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Library Collections, Acquisitions,

& Technical Services 25 (2001) 6779

Physical settings and organizational success

Mary Ellen Kenreich*
Acquisitions Librarian, Portland State University, P.O. Box 1151, Portland, OR 97207, USA

Received 10 November 2000

Physical settings will affect our work positively, negatively, or not at all. Being aware of a physical
environment and its impact on work can help us redesign existing space or create new areas to meet
our needs. Making specific changes to the physical settings can facilitate desired changes in an
organization. The author shares a method of evaluating physical settings using six dimensions:
security and shelter, social contact, symbolic identification, task instrumentality, pleasure, and growth.
Examples are given from three academic library technical services areas. 2001 Elsevier Science
Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Physical setting; Office layout; Organizational change; Space planning; Workspace

1. Introduction

Why are physical settings important? If weve been working at the same place for a long
time, we probably dont think about our surroundings. We go to work to work. As long as
the setting doesnt impede us from getting our work done, why think about it? Weve learned
to work around minor inconveniences. In fact, weve gotten so used to it that it doesnt seem
inconvenient. Why is Acquisitions in this section of the room and Cataloging over there? We
probably assume that whoever originally designed Technical Services put some thought into
it and determined that this is the best arrangement. Besides, there is no money for improve-
ments, so why even dwell on it?
Lets take a look at this room. What makes it a good place to give or listen to a
presentation? Are there any negative features about it? Is it too hot or too cold in the room?

* Tel.: 1-503-725-5780; fax: 1-503-725-5799.

E-mail address: (M.E. Kenreich).

1464-9055/01/$ see front matter 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S 1 4 6 4 - 9 0 5 5 ( 0 0 ) 0 0 1 8 9 - 5
68 M.E. Kenreich / Libr. Coll. Acq. & Tech. Serv. 25 (2001) 6779

Is the lighting adequate? Are the chairs comfortable? Is it conducive for taking notes? Is the
view distracting? Can you hear me well? Can you see and read the screen?
We are always in a physical setting, and the setting will do one of three things [1]. First,
it will contribute positively to what we are doing. At lunch I presume we will all have tables
and chairs to sit at and eat our food. Hopefully, the noise level will be such that we can easily
converse and interact with others at our table. If so, the setting will contribute positively to
the task of eating and interacting. Second, a setting may be irrelevant to what we are trying
to do. At the break we just had, most of you stood around and talked with others. Now, the
setting did contribute positivelythe table of food helped bring us together, and without it
we may have disbursed. But really, the conversation you had probably could have taken
place in the hallway, the lobby, or even the parking lot. The setting was irrelevant to your
conversation. The third thing a setting may be is completely inappropriate for what were
trying to do. I prepared for part of this presentation in a study carrel on a quiet floor in the
PSU Library. I had been there for about an hour and was making good progressthe quiet
setting contributed positively to my concentration. Then a group of giggly teenage girls
showed up and camped out at the table behind me. Suddenly the setting was inappropriate
for getting my work done.
What I want to give you in this presentation are questions to ask yourself and ideas to
think about when you look at your current physical setting, and what to keep in mind if you
are designing a new space. We should learn to be aware of the physical environment around
us and be able to change the environment to meet our needs. Its a process of looking at the
setting, determining what work were trying to do, asking if the setting is appropriate for our
work, and what we could do to make it better.
Physical settings can also contribute to organizational change. Lets say that there are
some problems in the library or in Technical Services, and you all leave the office area or the
library for a few hours for a retreat. At the retreat you identify some problems and solutions
and resolve to go back and do better. Making changes in the physical setting can help you
meet those resolutions. Let me give you a simple example. Lets say that youve identified
a problem of lack of communication between two individuals in different sections of
Technical Services or between two departments or groups of people. You reached agreement
between the individuals or groups that, Yes, okay, we will communicate better and share
more information. Theyve even gone to workshops to learn better communication skills.
But nothing changes in the physical setting to help better communication occur. Lets say
that one individual is on one side of a large room and she has put up barricades around her
desk to give her some privacy and discourage interruptions. The other person is on the other
side of the room with or without similar barricades. Between them is a maze of other desks,
shelving, and offices. Neither of these two individuals work space is on the way to anyplace,
such as the restroom, the drinking fountain, or the entrance or exit way. Will these two be
able to maintain their resolutions and promises to communicate better? I forgot to mention
that they dont particularly like each other.
After considering all aspects of these individuals jobs, including the benefits of better
communication, you may decide to move their two work spaces closer together. Youve
gotten agreement and commitment that they will try to communicate better, theyre learning
the skills to do so, and there is now nothing in the physical setting that makes it difficult or
M.E. Kenreich / Libr. Coll. Acq. & Tech. Serv. 25 (2001) 6779 69

