Introducing and Managing Academic Library Automation Projects

By John W. Head; Gerard B. McCabe | Go to book overview

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Automation: Changing the Structure of Library and Information Services

Paul F. Burton

While much has been said and written about the applications of library automation and the processes of design and implementation, the question of how this automation affects the management and structure of library and information services (LIS) has received less attention. This need not be unduly surprising, since the impact on organizational structure is not as well understood as the systems design process, and the presence of contingency factors unique to each organization often make generalizations difficult.

What we do know is that the technology itself is an essentially neutral agent in the change process, and that management attitudes and philosophy therefore play the most important part in determining what, if any, changes can be made to organizational structures. The flexibility of automated systems means that managements can choose to use them in ways that accord with their wishes: technology can help to increase or decrease centralized control; it can give staff greater or lesser control over the flow of their work; it can be used to increase variety, flexibility, and skills levels or to ‘‘Taylorize’’ work to an even greater extent by reducing operations to the smallest component possible (Zuboff 1988).

Despite a lack of certainty, the ways in which automation affects organizational structures is an important topic, for LIS must consider not only how to put technology to the best use, but also how to change structures to maximize the benefits to their users. Having introduced automated procedures, organizations appear to go through a series of phases in its use: first comes the automation of the routine work, such as circulation control, for example. This then

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