and accompanying regulations that concern public libraries in any given circumstance need not inhibit the development of creative programs of service designed to meet current needs. Legal provisions should be interpreted in terms of what they allow the library administrator to do rather than being used and viewed as limiting. Should the laws appear to be restrictive, the library administrator has the obligation of bringing this to the attention of the proper officials and seeking remedial legislation.
Role of the Administrator in Government
For any public library administrator to be on the edge of the political processes in our special-interest society is never really a safe position. Library administrators, like other public administrators, are forced to play the role of politician effectively. To a large degree, success for the library will be determined by the relationships its administrator maintains with the local political power structure.
Active participation in the political processes has not been a characteristic of public library administrators in many instances. The paucity of services and facilities. the poverty of library resources that stifle progress in many communities now are the results of the isolation of the public library administrator within the government Participation in governmental affairs does have its hazards as well as its rewards. For this reason, many administrators have preferred to remain on the edge of the political process rather than risk public crisicism, pressure from other government officials, adverse publicity including critical "letters to the editor," and the possible loss of position.
While no library administrator should pursue a cause without good mason, it is doubtful that most communities are best served by such timidity By avoiding action that might bring criticism or pressure from certain factions, the library administrator may be missing a crucial opportunity to increase public support by better acquainting the community with the library's objectives and programs. By taking advantage of such opportunities, the administrator's counterparts in government frequently gain additional leverage for their departmental programs. Sound library management directed to supplying services and resources needed by the community requires participation in the political processes regardless of the risks involved.
It must be recognized that the public library administrator is both a political manager in the governmental structure and a creative developer of library services. To facilitate these responsibilities, a substantial portion of time must be spent in developing effective relations with superiors and coworkers in government. The actions of all department heads, including planners, finance directors, personnel administrators, intergovernmental representatives, city and county administrators, and others, both elected and appointed, have a direct effect upon the library as an agency in the total organizational pattern. For example, land use becomes important in planning services, in shifting the emphasis of kinds of service being provided, and in planning buildings, A good public transportation system facilitates the use of public library services. Public Order and safety are related to both the planning and the operation of the building. Both the public health and personnel departments are important to the well-being and development of staff and, as a result, have a definite effect on library service to the community.
Disinterest in interagency and departmental jealousies and a freedom from fear of loss of power and prestige will follow the realization that personal emotions do not have a place in the political processes. A public administrator will know that success is gained through accurate communications that flow from top levels of governmental organization to the lower-level members of the agencey to obtain effective delivery of library services, commitment to organizational goals, and objectives of the library service.
Within the political processes, the public library administrator realizes and communicates the capacity for choice that exists within the overall government for the delivery of library service. There must be an ability to cope effectively with the problems at all levels, as well as interpersonal trust for assisting the library in developing an effective and built-in capacity to change.
As part of a political sense, the chief administrator must develop a sensitivity to which role-that of manager or developer-is foremost at any given time. Although both roles are compatible, at times as manager the administrator will be required to modify plans that are desirable from the perspective of a developer. For example, even though a proposed service is needed, wanted, and practical such a service may not be economical from a cost-benefit point of view. It will be necessary for the director to make the hard decision concerning which course should be followed. In the process of considering working with other libraries on a cooperative basis, a conflict can easily occur between the manager and the developer roles. As a manager of a successful library operation, the administrator may see risk in cooperation with its attendant problems. On the other hand, cooperating would probably promote development of improved services.
Constant changes will occur, and the public library director must never be caught unaware of any information pertinent to the roles of manager and developer. The chief librarian must keep up to date on such diverse subjects as copyright, revenue sharing, appropriations prospects for any level of government, and should also acquire an ability to identify the trends that will prove most helpful. Probably the most important aspect of current knowledge is an ability to forecast trends. With this ability, the administrator can plan for financial stability for services, take advantage of new funding for experimental programs, and respond positively to the library needs of the people before they are formally expressed. If the administrator is secure in a position that has favorable status in relation to other department heads-for example, the director of finance, the director of public works, and the planning director--effective communications about present needs and future requirements will flow freely among departments.
Intergovernmental relationships (regional, state, or federal) are probably more significant than city, county, or local-regional relations, if less well understood. Intergovernmental relationships require the administrator to provide operations and services that function on a broader geographical and organizational base, since state and federal governments may decentralize programs through regional and local outlets. Since few public library directors have had the training or experience to design and manage systems and networks involving all levels of government, there is a need to understand the significance of such involvement. While library administrators may be responsive to the needs of intergovernmental structures, questions remain about whether they are ready to respond.