inconvenient for it to happen. In this case, changing the physical setting may remove the last
obstacle to better communication and bring about the desired change.
A technique I want to share with you for evaluating a physical setting is from a book by
Fred I. Steele called Physical Settings and Organization Development. Steele suggests using
six dimensions for evaluation: security & shelter, social contact, symbolic identification, task
instrumentality, pleasure, and growth. Ill describe each dimension, explain why it is
important, discuss what to look for when using the dimensions to evaluate a work space,
offer questions to ask yourself, and suggest the difference it makes.

2. The libraries evaluated

In describing these dimensions I will illustrate with examples from three different library
technical services departments. Using Steeles method, I did an evaluation of the technical
services areas at Portland State University, the University of Portland, and the University of
Oregon. PSUs Technical Services is in a building separate from public services and what is
considered the main library. We occupy a large room on one floor of the student union. When
the current student union was built, it originally housed the entire library. A new library was
built in 1968, but it wasnt large enough to include Technical Services. The library was
expanded in 1991, but still there was no room for Technical Services. Our space in the
student union was last remodeled in 1968. PSU has approximately 16,000 students, a library
staff of 76, with 35 of those staff in Technical Services.
The University of Portland is a small private Catholic university with a student population
of 2,400 and a library staff of 18. Seven of those staff are in Technical Services. The library
was built in 1958, with a new addition built in 1978.
The University of Oregon has approximately 17,000 students and UOs Knight Library is
the largest of the three that I evaluated with a total library staff of 146, sixty of whom are
in Technical Services. UOs Technical Services area is also the newest of the three. Although
the library was built in 1937, it was remodeled and expanded in 1950, 1966, and most
recently in 1994.
The Technical Services area I evaluated at PSU is one large rectangular room, with a full
bank of windows along two sides of the room (Fig. 1). The room houses Monograph
Acquisitions, Serials, and Cataloging. Individual offices or cubicles are created using mod-
ular panels, bookshelves, and other odds and ends. With the exception of the rest rooms and
the conference room, there are no floor-to-ceiling walls.
The University of Portland Library Technical Services occupies three separate rooms
arranged in an L shape (Fig. 2). The main entrance is from Circulation and opens into the
largest room where Acquisitions, Serials, and the Library Support Specialist are located.
Four library staff have desks in this room, plus work spaces for two student assistants. By
walking through this room and turning left, you will enter a smaller room where Cataloging
is located with work areas for two library staff and one student assistant. Walk through
Cataloging and you enter the Head of Technical Services office.
The Acquisitions/Serials room is generally an open design with shelving strategically
placed to define the work spaces. In the Cataloging room, one office is separate, using
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Fig. 1. Portland State University T.S.

five-foot-high modular panels. There are windows along one wall in each of the rooms. The
windows are narrow, maybe 18 inches wide and are interspersed with a section of red brick
wall approximately two feet wide between each window.
The University of Oregon Technical Services area is in one large room like PSU, but
maybe twice as large (Fig. 3). It is primarily an area of offices and work spaces made out of
five-foot-high modular paneling. The only floor-to-ceiling walls are those that make up the
offices of the Heads of Acquisitions, Cataloging, and Preservation & Binding Departments,
in addition to a Conference Room and a Systems equipment room. The only outside light
comes from three good-sized windows in the corner where the Acquisitions Dept. is located.
I should mention that the Systems Department, as well as ILL, are also part of Technical
Services. I did not include them because they are located outside of this large room.

