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Self-Management in CAMS

Self-management unit organization

A self-managing unit is a mix of librarians and classified staff who work cohesively to conduct unit governance and participate in the management of the department. As individual members, each works independently and governs herself/himself. Classified staff in the self-managing sections of CAMS are Library Specialists, who fall under Local 1488 of the Washington Federation of State Employees (AFSCME Council 28).

There are two formal positions in the self-managing units:  Personnel Coordinator and Management Team Liaison.

A Management Team Liaison participates in departmental Management Team meetings.  The Liaison attends the meetings and reports proceedings back to the unit.  The Liaison may also pass communication to the unit directly from the department Director.  The Liaison is an appointed position, lasting six months.  As self-management has matured, this appointment is carried out somewhat automatically on a rotating basis; however, formally, it is appointment by unanimous agreement of the unit.  The unit’s Management Team Liaison is usually a classified staff person, as a Librarian needs to act as Personnel Coordinator.

A Personnel Coordinator is a Librarian from the unit who performs employee evaluations for the unit; approves time worked and leave requests; sometimes attends Management Team meetings; communicates with the department Director as needed, usually passing pertinent information back to the unit; and performs selected administrative tasks as needed.  It is a two-year appointment negotiated by the Librarians in the unit.

The department Director interacts with self-managing units through the Management Team Liaisons and Personnel Coordinators in the same way as with a supervisor in a traditional unit.  The Director also plays a role in self-management by working with administration, for example, requesting changes in liaisons and personnel coordinators.

Beyond these features, each self-managing unit is different from the others; they all have their own unique methods and documentation.  A list of the units and personnel can be found at the department organization chart.

Benefits of self-management

  • Self-management brings a flow of fresh ideas into departmental and unit management.  It also utilizes the experience, creativity and capabilities of all staff.
  • With a shared role in unit and departmental management, morale, motivation and accountability are boosted.
  • Communication among all staff increases as they work together to solve problems.
  • Workflow decisions tend to be more thoroughly discussed, while the staff who perform the work participate in decisions about that workflow.
  • Self-management reinforces and supports staff autonomy and independence.
  • Given the rotation of appointments, self-management offers more widespread professional development for paraprofessional staff.

History of self-management in CAMS

In 1996, after a national search, the International Studies Cataloging unit found themselves unable to hire a unit Head.  After discussion, the decision was made that they would instead become a self-managing unit as of January 1997.  The existing supervisor position would become the Personnel Coordinator, and unit members would have the opportunity to serve on the departmental Management Team.  International Studies Cataloging investigated the self-managing process, and worked on team training with the Libraries’ Organization Development and Training office.  A Personnel Coordinator was named, and a first Management Team liaison chosen.  In June of 1997, the Monographic Cataloging unit also made the decision to self-manage and followed through with the same process.  In December of 1998, the Head of the Special Materials Cataloging unit elected to step down so that unit members had the same opportunities to be a part of departmental management.  She became Personnel Coordinator, and the other members began to take part in Management Team responsibilities in January 1999.

When instituted, self-management was considered an experiment.  Two decades later, we find it is a mature management approach.  Throughout broader departmental changes, unit self-management has continued to both fit into the changed departmental structures and to thrive.