Depending on the particular library involved, the administrator must anticipate a growing involvement with all levels of government. An appreciation of the roles of each and of the nuances of the political processes involved is necessary. Moreover, the head librarian must be aware of the relationship of the local library with each of these levels of government.
The library administrator should explore and participate in intergovernmental relationships at whatever level is desirable and practical. The decision to participate will be made on the basis of what is best for the library and its services to the community, and on the nature of the larger unit that will result from the new involvement. Community involvement is a means of overcoming obstacles to change and to intergovernmental relations. Without community involvement, shortcomings in budget and staff may keep the administrator so preoccupied with daily operations that keeping pace with needed changes and anticipating change is impossible.
Justification for local control rests on a belief in divided political powers. In the melding of libraries into intergovernmental organization, the local units must first be very strong, well organized, and effective. If such is not the case, an intergovernmental organization will be made up of weak and ineffective library units. It is essential in the urban areas of the nation that coordinated planning of facilities and activities by local governments become a joint program of comprehensive planning.
Councils of regional government are now found in most urban areas of the United States. Although they differ significantly in organization and activities, there are common characteristics: (1) they are voluntary associations of local government organized to deal with problems that are regional in scope and require regional solutions; (2) most have a degree of comprehensive planning responsibility (3) many were formed when the federal government made such coordinated planning a condition for receipt of grant funds; and (4) some may be strengthened by state participation in council membership.
Regionalization of libraries may be an idea whose time has come. A regionalism of local governments-including libraries-divides responsibilities for local and regional functions, assigns these to appropriate governmental levels, and shares functions that are logically (or practically) cooperative. The public library director should be aware of the politics of regional organization, for any form of regional planning will have an effect on library services. Regional government, in many political and administrative forms, already exists. The critical question is, Who shall control regional library activities: local, regional, state, or federal government?
Regional library services have become realities, with or without formal regional councils. Public libraries have handled federal, state, and local library funds to set up integrated cooperative library systems, Some have moved toward regional systems of multitype libraries, to interstate library cooperation, and on to the national network of the future. But even without regional applications there must be a broader outcome.
Few local library administrators are adequately sensitive to the intergovernmental process to manage within this larger and more diverse system, Lacking educational background in and formal experience with the problems of interjurisidictional political processes, the director will need formal education in these processes. In any event, the director must keep abreast of intergovernmental relationships at the various levels.
In so doing the director may learn that other agency departments have already developed useful ties with related urban departments and to their counterparts in city, county, federal, and state departments. For example, it may be more beneficial to use resources developed by local planning agencies for a library community study than to use the less-helpful upper-level agencies listed in more general handbooks or directories. Elected officials in most local governments maintain regular contacts with representatives at the state and national levels and frequently hold informal meetings with such representatives to express local concerns and interests. The library administrator should seek to be included in such meetings, stressing the role of the public library as a line of communication externally, with the public, and internally, as a legislative and executive reference bureau.
With increasing frequency, the local library director is called upon to assist in state and federal legislative efforts affecting libraries. It is, therefore, imperative that the local administrator make every effort to understand the viewpoints and positions of state and federal officials elected to represent his area and to cultivate communications on a first-name basis when suitable.
To be effective in dealing with state and federal official;. the administrator must ensure that partisan politics does not enter into the relationship unless, because of funding or special rules regarding partisan political activities, such a restraint applies only to the work-oriented situation. The library administrator will, of course, vote at the polls according to desires and beliefs. Judgment should govern the personal activities of the library administrator in partisan politics and in nonpolitical civil rights activities. The realities of the political processes require the chief librarian on the local level to retain an impartial stance regardless of the whims and vagaries of partisan politics and the elections that climax their activities. For the local library administrator, the right to exercise partisan and civil rights beliefs remains an essential right of civil liberty. It must, however, continue to be tempered by political reality.
A clear understanding of how the library administrator participates in policy making is prerequisite to successful management of library services. Some of the most serious instances of maladministration have occurred because of failure to understand and/or to observe the relationship of the administrator to policy making. The library administrator is an appointed official and, like those in most other appointed positions, is directly responsible for carrying out the policies established by elected officials. Confusion sometimes results because elected officials delegate the power of policy making to those they have appointed to membership on boards and commissions.
