Publication Date

Fall 10-2015

Document Type



In a system with multiple service points, how can leadership work together to keep the library as a whole relevant and central to students? James Madison University Libraries created the Joint Library Services Leadership Team, which works outside traditional departmental silos to provide coherent, consistent, and collaborative services regardless of location.

Three major service points of James Madison University Libraries, the two main library circulation/reference departments and the media resources center, have historically been both physically and philosophically separate from each other. Although the departments shared common goals of providing excellent student learning-focused services, they did not systematically work together to do so. Library hierarchical structures placed each department parallel to the others, with limited connections across leadership levels.

As a result, each created unique services and outreach and competed in planning and budgeting processes. When collaboration across the departments happened, it was often project based, convenient, personality driven, and an extra duty on top of regular job expectations. Some excellent service programs came out of these ad hoc collaborations, including the development of core competencies for circulation services, joint training events, and the development of and training on procedures for emergency response.

This competitive model did not help the libraries fulfill the goal of providing student learning-focused services that are consistent, cohesive, and collaborative across locations and departments. After much debate, and some changes in personnel, the leadership of the three departments reworked the parallel department model to place collaboration in service planning and deployment at the center, with departmental hierarchies radiating out in rings.

This allows for collaboration to be thoughtful, deliberate, intentional, position driven, and included in job expectations at all levels. While the departments are still physically separated, the philosophical differences melt away, allowing for joint services and outreach, and shared planning and budgeting. It is the experience – and the continuing hope – of the JLSL Team that this model allows the three departments to lead from the center out ensures that we put our services and outreach for our students, and their academic, civic, and cultural lives, at the center of our concerns.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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