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portal: Libraries and the Academy 3.2 (2003) 342-344
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Technology Everywhere: A Campus Agenda for Educating and Managing Workers in the Digital Age,ed. Brian L. [End Page 342] Hawkins, Julia A. Rudy and William H. Wallace, Jr. (EDUCAUSE Leadership Strategies, no.6) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002. 146 p. $17 (ISBN 0-787-95014-9)
This sixth volume in the EDUCAUSE Leadership Strategies series addresses the issue of hiring, managing, and retaining information technology workers in higher education institutions. Like the other volumes in this series it is composed of a series of essays by experts in the field. The strength of the book is its focus: the editors view information technology (IT) workers as both those who make their living in highly technical jobs and those whose jobs involve using technology intelligently. Thus, it should be of interest to most managers in higher education, including librarians. The weakness of the book is the uneven quality and relevance of the essays, a common fault in the volumes in this series. Could library directors or chief information officers at the college or university level find this book of utility in carrying out their human resource responsibilities? Probably. But they would have to sort through a lot of pedestrian material that any manager or leader would have had to deal with many times even in a short career. This book would be of greater value to human resource (HR) managers confronted by the extraordinary challenges of IT shortages in HR systems that are still hidebound by relatively inflexible civil service rules.
This last point is made evident in a very good essay by Lauren A. Turner and Susan Perry, "Campus Human Resource Leadership: A Mandate for Change." Turner and Perry argue persuasively that much of the burden to meet IT staff shortages falls upon human resource professionals. Their theme is the need for HR leaders to become engaged in active partnerships with CIOs, library directors and other university leaders to enable easier hiring and retention of IT workers. The fact is that formulaic civil service processes and categories no longer fit today's very flexible and rapidly changing IT jobs. Turner and Perry cite a number of useful examples of institutional creativity in meeting modern technology HR challenges. Two that stand out occurred in California and Wisconsin where IT professionals worked with state HR professionals to create much more flexible IT job classification systems. These classifications, referred to as "broadbanding," were far less specific in duties and responsibilities, and far more flexible in pay scales.
Even if your institution has an HR department that is focused more on risk avoidance than flexibility, the responsibility for retaining and retraining IT staff belongs to the division manager rather than the human resource department. It is an irony that higher education generally spends less on staff development than does any other sector of our economy. Allison F. Dolan makes a series of very pertinent points in her essay, "Recruiting, Retaining, and Reskilling Campus IT Professionals." She recounts a good deal of research that indicates salary may not be the most important retention tool for IT professionals. Staff development, educational opportunities, leadership development, and formal reward structures for outstanding work enhance morale and retain good workers. Continuous education—an appalling failure at many higher education institutions—is especially critical in a very rapidly changing environment.
The capstone essay, "Leadership Challenges for the Campus and the Profession," by Brian L. Hawkins and Deanna B. Marcum is very much worth reading and pondering. Library directors and CIOs, the [End Page 343] leaders on campus who have the greatest investment in IT staffing, need to look at the campus in holistic fashion, Hawkins and Marcum argue. In the eternal battle for scarce resources true leaders must put the good of the institution before the well being of their own areas of responsibility. Too many of us, battle-scarred by fights to protect our own turf, become either paranoid or weary. The antidote to this sort of burnout is a...