The theory of the separation of powers established in the Constitution and reaffirmed in state constitutions and the charters and statutes providing for local government is clear. The legislative prerogative-the power to create policies--is reserved for those who are elected to legislative offices. While they may delegate the responsibility for policy in certain instances to appointive bodies, the latter retain a legislative rather than an executive or administrative function.
The public library administrator is empowered to implement policies established by the legislative body to which the library is responsible, but not to create those policies. Such a separation of powers would appear to be clear-cut and unmistakable In practice such is not the case. Local public administrators do become involved in policy matters unavoidably. This occurs for at least two reasons: (1) legislative bodies require accurate information from administrators, which often requires those administrators to submit solutions to current problems in the form of proposed policies or amendments to existing policies and (2) policies approved by the legislative bodies are often so broad or open to interpretation that implementation by the administrator necessitates the formulation of regulations that in effect may actually be policies.
There should be no question that legislative bodies have sole authority to create policies, and executives or administrators to determine regulations for implementation; but in practice clear distinctions can not always be drawn. An interpretation of a policy that an administrator must make may itself be a new policy. As administrators must sometimes make decisions rapidly, it is inevitable that they sometimes must create a policy and justify it later on. However, administrative policy making is caused by a lack of understanding as to what constitutes a policy and what is a regulation. Policy is often involved when a question of direction or purpose arises. A policy may be defined as a settled course that is adopted and followed by government, an organization, or informed individuals. Such a definition, however. does not take into account the new policies that must be formed to accommodate the changing situations. A regulation is a rule developed by the administration to carry out the policy that has been established. Its authority rests in the policy decision and in the library administrator's full administrative control within the library to carry out policy decisions through rules and regulations.
Because most legislators have limited time and little expertise in library matters, library administrators are often asked to formulate policies or amendments to existing policies for legislative consideration. This responsibility must never be construed to be a delegation of authority to approve policy, however. A recommended policy should be carefully written to embody philosophical concepts in clear terminology that later can be translated into workable regulations. Suggested statements may be solicited directly by a member of the local legislative body or by an executive responsible to such a group. Channels of communication should be carefully observed during this process to maintain good relations between the executive and the legislative branches.
In preparing regulations by which policies are to be implemented, the public library administrator must observe the philosophic concepts and intent of the policy to avoid misinterpretation. Also, the administrator should make sure that the regulations do not exceed the scope of the policy and thereby create ipso facto new policy. At this point, many grievous errors could occur to plague the library administrator. If an effort to implement policy turns up deficiencies in the legislation, the administrator has the obligation to request revision of the provisions by the legislative body.
There is, of course, another side to policy making and implementation. This is the more informal side and applies to day-to-day administration. The chief librarian is recognized as a capable individual who has been employed to lead the development of library service--one who is knowledgeable about present programs and policies in library service and who has the capacity to institute change. The service that the library delivers to the public will have an impact on society, so the administrator has a social as well as managerial responsibility. As a manager, the public library administrator works with counterparts in the larger organization, with elected and appointed officials, as well as with the library staff. The administrator should not rely solely on external criteria such as statutes and regulations to guide action but rather must resolve issues on a person-to-person level. The library administrator will by experience acquire and provide continuity, as elected officials move in and out, and the ability to manage with enlightened intelligence.
Administrative Procedures and Techniques
The ability of the public library administrator to communicate accurately and effectively with all is essential to the performance of duties and responsibilities. Timely feedback to others who are responsible for any segment of the service program is vital. It is advantageous for an administrator to provide for simultaneous observation and presentation. Such a program of communications, which involves aggressive planning and delegation of responsibilities, is vital to successful management. In communications, especially to those unfamiliar with the terminology of librarians, care should be taken by the library administrator to relate unfamiliar concepts and terminology to the context of the personal and professional lives of the participants. Time in communication is as important as every other aspect of the administrator's work.
Communications form an intrinsic part of meetings. In some instances the public library administrator will be an observing member of a meeting; in others, a participating member or the leader of the group. Although adherence to a program should be maintained during a meeting, occasions will arise when the administrator will realize that associated objectives will allow sufficient flexibility to permit the participants to consider particular needs as they emerge in discussion. The public library administrator serving as a group leader should know the goal of the meeting and be committed to the objectives stated in the call for the meeting.