3. Security & shelter

The first dimension is security & shelter. This is the most basic function of a physical work
setting. The security and shelter dimension corresponds to psychologist Abraham H.
Maslows model of basic human needs. Maslow said that human needs can be arranged in
a hierarchy where upper level needs do not come into play until lower level needs are
satisfied. Maslows model progresses from physiological needs, to safety and security
concerns, to the needs for love and a feeling of belonging, to esteem and self worth needs,
and finally to self-actualization and self-fulfillment needs. Maslow suggests that our needs
for food, shelter, and safety must be met before a need for love emerges [2]. Does the setting
M.E. Kenreich / Libr. Coll. Acq. & Tech. Serv. 25 (2001) 6779 71

Fig. 2. University of Portland T.S.

provide protection from harmful or unwanted stimuli? If the setting doesnt satisfy this first
function or dimension, it will be difficult to meet the other functions. For example, it is
difficult to focus on work or the task at hand if you are too cold, too hot, or it is too noisy.
In most libraries we assume that there will be shelter from outdoor elements. Usually there
is some sort of temperature or climate control (even though it may not always work!) Are we
sheltered from loud noises and noxious odors? Are the working spaces cramped or over-
crowded? A point to keep in mind is that we all have different tolerance levels for our
physical and mental comfort. I tend toward feeling rather cool and spend most of the year in
turtlenecks and sweaters while my coworkers are in short sleeves year round. Also, there are
different group norms and needs, and even different cultures will define, for example, what
overcrowding is. The goal is to strive for a range where the majority of staff will be
Also in this dimension is the issue of psychic security. Are we safe from unwanted
stimuli? Do we have control over stimuli or are we bombarded with sights, sounds, and
smells? Are we subjected to constant interruptions? Does the staff have privacy? Can they
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Fig. 3. University of Oregon T.S.

control who can interrupt them, who can overhear their conversations, and who can observe
them? Are you relatively secure from workplace violence or theft?
As I mentioned before, Technical Services at PSU is in the student union. Because we are
an urban campus, because reports of workplace violence have become more prevalent, and
because we are very accessible by the general public and we have had thefts in the past, our
entrances via the elevator and the stairwell are now only accessible with a key. In Technical
Services at the University of Portland, there are three entrances from inside the library. The
two entrances from the reference stacks area are locked. The third door, which is considered
the main entrance into Technical Services is unlocked and usually open, but passes through
Circulation, which acts as a buffer from wandering library patrons. University of Oregons
Technical Services has three doors that open into the public area of the library. The doors are
unlocked during daytime business hours although the Head of Acquisitions said the issue of
locking the doors is occasionally discussed.

