Initial impression from foundation readings

My main problem with the Library 2.0 likeness is that it seems to be inspired by the dot-com experience. For many people the dot-com time was awesome, but for me it represented lots of poorly-managed change, unsustainable services and a general “set up to fail” flavor.

The first chapter of Library 2.0 outlines the difficult environment in which libraries currently operate (not just in 2007 when this was written, but right to the present day)—with fewer resources with which to work it seems to be an overly-optimistic goal to implement the kinds of changes which Library 2.0 discusses.

The “constant and purposeful change” idea makes me feel a bit better about it all, but I feel certain the “change” part will get emphasized over the “constant and purposeful” part. Can you tell my glass is sometimes just half-full with a little crack near the top?

Ultimately my point is that purposeful change can be difficult … and useful purposeful change even more difficult. This might explain why the progress that could be had this way is evident but hardly widespread.

Perhaps the most surprising bit of advice from Library 2.0 was that administrators should be communicating more directly with front line staff and that they should consider input from these staff essential in their planning and assessment efforts. It doesn’t seem sensible to ignore the input of people who are working directly with members of the library. It’s wasted opportunity. Of course, in all the years I’ve used libraries I’ve never been personally surveyed about anything with respect to library services, and I wonder what this means. Have I been overlooked or just unlucky?

The library as a facilitator of conversations which create knowledge isn’t new for me: I was lucky enough to be exposed to this on day #1 of my library school experience by Dave Lankes. My reaction then was similar: this all sounds awesome but implementation seems so unlikely in the current environment.

Our challenge in all this is to find a way to bring this to future library members. My personal challenge is to see a way to do this despite all the apparent obstacles. I’m not totally grumpy and pessimistic, but I do understand that these are challenging times in which to introduce change, and change is often managed so poorly …

9 thoughts on “Initial impression from foundation readings

  1. Lewis Chen says:

    I’ve experienced the same thing in my line of work. Change is implemented but no one asked those of us out on the field beforehand. Customers were with us when changes and new features were implemented and not everyone knew how to explain the changes.

    • Henry Mensch says:

      I saw this in your message after I posted this … it’s easy to “change,” and it’s hard to get it right for everyone involved. The idea of “purposeful” change suggests to me that the changes will be more carefully considered with all parties in mind, and I certainly hope that is the case.

  2. michael says:

    Michael Casey and I wrote for over two years in LJ about just that: open communication with all involved in the workings of the library. I still hear from librarians who have no idea what their administration is doing.

    • Henry Mensch says:

      I have to admit that I really don’t get why this is so difficult to make happen. I say this from the view of my current gig (not a people manager but a thought leader in my lab) and as a people manager in the past. How can people know what you need if you do’t tell them? How can these people inform your decisions if you don’t ask?

      (Sorry, ranty at the moment … )

  3. Leesa Harmon says:

    Speaking as one who works behind the scenes just as a “worker” not a supervisor, I often have no idea what is going on in administration. Rule changes and policies come down and it seems those of us “workers” are the last to know.

  4. elaine22blog says:

    That’s true in the library where I work too. It’s very horizontal and bureaucratic and people doing different jobs, such as technician or librarian or page rarely talk to people working in other levels of the hierarchy. I shelve in the children’s department and no one asks me what sections of our books are out of order, though many of our books are out of order. When I told my immediate supervisor that one section was really out of order he didn’t do anything about it. I have no idea what the administrators are doing except if I read about it in a newspaper article. Occasionally, one of the line librarians will give me a hint of what the bigger picture is in our department in or in the library.

    Ironically, this horizontal workplace is located in San Francisco Public Library, which is located in a liberal city which prides itself on its liberal politics and democratic values.

  5. Henry Mensch says:

    Well, maybe some understanding is in order. Are there other sections that are dramatically out of order, too? While it sounds like your boss isn’t communicating well, there may also be context for his not reacting to your observation.

    I’d love to talk to you about SFPL sometime … it seems like it *could* be an awesome place to be.

  6. elaine22blog says:

    I think there is a lack of communication between my immediate supervisor, a technician, and the acting manager of my department who is quite creative, smart and nice but seems to be inexperienced in keeping the collection accessible. I find many books out of order, as do some of my coworkers. The children’s fiction is also way too tight because the librarians keep adding books and the shelves won’t hold anymore.

    I think the kids and sometimes their parents put books back in the wrong place. All with good intentions. My boss has assigned pages sections to shelf read but he should really ask us to write down the sections that are out of order so we can concentrate on those. Sometimes our assigned sections are okay. The foreign language sections are often a mess.

    Do you go to SFPL often? I read your comment about going to your branch library. Which branch was it?

    I think it’s a good place to be a librarian and there are many good things about the library. I especially like the government documents department.

    Unlike in the past, there is relative peace between the director, Louis Herrera and the Librarian’s Guild. He has done some innovative things like renting laptops to patrons, which is a good idea because many people in the city can’t afford computers and hiring a social worker to direct homeless patrons to social services. The atmosphere there is much more open than it was ten years ago.

    • Henry Mensch says:

      I don’t usually *go* to any branch for any sustained period: my activity is usually hit-n-run … I drop off borrowed materials, and pick up newly-ordered works. When I do visit with some work to do I usually go to the Main.
      My neighborhood branch is Excelsior–just about four blocks from my home. Glen Park branch is just a bit further away. This is, truly,
      an embarrassment of riches: in so many cities I would be lucky to have one accessible branch nearby. Our Main branch is easily
      equal to the academic libraries at many universities.

      Even luckier: the bookmobile comes to my place of work!

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