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Regaining Stability in an Organization Rocked By Change

By Dan Bostrom posted 09-01-2020 10:30

Regaining Stability in an Organization Rocked By Change: Melding an Academic Library into a Museum and Archive
by Greta Braungard

***The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.***

The U.S. Army War College (USAWC) is a senior service graduate-level institution that conducts research, develops strategic leaders, and educates the future leaders of the Army in both resident and distance programs, awarding a Master of Strategic Studies.

In 2013, the U.S. Army War College realigned the USAWC academic library, from the office of the Dean to the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC). The Library’s main function up to this point was to serve the academic needs of the faculty, students, and staff of the USAWC. Existing as a museum and archive, the USAHEC supports the Army, outside researchers, and the public. The reorganization resulted in the joint Library serving two locations; Root Hall is in the academic building and Ridgway Hall is located on the USAHEC campus.

To work through the details of the realignment, several workgroups were established to:

  • Create the new division-based organizational structure
  • Establish reporting and rating tiers
  • Rewrite position descriptions
  • Review of policies, procedures, and governance documents.
Initial challenges existed in the areas of communication breakdowns, informational transparency, objective assessment, and deductive analysis. During this time, the Library experienced an exodus of 45% of the staff.

Two separate budgets led to financial tracking issues and the need to ensure that materials purchased were appropriately aligned to each budget allocation, and that no further duplications of materials, resources, or items occur.

Human resources management and staff questions needed resolution. The realignment created inherent uncertainties expressed through common employee inquiries:

  • Will I lose my position?
  • Will I have to learn a new job?
  • What if I am made redundant in the new organization?
Staff concerns also presented growth opportunities including: learning a new organizational structure and building trust within the USAHEC and the Library. Some issues that needed to be resolved included planning and redefining the priorities of both locations, cross-training, and refining workflows.

Bringing the Library Together

Three branches were created, Cataloging & Metadata Services, Research and Instruction, and Access Services. The three new branches of the Library had several tasks to orient the two separate staffs with each other, refine workflows, unify policies, and create a collective understanding of the new division. Each branch undertook unique actions with common goals of streamlining workflows and increasing team awareness.

The Cataloging and Metadata Services (CMS) team had the challenge of migrating 200,000 records into an existing catalog, including the tasks of:

  • Reviewing duplicate patrons
  • Assessing conflicting call numbers from the two separate collections
  • Deduplication and merger of 50,000 items.
The work of completing the migration and subsequent clean-up helped to solidify the team into a cohesive unit.

The Research and Instruction branch (RAI) was comprised of two varying skill sets and subject matter expertise. In the academic location, the team is made up of degreed librarians, who are skilled in information literacy, standard academic support, and teaching the use of varied library databases. The USAHEC location team are subject matter experts in military history and the Army and possess an unparalleled institutional knowledge of the archival collections. By shadowing each other, these teams learned new skills and gained an understanding of the new organization.

Within the Access Services branch (AS), standard academic library circulation functions, including course reserves and interlibrary loan, are provided, with the added tasks of supplying electives textbooks to the students and faculty of the USAWC, coordinating study carrel reservations, and managing the USAWC lecture videos collection. The AS team in Library-Ridgway provides interlibrary loan support and provides pull services for all materials held in the closed stack environment in Ridgway Hall.

Quick solutions to the organizational divide involved branding and marketing. New signage, flyers, brochures, business cards and webpage were written by a cross-divisional team to advertise the change to the different patron groups, including Department of the Army, Congressional patrons, academic institutions, the USAWC, and general researchers.

The budget tracking was refined through conversations with the Collections Management division and the development of a budget portal to track all purchases. With separate budgets applied to the two locations, the tracking of these purchases is a complex and critical task that required coordination across divisions, branches, and locations.

The staff who remained in the Library were committed to the success of the merger and were vocal about their concerns with processes and procedures to ensure all patron types, resources, and other considerations could be addressed.

Advantages of the Merger

A significant advantage was the Research and Instruction Chief Librarian being appointed as the funnel for all research questions. This employee engages with the different divisions to coordinate those questions that require cross-division expertise, allowing people in other divisions to focus on archival processing, museum exhibit research and review, and research synthesis projects.

Further advantages of this reorganization provided the Library with centralized acquisitions under a collections management division, which has the sole USAHEC responsibility to acquire museum objects, archival materials, library materials, and general supplies. An additional benefit is from the USAHEC operations division, which centralizes and tracks all assignments from the greater USAWC that must be carried out, including mandatory training, travel support, and scheduling of events. A renewed focus on integrating Museum objects into the academic building, and support for social media presence are other benefits of this merger.

A cost savings was realized by combining the two library catalogs into one system. For many years, the collection development policies of the two book collections overlapped, resulting in the 50,000 duplicate titles previously mentioned. The team worked on a four-year deduplication project and further duplication has been prevented through the centralized budget portal.

Leadership Lessons

A lesson learned from the library merger lies in the retention of institutional knowledge through internal cultivation and growth. Organizations can identify internal and external change agents. In the state of flux experienced by the USAHEC and the Library during the merger, the interim director was hired as the full-time director of the Library to promote stability gained through innovative procedures and processes.

Future of the USAHEC

A major project impacting the U.S. Army War College Library (USAWCL) is the construction of a new academic building for the USAWC, which will include the new academic library. Concurrently, the USAHEC has embarked on a full-scale archival digitization project for the 24,000 linear feet of the archival collections. Included in this digitization project was also the implementation of a new collections management system, wherein the museum, archives, and library can all be searched by patrons at one time https://arena.usahec.org/web/arena.

The USAHEC has become a more integrated organization in the years since the merger. The future of the team is brighter as the lessons learned can be used as a starting point for future projects, one of which is establishing an assessment plan for library success. The library is unique in the USAHEC as it must focus on accreditation, by both academic and government accrediting bodies. One shortfall identified recently is that there is no assessment of the library, save statistical outputs and an end of year student survey wherein the library questions have not been updated in recent memory. A library assessment team has been assembled from the three branches and the initial meeting identified 3 goals:

  • End of year survey revision
  • Create a patron satisfaction survey for transactional interactions
  • Develop post-tutorial snapshot surveys.
By continuing analysis and assessment of ongoing and future programs, both the larger USAHEC organization and the USAWCL can continue to develop innovative methods of resolving conflicts, streamlining workflows, and addressing employee concerns.


Greta Braungard

Greta Braungard is currently the Director of the U.S. Army War College Library. She received her Master’s in Library Science from Syracuse University in 2003 and also has a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and Creative Writing with a minor in Anthropology from LeMoyne College. After 2 years of preparing marketing packages for ACS, a Xerox company, she moved to Fort Knox and became a Reference Librarian at the Barr Memorial Library. She moved to Central Pennsylvania in January 2008 as a Research Librarian at the U.S. Army War College. Since then, Ms. Braungard has steadily worked through the ranks at USAWC culminating in the current position. Interests are in knowledge management, self-organization, research, and leadership.