February 17, 2018

Dennis Wilson | Movers & Shakers 2004


Change Through Consensus


Dennis Wilson is a patient and persistent man. After three years of observation, data gathering, extensive discussion, and presentations, he reorganized his collection development team into seven members. Before, the work was distributed among 75 people. Wilson’s motivation? The need to get products to patrons ‘as soon as possible.’ The results? The time it takes materials to reach users has been cut by two thirds. And 68 people have been reallocated to public service.

A building expansion program forced Wilson to think differently. So, too, had the rapid growth in acquisitions, from 70,000 items in 1999 to 120,000 in 2002. In Wilson’s view, collection development activities had to change to meet these new demands–especially since hiring new staff was out of the question.

With a group of dedicated key players, Wilson presented his recommendations to library administrators, demonstrating his vision of what a significant change to the organization workflow could accomplish. In the end, he outsourced, streamlined processes and procedures, reviewed and revised job descriptions, and raised performance expectations throughout technical services.

Gone are the months-long backlogs in processing materials. The goal of offering new releases on the same date they’re available in retail outlets has been achieved.

In his drive to meet the standards of the new facility, Wilson also weeded out material that didn’t circulate, bringing these titles from 20 percent to five percent of the total collection, a process he calls ‘cleaning.’ He established an annual maintenance schedule to clean all circulating and reference collections, especially the health, technology, current events, and history areas. Wilson also committed to replacing core titles in all formats owing to loss or poor physical condition.

Streamlining internal processes, clarifying accountabilities, and ‘rising to the challenges’ are crucial, according to Wilson. He strongly believes that when people are challenged, they come up with new ways of doing things. Wilson subscribes to the notion of ‘teamness,’ a belief that each of us is responsible for the success of one another and the success of the group or organization. As a result, no one person is as effective as everyone acting together.

Fostering professional growth is absolutely critical, in Wilson’s view. Over the past eight years, he has supported five staffers in getting their MLS degrees. He thinks of himself as a kind of coach or consensus builder. He characterizes his enthusiasm and work ethic as ‘extremely strong’ and hopes to ‘foster an atmosphere that elevates the work we do to something greater than just the sum of its parts.’




Current Position: Technical Services and Collection Development Manager, Topeka and Shaw-nee County Public Library, KS
Degree: MLS, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1993
Professional Activities: Charter Member, REFORMA Heartland Chapter; American Library Association’s Library Administration and Management Association, New Members Round Table Executive Board