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J Med Libr Assoc. Jan 2006; 94(1): 93–94.
PMCID: PMC1324780

Medical Library Downsizing: Administrative, Professional and Personal Strategies for Coping with Change

Reviewed by Eileen H. Stanley, AHIP, Library Services

Michael J Schott.
Medical Library Downsizing: Administrative, Professional and Personal Strategies for Coping with Change.
Binghamton, NY: Haworth Information Press. 2005. 153p. $19.95. ISBN: 978-0-7890-0420-8

With humor, Schott delivers practical advice for coping through his bemused reminiscences on what started out as health care–specific downsizing experiences. But, as the reader quickly learns, the phenomenon of downsizing has spread far and wide in the public, education, and for-profit sectors and may even be generalized to any and all bad company-wide events. Schott relies heavily on the business literature for background, and a quick search reveals a dearth of articles or monographs dealing with medical library downsizing. Schott weaves history, business, philosophy, and comic strips into a concise handbook for preparing for and dealing with inevitable change related to downsizing activities.

This small, easy-to-read volume has just nine chapters. It includes an annotated literature list in chapter 2. Although some obvious references are lacking, the list is a good selection of recent defense articles on library and librarian value. Very useful arguments to the “it's all on the Internet and it's free” philosophy are presented with references on pages 34 to 35. Six of the nine chapters follow a sequential series of downsizing stages with anecdotes, strategies, and role-playing scenarios. Each chapter or stage has at least one good idea to implement for the library or librarian in those circumstances. For the most part, these stages are from the view of the librarian as manager who must plan and implement a downsizing strategy. These coping strategies are not only in the realm of managers. Recommended reading throughout the volume is diverse, varying from war stories to baseball coaching, Rudy Giuliani to Martha Stewart to Charles Schulz. Each recommendation is intended to build the librarian's toolkit, suggest strategies, plan communications, spread humor, and offer support.

Page for page, this book has the highest density of good ideas this reviewer has seen in the professional library literature. If you are doing all of them, you probably will not be a victim of downsizing or need to read this book. But there is always room for improvement, and readers should find at least one new idea. Ultimately, the book even reminds you to look out for number one and shows what to do if you are the one who gets downsized. The book ends with a reminder that downsizings tend to fail and survivors tend to suffer, and the author's aspiration to science fiction writing is seen in the cautionary tale presented in the last chapter. The final message is that librarians may in the long run, and after all, be ultimately responsible for our own fate and need to work now toward building a body of evidence of our worth. Then we should spend time telling the tales to those who need to hear it.

The author at times seems supercilious, speaking as if everyone's experience will be just as he has described it. Subsequent readings reduced that impression, and the suggestions he makes provide the best, most workable strategies. The humor and variety of social references do reveal the author's sincere intent to inform and assist his colleagues.

Articles from Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA are provided here courtesy of Medical Library Association
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