The management of change in the information age: Approaches of academic library directors in the United States




Yi, Zhixian

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Rapid changes in information technology affect all areas of academic libraries, from acquisitions to cataloging, research, and online learning. To ensure that libraries run smoothly and meet the current needs of all students, faculty, and staff, directors must learn to effectively manage constant and evolving change.

Researchers Bolman and Deal studied numerous business and education directors and discovered that they used four distinct approaches when managing change: structural, human resource, political, and symbolic. Structural leaders rely on formal rules, while human resource leaders strive to satisfy human needs. Political leaders use power and conflict, while symbolic leaders create rituals and celebrate the future. When supervising change, leaders and managers used either one (single), two (dual), or three or more (multiple) of these approaches. The change was either planned or unexpected. Using Bolman and Deal's research as a guideline, this study examines how academic library directors manage change. The study also examines the factors that may influence management approaches: (1) demographics (age, gender); (2) human capital (education, length of employment); and (3) library characteristics (size, type).

An email survey was sent to 1,010 directors randomly selected from various degree-granting colleges and universities within the United States; 596 (59%) responded. The survey was based on a review of library literature and on Bolman and Deal's change management model. Multiple choice questions tracked the directors' experiences with change management, the approaches used, and the factors that may have influenced these approaches. When applicable, directors were also encouraged to write their own views and experiences. This allowed for any "other" possible categories outside of the Bolman and Deal model.

The collected quantitative and qualitative data were analyzed using descriptive statistics (frequencies, percentages, means, standard deviations) and inferential statistics (bivariate crosstabulations, chi-square tests, correlations, binary and multinomial logistic regressions). Multinomial logistic regression was used to determine the relationships between a dependent variable with multiple categories and more than two predictors. The qualitative data from the open-ended questions were analyzed using content analysis.

Initially 18 directors, chosen by stratified random sampling, participated in a pilot study of the email survey via Following their suggestions and comments, revisions were made to the survey before it was applied to the large-scale study in a similar manner.

This study has confirmed that change is generally managed in academic libraries from structural, human resource, political, symbolic or multiple perspectives. Most directors managed both planned and unplanned change and used multiple approaches. The structural and human resource approaches were the most frequently used single approaches, although dual approaches were also common A correlation and regression analysis confirms that demographics, human capital, and library variables play significant roles in managing change.

Regression results show that older directors were more likely to use multiple approaches during change management than younger ones. Directors who oversaw more subordinates were more likely to use multiple approaches to manage change in information technology, and to make change decisions than their counterparts. Those who worked for an institution offering a higher academic degree were more likely than their counterparts to use multiple approaches to plan change, and to resolve conflicts during the change process.

The results allow a better understanding of directors' attitudes, behaviors, and approaches to managing change in academic libraries. Directors may use the results to reflect on different options of management strategy and balance the weight of these influences. Librarians may better understand different management techniques and approaches. Hopefully, this study will stimulate more research on the subject.



Communication and the arts, Social sciences, Academic libraries, Library directors