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This article is reproduced by permission from Staffing For Results: A Guide to Working Smarter by Diane Mayo and Jeanne Goodrich, copyright 2002 by the American Library Association.

Staff Time - A Limited Resource

The most common complaint of staff is that there isn't time to get all of the work done. Mastering new skills, supporting new or expanded services, and keeping up with all of the traditional services at the same time is impossible. It is important to remember that most library staffs are not sitting around with extra time on their hands. Staffs are fully employed doing the jobs they were hired to do. To add to those jobs or change them significantly means changing the way staff allocate the hours of their days. It means doing some tasks in less time or dropping some tasks altogether to make time for new tasks.

Efficiency means "doing things right", and effectiveness means "doing the right things." Efficiency and effectiveness are not natural outcomes of daily operations. They require effort to achieve and regular monitoring to maintain. They are also constantly moving targets. Efficiency is affected both by the way things are done and by the available tools. Effectiveness is based on doing those things that will result in achieving the library's goals. As a library's service goals evolve, so, too does the determination of which tasks are most effective in supporting those goals.

Distributing work among staff is one of the most challenging tasks in an organization. It raises issues of reasonable expectations, fairness and organizational values. Everyone wants to feel that the tasks they are assigned are important in accomplishing the library's goals and are valued by the organization. Everyone also wants to feel that the people around them are pulling their fair share of the load. However, some staff members feel they are being asked to work harder than others, or they feel the tasks they have been assigned are not relevant to achieving the library's priorities as they understand them. How many times have you heard reference staff complain that helping people with Internet computers keeps them from doing their "real" work of answering reference questions. more>>