The public library administrator also serves in a resource capacity to elected policy makers. The administrator should be prepared to provide the answers to questions concerning library services and their relationships to resources and economics involved in funding, The administrator should be well-versed in national library policies and programs and be able to interpret the need for library service policies as determined by the governing board, The library manager can then develop them along with the staff, who function as technical assistants and managerial advisors. In the political processes, the public library director will assume the resource role with service clubs and other community groups participating in informal discussions when new plans are being proposed either by the library administration or by the community. It is incumbent upon the library administrator to institute change and to keep pace with change through continuing education.
One of the most useful techniques the administrator can master is that of preparing position papers. Clear, concise, and well-reasoned statements that set forth the reasons for a particular viewpoint on a course of action are often required so as to encourage movement in a given direction, Such a statement should begin with a carefully worded declaration of the matter at hand, followed by a succinct analysis of various alternatives. The alternative or alternatives chosen for support are then stated, with advantages appropriately detailed.
Position papers, when properly prepared, often carry much weight among those who must make policy decisions because the issues involved are worked out and a solution is presented with the supporting evidence. The preparation of a position paper provides the administrator the opportunity to study a given problem in depth, to explore various alternatives, and to arrive at a solution that can be supported by substantial data. In addition, the administrator can detail facts and utilize language in a more accurate manner than may be possible in a simple discussion or debate when time is a limiting factor.
As a part of participation in the political processes. the library administrator may be required to submit reports on a variety of subjects. Regardless of content, certain rules apply that result in clear and concise exposition. The purpose of a report should be clearly stated at the beginning, with a well-defined statement of scope and any other limiting or explanatory factors. Data should be developed in a logical and progressive manner; frequently such a presentation is made more orderly through the use of headings and subheadings. Conclusions and recommendations derived from the data must be stated in language that is free of ambiguity. Where a plan of implementation is required, it should be designed around a framework that is logical and precise. A lengthy report may begin with an abstract and conclusions and/ or recommendations. While the length of many reports exceeds that justified by the subject matter, others by their unnecessary brevity fail to provide a sufficient data base and/or explanation of conclusions and recommendations. Reports frequently fail to hold the attention of the reader because the writer has not mastered the elements of word usage, sentence structure, and syntax. Accuracy in word usage can be improved dramatically by courses in report writing and through practice.
Reports of group meetings are also a necessary part of the work of the administrator. Minutes of the meeting should be handled by recordings, stenotypists, taping, or shorthand notes. The duty of the administrator should be that of preparing a report that summarizes the action taken by the group. Extreme care should be taken to include the sense of the discussion and decisions. Motions passed by the organization should be conveyed with absolute accuracy. Words chosen must express the meaning of the participants. Failure to accurately reflect the viewpoints of the speaker or the intent of the motions and actions is not only a disservice but also may precipitate complaints of bias.
Just as the political processes inevitably involve meetings, so the orderly conduct of meetings requires agendas. Political bodies and many other organizations have a predetermined format for their agendas established by law or tradition. Less formally organized groups-particularly those that represent citizen action groups, special interest committees, and the like-are apt to be more informal in the conduct of meetings.
The library administrator should have the opportunity to construct an agenda or to develop its design. It is important, therefore, to recognize the fact that an agenda plays an important part in the political process. Agenda items should reflect logical progression from one subject to another. If the items bear no such relationship, then care should be taken to place Items where they are most apt to receive considered discussion. For example, placing an item with high public interest at the end of a long agenda may be a disservice to those with deep concern for the item.
Great care should be taken in wording agenda items. The wording should be concise and yet carry the full sense of the intended presentation or discussion. For instance, listing as an agenda item "Library plans" has much less merit than a slightly longer but more explanatory "Plans for a library outlet to be located in the southeastern portion of the city."
In many cases, when submitting an item to a body for inclusion on a forthcoming agenda, the library administrator should indicate a preference for the position of the item on the agenda. Like-wise, it is often wise to submit in advance copies of any position paper, report or other supporting data that may be useful in the consideration of the item. An inquiry to the official responsible will indicate the procedure to be used and the number of copies required. Many political bodies close their agendas to new items several days before their meetings, and it behooves the library director to know and abide by such deadlines. Attempts to force items onto agendas after the deadline sometimes are construed as moves to push decisions through without proper consideration, thus creating resentment on the part of public officials.
