Those Pesky Silos

I’m prepping reading lists for my Library 2.0 course, and I happened to come back to this by Brian Mathews:

His points are all gems, including:

Initiate change. We can’t always wait for others to do things; sometimes we have to make changes ourselves. If something is wrong, missing, or inefficient, let’s not complain, but let’s do something about it. I am inspired by the initiatives of two of my colleagues: Ross Singer, a web applications developer, was dissatisfied with many of the commercial products that we purchase, so he designed a value-added link resolver and is redeveloping the concept of “the library catalog.” Bonnie Tijerina, an electronic resources librarian, recognized a gap in conference offerings and organized the Electronic Resources & Libraries Conference to address the need. We should take a solutions-based approach toward problems, and not settle simply for what is offered or for what has been traditionally accepted.

Break the silos. One of the biggest challenges, especially in large libraries, is that of the silo effect. It is easy to let our departmental identity define us; we rally around our “team,” and strive to protect our interests. This is a terrible waste of our workforce. While it is easy to talk about the idea of collaboration, how can we make it happen? One way to start breaking down barriers is through social software tools: instant messaging, wikis, blogs, and networking sites. Let staff develop relationships that blend across personal and professional contexts. Opening the channels of communication encourages innovation that stretches across departments. When a problem or goal is identified, allow for the natural resolution process to occur, based upon respect and interest, rather than by title and authority.

I’m also gearing up for some presentations in the next few months. “Break the Silos” is very important in my Hyperlinked Library talks. No one outside the library cares that you only work with periodicals or business reference, they just want an answer or guidance. Keeping silos in a library setting — and having those silos reflected in the physical space, the online space and the organizational culture – is a problem to avoid. tear them down!