What you are about to read has been several days in the making and is not intended to be interpreted as a defense of particular people or the institutions to which they belong. Instead, it is a measured response to the results of the Regional Directors’ Survey and to the comments made by individual members of the depository community. These results and comments are now available on the FDLP Desktop at http://www.fdlp.gov/regionals/study.html
If this response is successful, what you will see is a philosophical analysis of human and organizational behavior as it impacts the current discussions about Regional Depository Libraries. The response is also an acknowledgment of the right for people to express their dissatisfaction with the current Regional System--and a plea for our depository libraries here in Louisiana to be more actively engaged in local policy/procedural issues that must, in turn, conform to the policies and procedures of the GPO/FDLP.
If everyone in the Louisiana Depository Community communicates forthrightly about both the good and the not-so-good aspects of our current system, we should be able to reach consensus and avoid the majority of problems that have been highlighted in some of the responses to GPO’s Regional Study. Two of the responses from Louisiana Selective Depositories were shared with others in our community before being posted on the Desktop; one of those responses was quite favorable, one was not. The not-so-favorable one made some good points, as you will see acknowledged below; but most of those points have their origins in the past—and we need to be looking toward the future if we want to make satisfactory changes to our environment. There was a third comment that appears to be from Louisiana (in spite of GPO’s efforts to camouflage all the responses, certain tell-tale culturally and geographically oriented words stood out in some of them). This third comment was hard-hitting and provocative enough to give rise to this response—and again, the emphasis in this response should not be construed as a rebuttal as much as a desire to open the dialogue further and address the needs of all Louisiana Depository Libraries, both Regionals and Selectives alike.
In the political arena, we hear a lot about “Special Interests” and how they control our government and, by extension, our society. However, before “Special Interests,” there were good old-fashioned “Self-Interests”—the most individuated level of “looking out for number one.”
According to a well-known online quotation resource, Bartleby.com, the 17th century French writer Francois, Duc De La Rochefoucauld, had quite a lot to say about self-interest. Two examples follow:
Self-interest makes some people blind, and others sharp-sighted.
Virtues lose themselves in self-interest, as rivers in the sea.
Taking each of the above quotes in turn, it seems that (1) self-interest can be either bad or good, depending upon the circumstances and (2) self-interest—when considered “bad,” i.e. “non-virtuous”—diffuses or drowns out the better human qualities. The river-to-sea simile is especially pertinent to any discussion of how the greater good can either be compromised by self-interest or conversely be strengthened by it.
When reading the various responses to the Regional Depository Study/Survey, one cannot help but notice how differently each constituency of the FDLP has responded. While each constituency is not represented by only one position, a majority position clearly prevails. Thus, directors have a view; professional organizations have their views; Regional Librarians have a view; and Selective Librarians have theirs. The problem is that most of these views reflect only self-interested positions—or is that really a problem? Does the self-interest of directors, for instance, negatively impact the FDLP system in its entirety? Should Regional Librarians stop complaining about lack of support and resources because their concerns are seen as selfish? Should the needs of the Selectives dictate how the whole program is administered?
The problem is not really that everyone is self-interested—it’s reasonable to be one’s best supporter, but the problem is that each group is so blinded by its own needs that it is not allowing its virtues to blend into the greater sea to benefit all FDLP participants. These self-interested players need new glasses in order to be sharp-sighted enough to make necessary and, above all, fair and equitable changes to the program. Now that the metaphor has been mixed and stretched to its utmost limits (apologies to the Duc), let’s talk about how we here in Louisiana can work together for a better vision.
The interested FDLP participant who looks through the recently posted “Comments Received for GPO’s Study of Regional Depository Libraries” on the FDLP Desktop, will find that a certain number of Selectives are not happy with their Regionals’ services—and that at least a couple of those Selectives are from Louisiana. It appears that the unhappiness stems from the following feelings: that there is too much turn-over in Regional Librarians; that the Regional Librarians who do come to Louisiana are not experienced enough; that these inexperienced Regional Librarians have no resources for being trained themselves or for providing training to Selective Librarians; that there are no “back-up” Regional Librarians for those times when the Regional Librarian positions are not filled; and that—for one reason or another-- not enough is being done by these Regionals in the areas of quick response to disposal lists
While this list of concerns has some validity, it does not completely nor accurately reflect the current situation in our state. Yes, there were times when each Regional had no professional librarian in the position of Head of Documents; and yes, GPO does not rush in to train new Regional Librarians; and, of course, during the stress periods of post-hurricane life in southern Louisiana, discards were not managed in the same way that they normally would/should be. Nevertheless, we now do have two Regional Librarians (more than many states have) who are trying to get acclimated to new locations, climates (both literal and figurative), and intense academic workloads.
The institutions in which they work expect them to do more than Regional Depository duties—the percentage of time allotted to Depository duties in one of the institutions is 35%--less than half of the total workload for the position of Government Documents Librarian. This thirty-five percent is actually quite generous when compared to some job descriptions for Regional Librarians in the FDLP. That said, quite a bit can be accomplished in that time frame—but only if everyone involved understands everyone else’s situation and expectations are not unrealistically high.
In the end, trust and communication are key elements to making Louisiana Depository Libraries the best that they can be. The Regionals are often placed in the awkward position of trying to please the Selectives while honoring their duties to GPO. At times it seems as if many Selectives see GPO as an enemy and expect their Regionals to take their side in what they see as a battle. Perhaps at some time in the past, this mindset was accurate; but today, with the new and proven emphasis on a more friendly and helpful GPO, this kind of combative attitude is out of synch and counter-productive.
This reference to a “kinder/gentler” GPO is the perfect segue into the conclusion of this response: as depository libraries respond to GPO’s request for feedback on the “Newly Released Public Access Assessment Initial Review Documents,” Louisiana Federal Depositories could be participating in an open discussion about these documents. Perhaps today is a bit late to begin this dialog, since tomorrow is supposed to be the deadline for sending remarks in via the Desktop; but the issue is far from set in stone—and the administration at GPO has shown itself to be receptive to suggestions for any of its programs, especially those that have an impact on the basic functions of depositories.
In summary, your Regional Librarians are also of the “kinder and gentler” model and will be happy to listen to your ideas and receive your constructive criticism. The venues for sharing are many in this era of electronic communication: Bayoudoc; the Blog (now linked from LSU’s main docs page [http://louisianadocs.blogspot.com/]); regular email; or even that old technology called the telephone can be used to express opinions, flattering or otherwise. Remember, however, that not everything can be done quickly, perfectly, and exactly the way one person wants it done. Trusting that things are being accomplished or will be accomplished to benefit the greatest number is vital to any successful group or organization. By trusting that your voice will at least be heard, you make it possible for everyone concerned to be respected and dealt with fairly and (hopefully) expeditiously. If you will excuse an old phrase from the sixties, it does seem pertinent to our current situation that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Let’s be problem solvers and communicators and make Louisiana Depository Libraries the wonderful institutions and resources we know they can be—and let’s do it together.