The library director must have a thorough grasp of parliamentary procedure in terms of principles as well as actual rules. Contrary to the belief that such rules impose limitations and impede action, parliamentary procedure, when properly understood and employed, provides the logical structure within which the discussion leading to action can best be directed. Many local library administrators will be working with organizations that con duct meetings in accordance with a particular system of parliamentary law. An administrator who understands this procedure can be much more effective in the deliberations than one who does not.
The library administrator must be active in the political processes as an effective speaker and discussion participant. The ability to express ideas and data convincingly in an oral presentation or as a part of a discussion is often paramount to success in the political processes..
The director will frequently be in a position to serve as a discussion leader. This role requires some of the skills of the presiding officer. The ability to encourage participation, to lead without dominating, to keep discussion focused on a particular issue, and to summarize and interrelate discussion can be acquired through training and experience.
The Power Structure
A power structure exists in every community regardless of size. The library administrator must become thoroughly acquainted with the power structure of the community if success in the political processes is to be attained. Administrators who are not politically aware often assume that those in authority in the community-most often those elected to office or appointed to the most prestigious positions-compose this elite group. But this is not necessarily true. Many of the most powerful people in any community have never held an elective or appointive office and have seldom had their names appear in the press. Sometimes they are very wealthy citizens; often, but not always, they represent families of long standing in the community. Not all, of course, maintain such anonymity, but the attainment of a highly visible role in community affairs does not necessarily denote one who possesses great political power. The reason that it is important for administrators and policy makers alike to become acquainted with the most influential members of a community is that some of them will prove supportive. The power structure in a community is seldom monolithic. The larger the community, the less likely will influentials have a single outlook. For the influentials will tend to organize around issues and a larger community must resolve issues that are more complicated.
The library director must learn the power structure through attendance at meetings, perceptive observations, and conversations with informed leaders. In large communities, it is not uncommon to find that more than one such group exists. By tacit arrangement, each group maintains its position in a particular field of interest Usually there is sufficient multiplicity of interests to prevent the groups from being mutually exclusive.
The power structure is a dynamic arrangement of individuals and is, therefore, subject to continuous change. The most influential member may, for a variety of reasons, be replaced by another. The administrator must develop a sensitivity to such change. More often than not, a few individuals hold the key to the support required for approval of a new library program and the increase in funding required. While working with the power structure does not necessarily guarantee success, failure is much more frequent when this simple fact of the political processes is ignored.
A complaint is frequently voiced about the communications gap between community residents and the local government. A similar problem can exist between the residents and the public library administrator as well. Residents may believe that problems of major concern are not explicitly stated by those who attempt to solve them, or that their concerns are inadequately acted upon.
To bridge this gap the administrator must involve people in the community to gain support for library programs and services. Reacting to expressed community needs is commendable, but planning ahead for future communities and their services really makes the difference between an administrator who is only reactive instead of proactive.
It is important, therefore, that the public library director work with the people of the community. Some types of contacts seem particularly productive-for example, coffee hours, round-table discussions. and casual conversations with people within and outside the library.
A truly involved advisory committee that represents all of the community is the administrator's key to the constructive expression of community opinion in revitalizing the library program. If the community, via groups, individuals. or organizations, becomes involved in studying community needs, it may become aware that the library has inadequacies in such areas as mobile library service, reference and research, and shut-in service. If members of a community group are then involved in discovering the solution to those problems, they become committed to pursuing the plan they devise also, the planning and the service can be more effective, realistic, and vital than if they had been done primarily by the library administrator and staff. Almost any library that has actively involved the community as advisors, as artists, as teachers, as story tellers, and as planners has a success story.
Only in rare instances do community representatives initiate involvement in the library. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the library director to draw people from the community by organizing voluntary programs, establishing councils, and seeking out persons to help with educational programs, counseling, and other activities. The administrator has the further duty to educate the people of the community concerning the library system, its goals, and its policies. Once community involvement and education have begun, the library has a powerful and self-perpetuating ally in the struggle to reach its objectives.
To work effectively with both the governmental bodies and the community, the public library administrator must:
If all seven of the above activities are carried out, community involvement will be assured. These activities provide the administrator with a built-in correction system that will automatically change the pro-gram according to the needs of the community. The administrator knows the people, resources, and services and is constantly listening to governmental officials, to the staff, to the residents of the community, and to their representatives. Through these processes, political knowledge, the perception of the community, and the delegation of authority, the public library administrator will succeed in developing a delivery system of public library service capable of changing as changes are required.
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