Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version



Published in Against the Grain, April 1, 2020


All too often, the internal organization of collection development departments are ignored. Perhaps inadvertently, more pressing issues of budgets, resource renewals, and vendor negotiations divert our attention; yet at the same time, the completion of these initiatives require capable and efficient faculty and staff. Burnout, now classified by the World Health Organization as a “syndrome conceptualized resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” (WHO, 2019) is appropriate to juxtapose against the organization of collection development departments. As self-care is vital to our health, the same question of vitality should be applied in collection development departments — an investigation of the value and lifecycle of organizational structures presently in place.

Through the process of multiple reorganizations, supervisors, a library fire, and major serials cancellation projects, the Content Development unit was able to remain functional during capricious conditions. Rather than dwelling on calamity, internal analyses of multiple, experimental organizational structures empowered the Libraries to identify opportunities, both beneficial and adverse. By embracing practices of flexibility, collaboration, and communication, patient execution was employed until content development librarians were able to come full circle into a new department with supervisory support. By breaking out of the traditional mold, libraries can survive the turbulent times and avoid burnout with efficacious services and outcomes.