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BOOK AND SOFTWARE REVIEWS

 

Curzon, Susan Carol. Managing change: a how-to-do-it manual for librarians. London: Facet Publishing, 2006. 129 p. ISBN 1-85604-601-X. 39.95.

During last decades frequent change has nearly been a must for most organizations, depending on increasing organizational relations to external forces in an environment more complex and dynamic than ever. As a consequence, a vast amount of books, seminars, and courses about how to deal with organizations and organizational change have spread over the world. Here is another one: Managing change: a how-to-do-it manual for librarians, by Dr Susan Carol Curzon, Dean of the University Library at California State University, Northridge, USA. She wrote the book, she says, 'to provide you with an approach that will enable you retain the long-range vision of the organization'. It's a guide that outlines the step-by-step processes and detailed instructions necessary for conceptualising, planning, decision-making, implementing, evaluating, etc.

The book consists of two parts: Managing change and Practising change management. The first part is made up of ten chapters, starting with conceptualisation and ending with evaluation of the change. Each chapter is broken down in step-by-step instructions. The second part of the book consists of fifteen Change Scenarios 'hypothetical' but 'realistic situations' intended for discussions and workshops.

The book is written for managers, which has resulted in a traditional top-down approach. Chapter one deals with conceptualisation of change, giving an interesting and instructive opportunity to reflect and understand what organizational change is and could be. Systems thinking lies behind the approach, as the whole of the organization is emphasised. It is, however, not explicitly mentioned or presented.

In two chapters that follow, the advice is focused on psychological traits and relations between managers and staff and should help to prepare the organization for change and to organize planning groups. It is obvious that management has to respect and support staff and also to be trustworthy and fair. Therefore, the meaning and use of this kind of advice could be questioned. If the actual individual understands and is in possession of the recommended character traits, fine, if not, advice of this kind will be neglected. The selection and organizing of a planning group includes formal activities essential to be mentioned and discussed in this kind of book. But you cannot know much about a team until it has started to work. Synergetic effects are impossible to anticipate and plan for.

The importance of taking your time for reflection and consideration of visions, goals, options, consequences, and decisions is discussed in chapter four and five. The systems perspective is again the approach used to reflect on planning and decision-making about change. I miss, however, a more comprehensive discussion about potential of parent organizations and trustees. These are the immediate environment of the organizations and mostly have a significant influence on the change process in relation to causes, resources as well as options, and results.

A manager has two threads to twin in managing an organization: to steer for objectives and to support staff. Both of these activities are interrelated and depending on each other. Even more so in a situation of change full of fear, anger, and depression, when management of staff and treatment of individuals may determine the success of the process. Chapter six discusses the management of individuals during change, followed by a chapter that takes up the issues of resistance to change and its control.

The first part of the book ends with instructions on how to implement and evaluate change. The author stresses the importance of formal introduction of the change process in order to make it clear when and how the process will take shape. The importance of selection of the most suitable change manager also is discussed. It should not be assigned to staff already overloaded with work, and that, alas, is not so unusual in libraries. Finally the evaluation of change is discussed, one of the most important phases in change management, and still quite often neglected in practice. This is strange because evaluation should be an essential part in so called 'learning organizations'. The author indicates that appointment of evaluators should take into consideration both insiders and outsiders of the planning team, thereby emphasising representation of different approaches to reality in the evaluation process.

To sum up: how-to-do-it-books can easily become paternalistic. For example, one chapter starts: 'To achieve successive implementation, follow these seven steps'. But why follow these steps and not any others? What I mostly lack in these kinds of books is a presentation of the author's paradigmatic understanding of the problem, and models that explain why the author gives the advice that is given. References for further readings are presented seldom or not at all. The reader should be taken more seriously, and be given a better possibility to question and see the sense of the advice. In the actual book the systems approach shines through here and there, but is never properly presented or explained.

The book is a good assistant in reminding us about different opportunities, situations and problems coming up in a library organization in all its parts and complexities. The nine different aspects of change are thoroughly differentiated and analysed. The section with Change scenarios will give an opportunity to penetrate and more deeply discuss and understand the advice given in the first section. The scenarios connect the reader more closely with library problems. A general impression of the book is that it thoroughly reflects experience that is meaningful to the reader in every part. It consists of useful advice for management of modern libraries in its continual change and ambiguous situation.

Gunnek Hessler
Swedish School of Library and Information Science
June 2006

How to cite this review

Hessler G (2006). Review of: Curzon, Susan Carol. Managing change: A how-to-do-it manual for librarians. London: Facet Publishing, 2006.   Information Research, 11(4), review no. R229  [Available at: http://informationr.net/ir/reviews/revs229.html]