4. Social contact

The second dimension to evaluate is social contact. Two main questions are how much
contact does the setting allow for and contribute to; and how much do the users of the space
want? Some of us like to work alone. Some of us chose technical services work because we
didnt want to work with the public as much as reference staff do. Working with books,
computers, and the details of bibliographic records is just fine. But, there are some organi-
zational advantages to social contact. If our setting is more likely to bring us together, it gives
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us some camaraderie and good feelings about being part of a group. Social contact also
allows for a better exchange of information and working together to solve problems [3]. Have
you ever overheard staff discussing a problem, and you have information that will help solve
it, or you know who does? You, and your staff, are more likely to share information and
discuss problems with the person in the office or at the desk next to you, than you are with
the person fifty feet away, for whom you have to get up and go toand they may not even
be in their office when you get there! Youre more likely to have regular contact with the
people nearby. Under the dimension, social contact, you can think in terms of arrangement,
proximity, and mobility. Under arrangement, ask whether the setting brings people together
or pushes them apart. Is the furniture moveable? For example, can you take a chair into
someones office area to converse? Have individuals put up barriers or arranged the furniture
in their offices to discourage social contact? Is there easy opportunity for conversation? Is
there visual contact between staff in their work areas? You are likely to have more interaction
with staff you can see, and less with those you cannot see.
Think about proximity and mobility. Are any areas closer to an entrance or throughway?
If so, it provides more opportunities for social contact. Is there a central gathering place? To
what extent is physical mobility allowed or required? Does the work take you or your staff
into other areas? Remember when we didnt have computers at our desks, and had to get up
and go to a terminal area or room to use OCLC or the online catalog? Technical services
work now requires less mobility. And staff may have less social contact because of it.
At the University of Portland Technical Services, the Library Support Specialist has her
desk facing the main entrance into the technical services area. She has no extra barriers
around her desk. She seems very approachable and usually greets staff and visitors as they
enter Technical Services. Most Technical Services staff tend to use this entrance, so the
Department Head and the Cataloging staff will pass through the Acquisitions/Serials room,
allowing opportunities for interaction. Two of the Acquisitions and Serials staff do have
barriers erected, such as desk organizers, books, and computers strategically placed, but their
desks are facing the center of the room, so they are not completely shutting themselves off
from social contact. There is visual contact between pairs of staff and there are extra chairs
in the room that can be moved next to any staff members desk for more lengthy conver-
At the PSU Technical Services, there is very little fixed furniture, allowing individuals to
either seek or avoid social contact. The Unit Heads are in close proximity to their staff. Each
of the units has a special place identified to celebrate events such as birthdays. However,
there is no central gathering spot, and the break room is three floors below in the basement.
The three units really work separately even though they are all in the same room. Although
there is much interaction within each unit, there is often little interaction between units. The
only shared work space (the copy/fax room, conference room, and entranceway) are starkly
furnished and do not encourage social interaction.
At the University of Oregon, the five-foot-high modular panels do not bring people
together. In Acquisitions there is little visual contact from individual cubicles, but the
doorways are wide and it is easy to walk into each others spaces. The chairs are moveable
and can easily be wheeled into someones office for conversation. The Acquisitions Manager
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and at least one other staff do have their workstations facing the doorway making them
appear more approachable.
Much of Cataloging at University of Oregon is divided into two-person teams. Each
two-person team shares a wide rectangular work space where they are enclosed on three sides
by five-foot-high panels. The desks are generally as far apart as possible against each end of
the rectangle. A four-foot-high bookshelf is centered between the desks defining the fourth
side of the rectangle and leaving a wide entrance at each desk. There is easy visual contact
within each teamat least you can turn around and see if your teammate is at his/her desk.
However, there is not much visual contact between teams. I saw few barriers erected in either
Acquisitions or Cataloging, although one cataloging team has placed tall books on top of the
four-foot-high bookshelf at their work space entrance, and arranged it so that it is difficult to
see if the team members are there when walking by. That particular work space arrangement
with the tall books would allow less opportunity for social interaction than others.
The Head of Acquisitions office is really the only office space near an entrance or exit.
She is able to see people going into and coming out of Systems. It could mean that she has
more social contact. It is easy to stop in and ask a question, share information, or just say

5. Symbolic identification

The third dimension is symbolic identification. There are three areas to look at under this
dimension. First, what information can I get from the physical setting about Technical
Services in the context of the library as a whole? Such as, does the setting tell me how the
library values Technical Services? How does the quality of the Technical Services setting
compare to the public spaces of the library? Second, what can I tell about an individual staff
members relationship with Technical Services? Such as, do higher-ranking staff get better
offices? And third, what information can I get about an individuals personal characteristics?
Such as, have staff members made their work space their own by putting up personal
mementos and knickknacks?
Thinking about Technical Services relationship with the library, consider where the
department is located within the library. Is it on the main floor? Both University of Portland
and University of Oregon are. If sections of the library were built at different times, is
Technical Services in the newer or older section? At University of Oregon, Technical
Services (except for Systems) is in the older part of the building, but it has been nicely
remodeled. Is it tucked away in the basement or in another building entirely, such as at PSU?
What impression are they trying to give to outsiders, and to the staff? Do you remember your
first impression of Technical Services in your library? When I interviewed at PSU in 1992,
I was sure I wanted the position after spending a day and a half with the staff. But I also
remember thinking when I saw my potential office space, . . . hmm, at my last job my office
had floor-to-ceiling walls and a door! Also, I remember asking the staff, Do you mind
being over here and not in the nice new looking library across the Park Blocks? I was
assured that the advantage to being in the student union where you didnt have to walk out
M.E. Kenreich / Libr. Coll. Acq. & Tech. Serv. 25 (2001) 6779 75

