Is There a Library Consolidation in Your Future? Mergers Aren't Just for Corporations Anymore, and Librarians Must Be Ready for That Inevitable Call for Consolidation

By Hennen, Thomas J., Jr. | American Libraries, October 2005 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Is There a Library Consolidation in Your Future? Mergers Aren't Just for Corporations Anymore, and Librarians Must Be Ready for That Inevitable Call for Consolidation


Hennen, Thomas J., Jr., American Libraries


As Bob Dylan sang, "The times, they are a-changin'."

Very soon, many librarians and other library staff could be working in entirely new organizational structures. The reason can be found in David Osborne and Peter Hutchinson's The Price of Governance: Getting the Results We Need in an Age of Permanent Fiscal Crisis (Basic Books, 2004).

This book was a sequel to the highly influential Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit Is Transforming the Public Sector by David Osborne and Ted Gaebler (Addison-Wesley, 1992), which sparked the Clinton administration initiative under Al Gore's leadership. The Price of Government argues that, in this "age of permanent fiscal crisis," local budget planners "begin by determining how much taxation the public will bear. Leaders then prioritize specific outcomes and keep piling public works into the shopping cart until they max out the governing authority's line of credit."

A key concept in this book is that leaders need to sever the link between steering and rowing. The groups that do the steering--state and county leaders--should determine and quantify the outcomes they desire. They should then let those in the specific funded agency (i.e., the library) do the rowing. Library officials must row to the best of their ability, always aiming for the predetermined outcomes that are set by the elected officials at the helm.

Ordinarily it is elected officials and their varied constituencies--whose collective eyes are fixed on the bottom line--that call for a reorganization of library services to, as they believe, be more cost effective. In response, librarians and patrons tend to seek the best organizational structures for providing high-quality services. There is, of course, a huge abyss here; cost (tax) efficiency and service effectiveness have always been dueling goals.

I direct a state-funded federation of 16 libraries serving 37 communities in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. We have a service population of 366,000. Because we are considering governance options, including consolidated county library service, I am often asked whether I think consolidation options can work. I reply that, in my professional judgment a consolidated library service can be a very good thing if done well; but if it is done poorly, it is a very bad thing indeed.

If or when library consolidation is proposed in your community, you owe it to yourself as a library professional and to your service population to ensure, to the degree possible, that it is done well. So, let us look at what needs to be done.

No more bucks to pass

Those who are actively considering consolidation of library services are doing so for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the more than 30 years of "devolution" of fiscal responsibility for services and funding has nearly run its course. The feds devolved funding responsibility to the states. The states, in their turn, shouldered some of the responsibility but shifted another share onto the shoulders of local government. Then the recession of 2001 hit, and nearly every state faced massive deficits and implemented still further cuts. Further devolution, passing the budget problems down still more to the local layer of government was all too easy for many state legislatures.

With no end to the devolutionary process in sight, local library and elected officials have begun looking at options for wider-unit organization. There are currently at least six geographic areas in the United States where officials are considering the merger or consolidation of library services (see sidebar). Unfortunately, each effort reinvents the wheel because the library profession has failed to develop the research data needed to guide such efforts. Those who spearhead these proposals are usually casting about for efficiencies because they view the multiplicity of municipal, school, and academic libraries in any given geographic area as duplication of effort.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Is There a Library Consolidation in Your Future? Mergers Aren't Just for Corporations Anymore, and Librarians Must Be Ready for That Inevitable Call for Consolidation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.