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Memphis Public Library System Restructuring Project: Strengthening the Library Workforce to Meet Citizen Needs

Memphis Public Library & Informatin Center

Innovation Summary

Several years of budget challenges provided the incentive and opportunity to think differently about the library system’s organizational structure and allocation of workforce. As a result, restructuring efforts in 2012 resulted in a more efficient system that is better able to support organizational and user needs.

Problem Statement

Over the past five years the library system’s staff complement reduced from close to 400 positions to approximately 270 positions, while customer usage remained the same or even increased in certain areas. Much of the reduction is attributed to attrition and positions that were on hold due to a strategic slowdown in hiring. However, the adopted FY2012 budget included elimination of the library’s part-time employee workforce, which involved laying-off 43 part-time employees. Loss of these positions left operational gaps throughout the organization and impacted reference service, circulation service, adult/youth programming, material shelving and delivery services, cataloging and material processing, marketing, and many other areas of library service.


The library’s management team developed a restructuring plan that offered a staffing model that provided a more balanced, efficient, and equitable workforce allocation. The staffing model created standard staff complements for public service agencies (i.e. 17 branch libraries and 6 Central Library subject departments), based on agency service levels and hours of operation. The restructuring plan also involved rightsizing the library’s administrative and support service workforce to reflect changes in operational priorities and resources. For example, the plan involved restructuring the branches organizational/administrative structure to reduce three regions (and three regional managers) to two regions (and two regional managers). Although the new budget year brought part-time lay-offs, it also made available a number of previously held full-time position vacancies that were included in the restructuring plan. As a result, a number of the already trained/experienced part-time employees were hired to work in full-time positions. The restructuring plan required staff transfers to satisfy the staffing model. The library’s management team reassigned staff to positions and locations that benefitted not only library, but also the employees’ personal needs. A metric was developed that factored staff skill level and interests, community needs, and staff residence in relation to branch location. As a result, the reassignments were perfect matches thought the library system.


As a result of the restructuring project, the library now operates within a staffing model that provides a more balanced, efficient, and equitable system-wide workforce. All agencies are able to meet the needs of its users and surrounding communities as a result of staff sharing. In addition, although the library system’s overall workforce is smaller than it was 5 years ago, due to restructuring/reassignments, many more employees have broader knowledge of system operations and are able to successfully perform job duties at multiple locations. This has allowed the library system to quickly/efficiently adjust and balance the workforce to meet user demand when staffing shortages occur.