in the rain to find good coffee or lunch outweighed any disadvantage to not being in the
What about individual staff members relationship within Technical Services? Can I
determine the level and status of the staff? Do the department or unit heads have bigger
offices? Are there status symbols? I have a great office in the corner with three large windows
overlooking a maple tree that changes beautifully with the seasons. I do not have a door and
my other walls are maybe six-feet high, but I see my office as a status symbol.
At University of Oregon, the department heads of Acquisitions, Cataloging, and Preser-
vation/Binding have the only offices with floor-to-ceiling walls and doors. The Acquisitions
Managers office is made of modular panels, as is the rest of the staff, but hers encloses one
of the only three windows in all of Technical Services. I saw that as a status symbol.
Let me mention Systems at University of Oregon. Although I didnt evaluate their space,
they are part of Technical Services and occupy a suite of offices in the new addition, just off
the main room of Technical Services. Their staff offices appear to be a little bit bigger, the
ceiling is higher, and there are large windows on the exterior two walls of the suite. My first
impression was that Systems is more highly thought of and thats why they get this prime
spot. The Head of Acquisitions tried to assure me that the staff size of Systems fit better into
that office suite than any of the other departments in Technical Services.
Regarding symbolic identification and personal characteristics, in each library most office
spaces were personalized with pictures, plants, posters, and/or certificates. Some were more
personally decorated than others. For those that arent as decorated, is it a personal prefer-
ence? Are they perhaps more reserved or inhibited about sharing personal artifacts? Or, do
they see their time in Technical Services as temporary? Why decorate if Im not planning to
stay long?

6. Task instrumentality

The fourth dimension is task instrumentality. Can we do the work we need to do in this
setting? This dimension is divided into physical activities, activities with interaction, and
individual mental activities. Questions to ask under physical activity include, is there enough
space to do the work, or do the work spaces look cramped? What is the quality of the
materials? Where is the equipment that the staff need? Is it on each staff members desk, in
his or her work space, or elsewhere and, if so, is it all in one place? Is there enough light to
do the work? Is the space flexible or was it designed for only one purpose? For example, now
we all have computers in our officesis there enough room? Were we able to rearrange the
space to provide room for individuals computers?
At PSU, because weve turned former shared computer terminal areas into individual
offices and, in some cases, reduced staff, weve been able to slightly increase individual
office space. Most office spaces have room for a desk and an adjustable computer worksta-
tion, in addition to any needed shelves and tables. At the University of Portland I noticed that
computers are on top of desks rather than on separate workstations. The work areas look a
little cramped. Adequate lighting is an issue in each of the libraries. All have added desk
lamps or reduced fluorescent lighting when requested by the staff member.
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Thinking about activities with interaction, are the staff who need to talk to each other in
the same area? Is there a direct route from your office to the people you need to talk to? Are
there opportunities for impromptu interactions? Impromptu conversations can be stimulating
and provide new ideas but they wont happen if distance separates us.
At the University of Oregon it is pretty easy for the Acquisitions staff to talk to each
otherthey are all in the same area. Cataloging is more spread out, but arranged in
two-person teams so that team members can easily communicate and work together. Are
there opportunities for impromptu conversations? Its hard to say. Both University of Oregon
and PSU are arranged where Cataloging is at one end of the room and Acquisitions is at the
other. At PSU Serials occupies the area in between. The paths to the entrances, restrooms,
and water cooler are located so that staff do not have to pass through another section. The
University of Portland setting may provide the most opportunities for impromptu interaction
because of its smaller size.
How easy is interaction with Public Services? At PSU, we are two blocks away. Reference
librarians come to Technical Services to review approval books and Technical Services
librarians serve on committees that meet in the main library, but there are fewer opportunities
for interaction among the classified staff. Yes, they are only a phone call or e-mail message
away, but it is not the same as at the drinking fountain or in the break room when you find
yourself unexpectedly talking about a work problem with someone completely unrelated to
the problem. That person may suggest a new solution or just in verbalizing the problem, new
ideas occur to you.
The third part of the dimension is individual mental activities. Are the physiological
conditions conducive to the work? Is it too hot or cold? Too noisy to concentrate? Are there
constant interruptions? Does the setting stimulate creative thinking?
In all three technical services areas there is a general hushed feeling. Although conver-
sations arent private, the modular panels and full bookshelves help absorb sound. At PSU, the
linoleum floor covering could contribute to more noise, but most staff wear quiet shoes.
University of Oregon is also very quiet. Its modular panels absorb sound in addition to being fully
carpeted, making it easy to silently walk through. University of Portland may be the noisiest due
to its small size. But it, too, is carpeted making conversation the only noise distraction.
How about visual stimulation? Its obvious that all three of these areas are Technical
Services Departments. You dont have to walk very far before you see books with slips in
them, boxes stacked, book trucks, and piles of magazines and journals. There is a lot of visual
stimulation. At the University of Portland, the tall narrow windows are very nice for visual
stimulation. The sections of red brick wall between each window are a nice color contrast to
the putty colored walls and carpet. At the University of Oregon, although I liked the shades
of dusty pink or rose throughout the room, there is an overall sameness to the modular walls.
It is up to each individual to put pictures up on their walls to stimulate thinking.

