Head, Blaisdell Medical Library University of California, Davis Sacramento, California
Background: In the academic library landscape, it can be challenging to work across multiple units to create programmatic innovations. At a university with a large library system, including two health sciences libraries operating within the larger organizational construct of the main campus library, we had come to a place wherein, due to organizational structures and “habits of comfort,” groups were not connecting as departments functioned largely as disconnected silos. A reorganization and contiguous personnel changes provided opportunities to bridge the gaps across silos, resulting in better teamwork across units, and also significant impacts to establishing new services to the library’s communities.
Description: Breaking down silos in the library and intentionally seeking out cross-functional partnerships to meet service goals catalyzed our services to our external constituents in a way that would have not been possible for each unit/silo individually. We worked across campus libraries - using videoconference as an integral tool - and research units to create a multi-unit service framework model to launch: a systematic review service with enhanced meta-analysis/text analysis features, a bibliometrics service, and health science data services - all in under a year’s time. This ability to co-create with groups within and external to the library to create multiple new projects that positively impact the university mission are notable and appreciated, as exemplified by this feedback: “...has made a difference at our university, exemplified the mission of institutional cross-partnerships, and has positively impacted our research mission.”
Conclusion: It is easy to become ingrained in institutional structures and to function in comfortable silos. By re-envisioning organizational challenges as opportunities for innovation, we created new user-centered service frameworks that facilitated service growth and demonstrated impact of the library to the institution. Keys to success included: administrative and team member buy-in that user needs are best met through interdepartmental collaboration; creating shared goals and gaining team consensus around project vision and scope; willingness to craft teams based on experience and skillset, rather than by department, and/or including team members external to the library; openness to different perspectives and problem-solving approaches.