Another change-related post, go where the things are broken

Meredith has some good things to say about dealing with change averse organizations. I particularly like reading what she has to say because 1) I work with many people who are culturally similar in terms of technology, so I learn from her and sympathize with her trials at her job, and also 2) I think sometimes analyzing what isn’t working is a better way to learn than just to celebrate what works and keep doing it.

I believe I’ve said this before, but one of the hardest things for me about working in the library/non-profit world is that when you work directly with patrons/clients, there’s often a teach-the-teacher aspect, either overtly or not. So, while I love working with librarians and patrons directly and helping them learn, there is often an organizational expectation that whatever I do can be transmuted into some sort of learning module or training program that can then be given to other librarians or educators who can take it and run with it like I run with it. In my two year outreach librarian contract as well as my first year of AmeriCorps, this was a stated expectation.

And yet, some of the things that make me effective can’t be put into an outline or taught in a class and I struggle with this frequently, as I’m sure Meredith does. I’m very good at my job in no small part because I’m ME. I’m enthusiastic and my enthusiasm is infectious. I’m supportive and even if I find that I can’t do something, my approach is “Well, let’s learn it together.” I have the patience of a saint and can tell when people come to drop in time mainly because they just want someone to talk to. I believe in what I do and I’m confident in my abilities and my approach, enough so that I’ll happily debate them with people, to a point. I can give someone else the slides for my basic email class, and they can watch me teach it, but they can’t be me teaching it and this is where things break down.

I’m in Brooklyn working on an article about technostress. It’s a little weird to walk out the door and see people who look and talk like me, hundreds of them. Where I live, this is not the case. However, where I live, there’s a need for people like me to help people not like me do things with computers, and libraries. People like me tend not to go to places like Central Vermont, or if they do, they don’t stay. This is one of the reasons why I am there, but it is also one of the reasons that it’s hard for me, and sometimes lonely, and frequently frustrating. I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think large-scale change — bringing a computer into your life or your library — isn’t going to be frustrating or difficult. I think the part we also need to remember is that it can be worth it, and then we need to learn to explain why.

more NJLA, what do we do about the non-dynamic library?

I arrived too late at NJLA to catch the pre-conference from George at It’s All Good. He sums up his thoughts when asked about the future of non-dynamic libaries and Meredith shares her thoughts about what will happen to libraries that are resistant to change and wither, and those that embrace change and thrive.

I feel for librarians who are full of ideas for improving services to patrons but are stymied at every turn by either their colleagues or the powers that be. I think it is probably the biggest problem libraries have in retaining young/new librarians (with pay being a close second). And more than losing passionate, tech-savvy new-ish librarians, these libraries are alienating entire generations of potential library users – people who believe that libraries are dinosaurs of the pre-digital era, because those are the only libraries they’ve known.