ceptible to control. Here the committee simply observes that the collection of these practices makes it harder to recruit, hire, train, and retain staff than is generally the case in the commercial and academic sectors and in particular makes it extremely difficult to attract and retain IT staff.

In the 1970s, a group of LC employees filed a class-action case against the Library alleging racial discrimination. Known as “the Cook case” (see Box 7.1), the case was settled in the mid-1990s with a consent decree that adds several layers of court-ordered procedural steps to all hiring and review of personnel. The resources of LC have been focused as never before on achieving a more diverse workforce with greater equality of opportunity. That remains and should remain a central institutional priority. In an environment of limited resources (in terms of both dollars and management attention), however, one undeniable effect of this decree has been to divert attention from other institutional priorities. In the short term, hiring has become slower and more cumbersome, just at a moment when technical staff particularly are pursued with increasing speed and agility by virtually every other sector of the economy. The committee has been encouraged to think that both sides in the case may be nearing the point where they can agree under court direction to terminate the consent decree and move toward hiring practices that are more flexible and that at the same time more effectively build opportunity for all. Achievement of this goal would have a positive effect on morale, productivity, and management throughout the Library.

The Library is in many respects an aging institution with long-established practices. The committee was surprised that information technology initiatives are still spoken of at LC as exercises in “automation,” in a way that is seldom heard elsewhere. There are many reasons to leave that language and that habit of thought behind, not least because it is suggestive of outmoded management practices that are rightly held in low esteem by staff representatives. Civil service regulations and the Cook case may explain partly, but cannot account for completely, why LC continues with management practices that are redolent of old, assembly-line methods. Reinventing the processes will mean reinventing the work, an effort that will in turn require close collaboration between LC management and the unions.1 They must find and share a common vision of a workforce that is more highly skilled and more highly paid and then seek a strategy to approach that vision in a way that maximizes opportunity for all those

1  

The Library of Congress has four labor unions: AFSCME 2477 (representing nonprofessional staff), AFSCME 2910 (representing professional staff), the Congressional Research Employees Association (representing all employees of CRS), and the Fraternal Order of Police (representing all of the police officers at LC).



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