My boss sent me a link to an article from the January 18, 2008 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education – “Strains and Joys Color Mergers Between Libraries and Tech Units” by Andrea L. Foster (Section: Money & Management, Volume 54, Issue 19, Page A1). As a systems librarian, this is a subject that is of great interest to me. Despite the fact that I do not work in an institution with a combined IT/library department, I know that I can learn something from the successes and failures in this arena – and be prepared for any discussions that may come up at my place of work.
The article was an interesting read. The bottom line is that sometimes such mergers are succcesful, but sometimes are not. More often than not, these mergers seem to happen at smaller and less complex institutions. The mergers are not a cost-saving move. Usually, the library is absorbed into the IT organizational unit and the chief librarian position is eliminated. Librarians are often quite apprehensive about such mergers, and books seem to be the biggest loser. There is often an underlying assumption that books are becoming less important to the academic mission. Many are usually moved to make room for “information commons” areas.
The most interesting part of the article, however, was a discussion about a highly problematic merger at Gettysburg College. Foster writes:
Tensions arose when technology workers, ponytailed young men, began sharing the same office space with librarians, most of whom were older women, said Ms. Wagner. According to her account, the men brought in a huge microwave, were slobs, had messy cords dangling from equipment and said they worked much harder than the librarians who left work at 4:30 and took breaks throughout the day.
Yikes! This definitely doesn’t sound like a successful venture. The account gave me a rather comical vision of shushing-type, bun-wearing, librarians having their space invaded by food-stained microwave ovens covered in cords behind and odd young men with long hair. Sounds like a big no, no to me.