Does Information Flow freely?

Greetings TTW readers! My name is Michael White. I just finished my first year of classes at Dominican University and I was lucky enough to land in Michael’s Introduction to Library and Information Science class last August. Needless to say, I am very honored to be invited to guest post. I’ll confess: I was a little uncertain about what I could bring to the conversation. I’ve been reading, book marking, and subscribing to the RSS feeds of so many great library blogs since last fall and I’ve read so many insightful and thought provoking posts across the Biblioblogosphere these past several months that I was a little daunted. It’s hard to keep up, but it dovetails nicely with my coursework and I do find inspiration. I certainly have a keen sense now for the fantastic professional community that’s out there, but as a relatively new library science student who hasn’t worked in a library in almost three years, I wondered what I had to add to the discussion. With that caveat, I’ll bring you a brief post on a topic that’s been bugging me a bit for some time now.

For me, the theme that seems to have reared its head the most these past nine months, in simplest terms, is change. How quickly libraries are changing. How many libraries still need to change. How libraries will have to continue to change in order to stay relevant for the next generation of users. How too many libraries aren’t changing fast enough, the future of the library is in jeopardy, and on and on. A few weeks ago, Jane’s excellent post reminded me of the inherent contradiction I feel when I hear all this talk of change, then compare it to my experiences working in a public library. I hope it’s worth bringing up again for some more discussion with my apologies if this topic has already been beaten ad nauseam in other places.

Of course I agree that libraries have to change to stay relevant. I think that’s one of the things that make pursuing the MLIS and entering the profession at this particular point in time so exciting. I also agree that many of the technologies, services, and perhaps most importantly the attitudes toward service highlighted here at TTW (among other places) are a crucial step in the right direction. Again, I’m optimistic and inspired. But what I don’t get it is how and when this change is going to start happening at least on a somewhat larger scale. I realize there are examples posted frequently here at TTW but these still feel like isolated exceptions. Is it just me? In my view, the rub is that the organizational culture of libraries is too rigid, top-down, and hierarchal to develop a healthy structure that’s built for effective change.

Think about your library. How often is authority shared? Are visions and goals developed collaboratively at all levels of the organization? Does information flow freely between management and those that work closely to patron/customer contact? Are decisions made at a point where maximum knowledge exits about an issue?

I do hear the siren call for change. But as Jane pointed out: why does she have to wait 10 years, paying her “dues”, to be in management for her ideas about change to be heard (let along implemented)? I think it’s a great question. I just don’t know how it’s going to be answered.

For a bit more about me, I’m at Myspace and Facebook.