Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln



Mary Bolin

Date of this Version



Published in The Journal of Academic Librarianship 27(6) (November 2001): 452–456. Copyright 2001 Elsevier. Used by permission.


Collection management and technical services have a natural affinity that is not reflected in the organization of many academic libraries, where subject librarians are often aligned with reference. This article examines organizational and individual approaches to librarian assignment, along with the place of collection management in the organization.

Libraries are organized to provide service. The division of functions is designed to acquire materials, provide intellectual access to them, house and circulate them, and assist library users in finding information. The assignment of responsibility to librarians follows this organizational pattern. Specialties, positions, and job descriptions generally reflect a functional or departmental orientation. Education for librarianship follows it as well. Librarians are educated to take up responsibility in one or more of the functional areas—reference, cataloging, acquisitions, and so on.

Although the roles of employees reflect this functional approach to organization, an individual may want something different, an assignment that does not reflect the division and alignment of services as depicted on the library’s organizational chart. The result of that desire can be a kind of “hybrid,” that is, the offspring of different varieties of an organism, something combined from elements that are different. Implicitly, a hybrid is something new and special, and it is something that makes the garden special as well.

To create a hybrid, the library must be able to look beyond the functional organization of services to a more collegial model that is not task-oriented or bureaucratic. This article looks at organizational and individual solutions to the assignment of responsibilities and presents a collegial model that benefits both the library and the individual.

This model is illustrated by the case of an individualized assignment for an academic librarian, one that was not a “reorganization” but which was an individual change that had an impact on the organization. The experience of one very successful “hybrid” librarian is set in the context of organizational and individual solutions, the nature of “assignment” for academic librarians, and the place of collection management and its relationship to other library functions.