New Group for Deputies & Senior Library Managers Created

Gaz J Johnson

After months of discussion, a new group for senior academic library staff in the Mercian Collaboration region finally moves forward.

After many months of discussion at Directors Board and Steering Group, and following a survey of eligible staff during the summer, last week saw the inaugural meeting of the newest of the Collaboration’s special interest groups. The Deputies & Senior Staff Group (D&SSG) has been set up in response to strategic and operational concerns among the Directors, but also to provide a CPD forum for staff occupying positions of considerable seniority within member libraries. Inspired, in part, by the successful Senior Staff Group within NoWAL, it is hoped over time the D&SSG will deliver similar beneficial outcomes to participants, the Collaboration and its member institutions.

There are, naturally, other sectoral formal communities to which senior library staff can belong, notably the established SCONUL Deputies and RLUK groups. However, investigations among the Collaboration members demonstrated that due to the variance in academic library hierarchies and staffing structures, many members lacked staff of ‘sufficient seniority’ to participate within these groups. There was also a recognised regional benefit to configuring a group of peers within easy geographic location in terms of facilitating exchange, visit and mutually beneficial projects, something which is far more resource intensive on a national scale.

However, while the Directors recognised that such a group could confer benefits within the Collaboration’s members, without the willing engagement and participation of suitable staff, such an endeavour would likely face rapid stagnation. An exploration of the desirability, viability and value of any potential group under the Collaboration’s umbrella was therefore explored by a survey of eligible staff, and subsequent analysis, written by the esteemed Dr Gaz J Johnson. Following a largely positive outcome from this report, the Board approved an inaugural exploratory meeting, hosted by the Collaboration’s Chair at the University of Birmingham in November 2019. An open invitation to staff across the Collaboration identifying as ‘senior but below director level’ was extended.

At this forum, Collaboration Chair Diane Job (Birmingham) provided background and context to the proposed group to the delegates drawn from across the Collaboration’s members. She noted how the viability of such a group largely depended on the willingness of those present, along with others interested but unable to attend that day, to move it forward practically. Over a morning’s deliberations it was eventually agreed that a desire for, alongside a recognised developmental and strategic value, towards the D&SSG being setup was acknowledged. The meeting closed with an informal networking lunch, and while providing a prototype framework for future meetings, it is anticipated group participants lead in configuring future gatherings to suit their personal, professional and organisational needs.

Hence, in the new year, arising from this encouraging inauguration, we shall see the first tentative steps of the Collaboration’s eighth special interest group. The Chair and Board strongly believe that alongside the developmental insights for its participants, that the D&SSG will also demonstrate the continued tangible value of the Collaboration’s strategic agenda.

For more on the D&SSG, see its webpages or contact the Development Officer.