Five Phrases I Hope I Never Hear in Libraries Again (based on a true story)

(A confession: I’ve been sitting on this post a LONG time…I finally decided to put it out there and see how it goes.)

I happened across this post at Wandering Eyre entitled “IM me. Oh wait, we do not do that here. (Read the whole post & the comments!)

“…my library’s new web developer, and my technology partner in crime, asked me last week why we do not have IM. It is blocked on the staff computers and we do not do chat reference. I sighed heavily and told her that was a conversation best had over drinks, but I also told her to ask someone else at the library to see their reaction. I usually get laughter and a “that’s just a fad, waste of money, waste of time, or all new librarians think that is important but you will soon learn to be pessimists like us” explanation.”

This saddens me and I know it’s an all too prevalent feeling in libraries for many new technologies, and frankly, for change itself. Jane continues: “As a profession, we need to get over the idea that IM is bad, that it is going to go away, and that it is not useful. This is about reaching our users in the formats they are already using. It is about using technology smartly and efficiently. It is about getting our heads out of the sand and looking around at how our users are actually using our technology and our spaces and adapting. It is about us adapting to them, not forcing them to adhere to rules and policies that no longer make sense.”

Hopefully some of the folks at libraries like this will get the idea as well. I was IMing (!) with Thomas in Norway a few weeks ago and he posited that librarians and libraries are heading for a huge change. I agreed, worried that many don’t recognize what’s happening at all. I hope that as many librarians as possible will start thinking about change and planning for the future. You may call it the next generation of libraries, an ongoing movement, L2, or whatever you the heck you want, but please – let’s get our collective heads “out of the sand!”

Jane’s post brings to mind other examples of what’s happening out in Libraryland as some librarians push for new tools and services. In 2005, I did a bit of roaming around the country and talking to librarians. In those travels, I’ve actually heard library staff say these things:

We’ve always done it this way.

I think it’s time to red flag any utterance of that phrase in our libraries and make sure it’s not just an excuse to avoid change. It may however, be the best way to do something… so if you say it, add “and we examined other ways, and this way is still the best!”

If you are hiding behind that phrase because you’ve had enough new things or just want to keep things the same, it might be time to move on. Is it anxiety that puts up barriers? Just sayin’

He/She is a roadblock for anything to get done.

This is a tough one. It usually comes in a whisper from an exasperated librarian who can’t seem to get anything done because someone on their team or up above stops everything in its tracks to think. What did Abram say at CPL? When librarians study something to death, we forget that death was not the original goal.

In this climate of rapid change, we can’t take 6 months, form a committee, write agendas, meet, transcribe the minutes, make more agendas, have more meetings and on and on. The best librarians in the future will make good, rapid decisions, based on evidence, experience and a view of the big picture.

The IT department won’t let us.

I know there are many reasons why somethings simply can’t be done in some libraries, but after many workshops, talks and receptions talking to librarians, this seems to be the number one hit on the Librarian’s Frustration Hit Parade. Thank Goodness we have folks writing about it:

Meredith and Karen on the IT Dept.

Michael Casey’s Emerging Technology Committee

And Jessamyn recently ended an incredible post with “it’s just me saying blah blah blah about the work that I do and the things that I see but I know that as a techie, the longer I work outside of libraries but with librarians, the more I wonder how to fix this problem and the less I think I know how.”

Here’s to hoping this discussion continues as we sort out the best ways to keep librarians, techies and everyone else moving the mission of our profession forward.

I don’t have time for (insert new social tool here).

Ouch. Here’s where a healthy dose of evidence will help. Print some copies of the Newsweek cover story, any of the Pew Reports that discuss users and their online activities and some of the wonderful real life examples we have of librarians using social tools.

Our director doesn’t like technology.

Attention library directors! If you don’t like technology, there may be a problem! You do not have to be a tech genius, but you need people under you who aren’t afraidof change, can innovate and will help guide your decisions. And you have to be able TO TALK TO THEM.

Failure to implement technological change can hurt the reputation of a library. Failure to allow your librarians, techie or otherwise, to move forward with improvements and new services in this 2.0 world, will send them running away screaming. (And they will tell their colleagues at conferences all about it! Trust me.)

Another answer to this one might be – GASP – the Librarians are not communicating well with the director, who isn’t afraid, just not “in the know.” I was discussing this post with Karen Schneider and she reminded me that “sometimes that is just an excuse – the director would be on board if the librarians could communicate what they want to do…I’ve seen that, where the poor administrator is blamed and it turns out that the LIBRARIANS don’t want change!”

So maybe this one is about communication. And getting folks to talk to each other. And exchanging information and knowldedge of how the library works and how technology can work in the library – with some librarians positioned to help the flow…

Who might these people be? One answer would be what Rachel Singer Gordon dubs “the Bridge Librarian:”

Both new grads who had come to librarianship as a second profession and mid-career librarians with a decade or more under their belt tended to see themselves as essential in helping to build connections between boomer and Millennial colleagues….

“I feel somewhat like a ‘bridge’ librarian—somewhere between NextGen and traditional,” says Nancy Renfro (director, Watauga Regional Library Center, Johnson City, TN). “I have enough of the old to know where traditional librarians are coming from and enough of the new to understand where things are going.” This ability to bridge categories helps GenXers build solidly on our professional foundations while also forming our institutions’ technological future.

And that dovetails nicely as another tip to bring librarians and techies together and get them talking and planning — put a bridge librarian in the mix. In fact, Gordon stresses the importance of succession planning in libraries. Non-Techie Directors – do you have a succession plan in place populated by the best of the best for your library, to guide it into a robust technological future? I hope so!