Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Document Type


Date of this Version

June 1994


Copublished simultaneously in Journal of Library Administration, Vol. 20, No. 2 (1994), pp. 29-46; and: The Dynamic Library Organizations in a Changing Environment (ed: Joan Giesecke) The Haworth Press, Inc., 1994, pp. 29-46. Copyright 1994 by The Haworth Press, Inc. Used by permission.


Organizational theory today includes a number of analytical models which provide descriptions of how organizations function as well as prescriptions as to how organizations should function. Five organizational models seem particularly appropriate to academic libraries. The rational model describes organizations as value- maximizing units which are task oriented. The political bargaining model views organizations as arenas for conflict and bargaining where participants form coalitions and interest groups to achieve their own ends. The garbage can model views the organization as a chaotic mess where independent actors pursue individual, yet changing goals and decisions are mostly a function of timing. The bureaucratic model emphasizes roles, rules, and routines as the keys to organizational actions. Finally, the participatory or teamwork model, which has become a major focus in today's environment, assumes organizational goals are truly shared and that organizations can meet both individual and organizational needs.

The astute manager faces the challenge of recognizing when there are diverse approaches present in the organization and then must devise strategies for working with a mixture of cultures in order to achieve organizational goals. To help managers untangle the web that is organizational processes, this article will describe a framework for identifying organizational processes or models, describe and clarify the participatory model as it is being used today, and provide managers with some advice on developing strategies for working within today's complex organizations. Because decision making is one of the primary activities in an organization, the framework for analysis is built around the decision-making processes within the organization or unit.