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Harvard Library Governance Committee System

August 12, 2014

Dear colleagues,

We are pleased to share that a Harvard Library Governance Committee system was approved by the Library Leadership Team following open discussion sessions with the library community.

Four open sessions on proposed governance committees, drafted by the Ad Hoc Working Group on Committee Governance, were held in July 2014. At each session, working group representatives provided a brief overview of including the charge to the working group, the concepts that serve as a foundation for the proposal, the recommendations and general guidelines. Feedback from staff members was gathered by the working group and incorporated into the proposal. (These revisions are indicated in blue in document at the above link.)

Recurrent questions/themes that arose at the open sessions are listed below, along with the working group’s recommendation/response:

  • Who will write the charges for the standing committees, and how will membership be determined?
    • The working group recommends that:          
      • The LLT appoints co-chairs of standing committees;
      • Co-chairs recommend standing committee membership using agreed-on guidelines, for approval by the LLT;
      • A template for standing committee charges be prepared, which includes  purpose, scope, goals and action items for the year;
      • Standing committees develop charges for approval by the LLT.
  • How does the Librarians’ Assembly fit into the new committee governance structure?
    • The working group suggests the possibility of exploring a connection between the LA and the Professional Development Standing Committee.
  • Staff members are interested in open meetings sponsored by Standing Committees to summarize current activities, projects and priorities, as well as timely distribution of minutes and agendas.
    • The working group recommends that Standing Committees hold open update sessions three to four times a year.
  • What is the difference between choosing the term working group versus sub-committee to the Standing Committees and Councils?
    • The term working group implies making regular updates to charges and assignments, and these groups should maintain an increased level of accountability, with an annual review and report, and a mandate to sunset when the assignment/project is complete.
  • Library staff members stressed the value of discussion groups for pan-Harvard Library topics, but some questioned why discussion groups should be authorized by the LLT.
    • “Official” discussion groups, as authorized by the LLT, might:
      • Promote better communication and understanding of the purpose of the group;
      • Assist supervisors with decisions on staff attendance. (In the past, permission to attend discussion groups has been variable across the organization, partly due to proliferation of groups and ineffective coordination.)
  • How should Human Resources be involved?
    • The working group suggests that HR could steward and advise as:
      • A member of the Professional Development Standing Committee
      • A co-chair of the Professional Development Standing Committee
  • How can we improve technology for communication with staff members outside Cambridge?
    • The working group suggests looking into
      • Effective dial-in
      • Video conferencing capability
      • Recording events to be shared

Some issues raised in the open sessions were process specific and need to be addressed in implementation decisions and other issues will need future attention by the LLT. These included:

  • A lack of clarity on how local/School-based work and Harvard Library-wide work will be communicated and coordinated, especially work vis-à-vis collection development and RTL.
  • Unresolved tension between responsibilities to a local school or library and the Harvard Library.
  • Clarification of the roles of the LLT, the Cabinet and the Library Directors’ Group.
  • Library staff members are interested in an innovation webpage where staff members can add information on their projects or describe a project under consideration. Should the Innovation Working Group webpage be continued, or should we consider something else?

There will be an update soon on the implementation process for committee governance, including an opportunity for staff members to volunteer for standing committees, working groups and council activities.

The Ad-Hoc Working Group

Franziska Frey
Kira Poplowski
Lynne Schmelz
Matthew Sheehy
Megan Sniffin-Marinoff
Ann Whiteside