Time Management in Special Libraries

By Gothberg, Helen M. | Special Libraries, Spring 1991 | Go to article overview
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Time Management in Special Libraries


Gothberg, Helen M., Special Libraries


The time management study of special librarians was undertaken with a grant from the Special Libraries Association. It collected and analyzed data in five areas: profile of the respondents, hours per week spent in the traditional management activities, delegation skills, perceived time wasters, and management styles. Meetings ranked number one as a time waster, and there was some indication of a need for team building among staff. Overall, special librarian respondents were experienced, effective managers who delegated authority well and were for the most part team-oriented managers.

The study on time management in special libraries was undertaken with a grant from the Special Libraries Association in the fall of 1989. It involved gathering data using a questionnaire from 150 special libraries. Library managers were asked to provide information in five areas: profile of the respondent, hours per week spent in the traditional management activities, delegation skills, perceived time wasters, and management styles.

Gothberg and others have been studying time management practices in different types of libraries over the past four years. The first of these studies was funded by a grant from Council on Library Resources and surveyed the directors of large academic libraries. [1] Subsequently both state libraries and large public libraries have been studied. The initial results of data collection and frequency analysis were compared for academic and public library directors in a paper that was presented at the 1989 ALA/LAMA President's dinner. The results of the state library study will be published in the Fall 1991 issue of Special Libraries. [2]

Background of the Study

Undertaking the study of time management in special libraries completed this series of studies. Although special libraries are smaller than other kinds of libraries surveyed, it seemed worthwhile to include them in this series of investigations. In writing about research and special libraries, Miriam Drake [3] observed that librarians and information specialists often make the mistake of thinking that the tools--that is books, technical reports, journals, databases, computer, audiovisual materials and the like--will "solve a problem, make a decision, or add to the knowledge of the individual." [4] This is not the case. Certainly our technology has helped us to resolve many of the problems of managing information, but a more crucial problem is that of managing personnel. Time management and its related management skills, including leadership style and delegation of authority, are significant. Drake suggested that one of the research agendas for the future be measures of productivity and value. New technologies are essential to our management of information, but they are expensive. We know that one of the greatest expenses in any library budget is personnel. This means that staff will need to be more productive. Better productivity through improved time management is a model set for employees by library managers. Library managers in return must be good role models and understand leadership styles that will improve productivity.

Utility of the Research Results

The results of this study will provide time management data that can be compared by special librarians and also special libraries with other kinds of libraries. There have been trends throughout these studies, and some of them carry over to the special library study. Other indicators are different and help to confirm a notion long held by special librarians that they are indeed different. The results also tell special librarians where they may be wasting time, so that efforts for improvement can be made, and individual librarians how they compare with others in the field.

Sampling and Plan of the Study

The plan of the study involved the mailing of a four-page questionnaire to 150 special library directors.

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