March 19, 2018

David Orenstein | Movers & Shakers 2003

Make It Better

Each time David Orenstein takes a new position, he says he tries to “approach the job as a sort of consultant and always keeps asking, ‘What is happening here and how can we make it better?'” Though he has worked in many library settings – public and academic, large and small – the issues are basically the same: “How are we going to provide this service, and how are we going to pay for this?”

When he came to Montgomery College Libraries 18 months ago, he didn’t have to dig very deeply before determining that first and foremost “pay equity really needed to be addressed.” In fact, the issue had been kicking around for nearly a decade. Professional salaries at the library had been brought up for review in 1994 and 1997, to no avail. Meanwhile, the economy was going sour. “I knew I was running against the clock and at the same time had to battle conventional wisdom,” Orenstein says. “The staff had been through this twice before and had every reason to say, ‘This won’t work.'”

But with Orenstein’s leadership and the support of his superiors, the staff once again dusted off their Job Information Questionnaires (JIQs) to begin the review process. Their revised JIQs emphasized student interaction and technology, playing up the fact that the libraries report to IT. “One of our arguments is that we are knowledge workers,” explains Orenstein. “While we don’t have a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, we are doing high-end technical work, manipulating data, and running reports.” Orenstein backed up the JIQs with a detailed report (see Vitals) that draws on Association of College and Research Libraries statistics for authority.

A year went by in meetings with human resources and three rounds of JIQ revisions, but the payoff made it all worthwhile: ten percent across-the-board raises for professional staff, which translate to about $7000 per person, and increases for non-MLS supervisors as well. Paraprofessional assistants are being considered as part of a campuswide review of customer service positions that was largely spurred by the library review process.

Orenstein did not place his own position up for review and says he won’t until the paraprofessional issues are resolved. “As a manager, it is important that you work hard to advocate for your staff,” Orenstein explains, “so your staff can advocate for the public.”


Current Position: Manager of Libraries, Montgomery College Libraries, Rockville, MD

Degree: MLS, City University of New York, Queens College, 1990; MS, Nonprofit Management, New York University, 1995

Report: Trends in the Library Profession and the Impact of Technology at the Montgomery College Libraries