7. Pleasure

The fifth dimension is pleasure. Does it feel good to be there? We spend so much of our
waking hours at work, shouldnt it be in a setting in which we feel comfortable and can take
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pleasure in? Even if you dont like the work or project youre trying to finish, if you like your
office, youll probably stay there longer.
Qualities of the setting that would support this pleasure dimension are: colors, arrange-
ment of objects, the amount and quality of light, and smells and sounds. Is the area kept up
and cared for? Is your chair comfortable?
Lighting was a quality I noticed in each library. At PSU, although natural light filters in
from the banks of exterior windows along two walls, dark furniture and book shelving meet
it. Most of the shelving is dark green, gray, brown, and even black, which absorb light rather
than reflect it. At University of Oregon, I found the Acquisitions area to be lighter and more
pleasurable than Cataloging. As I mentioned before, Acquisitions is set up near the only
windows in Technical Services. The walkways and offices seem more spacious. Acquisitions
also has more open areas such as where the serials receiving and sorting tables are. There are
fluorescent light fixtures throughout, although they are more closely arranged above the
receiving tables. I think the concentrated lighting, in addition to the natural light from the
windows, make Acquisitions more pleasurable. But throughout UO Technical Services, all
the shelving and work space furniture is a light gray, which helps to counteract the lack of
natural light in the rest of the area.
At University of Portland, I found the Cataloging room brighter than the Acquisitions/
Serials room. In Cataloging, the fluorescent light fixtures are closer together and are of a
shape that gives off more light than those in the other room. The shelving in Cataloging is
light blue, whereas in the Acquisitions/Serials room it is dark green. The modular panel
around the Cataloging librarians desk is light gray, which also helps make the room brighter.
Two of the desks in that room, as well as the book trucks, are also light gray. In Acquisitions/
Serials almost all the desks and tables are a dark colored wood.

8. Growth

The last dimension to evaluate is growth. We grow by adding to the skills that we use in
understanding the world. Were better able to solve problems effectively. Does our physical
setting promote learning new skills, greater self-esteem, and a greater sense of competence?
Is the stimulation diverse? If stimulation is too much or too little, it wont promote growth.
For example, if you are bombarded with sights and sounds, your mind may tend to shut
down. On the other hand if you only work with people like yourself, or who never disagree
with you, there is little stimulation to come up with alternative solutions or new ideas. The
same is true in physical settings where diversity in your surroundings will help give you new
perspectives and perceptions.
Does the setting allow you to see how things work? Can the staff see the whole system
and see where their tasks fit in? Being able to see the big picture makes it more likely for
you to see new opportunities to impact the big picture. Im sure weve all worked with staff
who are concerned with only their small aspect of the library. I have to get this stack of
journals checked in, or . . . this list of requests ordered, or . . . this truck of books
cataloged, etc. They dont want to think about why we check in journals, whos going to use
the book theyre ordering or cataloging, what information should they share with coworkers,
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or even if they are doing the task the most efficient way. Wouldnt we like at least the
physical setting to promote growth in these individuals?
Can the setting be changed? A good growth exercise is to redesign your space. Its a good
exercise because you get immediate feedback. It works or it doesnt. You like it or you dont.
Not like some changes you make such as changing a process and having to wait months to
find out whether youve improved things or not. Do you have to make the setting work for
you? If the setting doesnt work as is, figuring out a way to make it work increases
problem-solving skills. And if you work on it as a group, it increases your group problem-
solving skills.
Regarding social interaction and growth, groups that separate themselves from each other,
dont grow. It fosters a were right, youre wrong attitude. Are there a lot of barriers to
Technical Services? Do the Public Services staff who venture into Technical Services feel
welcome? Or, do we try to keep them out? How about interaction with your supervisor? Is
there visual contact between staff and supervisor? If not, its possible that the staff will make
more decisions on their own, take more risks, and learn from their mistakes.
In all three libraries it is easy for technical services staff to never enter the public areas of
the library. They all have their own entrances and exits. As I mentioned before, at PSU were
in a completely separate building. It will be years before our setting will change to put us all
in the same building. It may be a good idea now to look for opportunities for Technical
Services staff to interact more with library patrons, or at least public services staff. At PSU,
Technical Services is invited to help staff the Information Desk where patrons can get
answers to catalog and directional questions. Working there gives them a wider view of the
library, provides opportunities to work with our internal and external clients, and allows them
to see the end results of their work. All these factors increase the potential for growth.

9. Conclusion

Why should you evaluate your setting? Its fine. No ones complaining. The work is
getting done. But, do you know if your staff is working to their fullest potential? Do you
think youd see results if you just told everyone, I want you to work harder? Well, you may
see some results depending on your staff and your relationship with them. But I think you
will see more results if, in addition to saying, Work harder, improvements are made to the
setting. With these improvements, youve removed all impediments that would keep them
from working harder. Youve made it easy for those who need to interact. Youve improved
the symbolic identification so that the staff now takes pride in working in Technical Services
and they find it pleasurable to be there eight hours a day. And there are opportunities for
A way to use your physical setting evaluation is to think of a problem in your organization.
Is it communication? Is it attitude or morale? Is it workflow? Is there too big a rift between
Technical Services and Public Services? You can give everyone a psychological test to
identify personality types and how to work with them, or send them to workshops to learn
communication skills. You can do a management analysis to determine improvements to
workflow. You can, maybe, give everyone a raise to improve morale. All of these are good
M.E. Kenreich / Libr. Coll. Acq. & Tech. Serv. 25 (2001) 6779 79

things to do to bring specific change and improvement to an organization. And with changes
to the physical setting, you can reinforce those organizational changes youre trying to bring
about. There is no best way of organizing the physical setting of Technical Services. What
is important is the problem-solving process of evaluating a current setting, determining the
technical work needs of the system, and considering the personal human needs of the staff.


This presentation was an expansion of a class assignment in a course on Organization

Development taken through the graduate program in Public Administration at Portland State
University where the author recently received her M.P.A. The author wishes to thank
classmates, Erica Hopper and Lisa Snodderly, who participated in the evaluation of PSUs
Technical Services area. Thanks also for information and assistance from Terry Ann Rohe,
Head of Technical Services at Portland State University; Susan Hinken, Head of Technical
Services at University of Portland; and Nancy Slight-Gibney, Head of Acquisitions at
University of Oregon.


[1] Most of the information in this presentation is from Physical Settings and Organization Development by Fred
I. Steele (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1973). The only exceptions are information specifically cited from
other sources, information about the three libraries and their institutions, and the authors own observations
and her examples relating to libraries and library work.
[2] Hellriegel, Don; John W. Slocum, Jr; and Richard W. Woodman. Organizational Behavior, 8th ed. Cincin-
nati: South-Western College Publishing, 1998.
[3] Moleski, Walter H, and Jon T. Lang. Organizational Goals, and Human Needs in Office Planning,
Behavioral Issues in Office Design, ed. Jean D. Wineman. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1986, pp.