On transparency …


While working through this week’s transparency readings I was struck by the tone of some of the work. It all felt very serious, “you must do this!” … very strident. Of course, this happens because transparency is really important for our institutions (not just for libraries but for most of the institutions that we interact with).

In the effort to drive home the importance of transparency I feel something important isn’t emphasized enough: transparency is liberating! If I recall correctly, Michael raised this possibility in an early lecture video: with transparency you get the freedom to innovate and your members get the certainty of knowing the circumstances under which their work is being completed.

I don’t think the business world will ever become significantly transparent because, as The See-through CEO shows us, it’s difficult to go half-naked. Perhaps the trend in transparency will shift slightly so that the business world will be clear about what it will be transparent about. Laws governing the behaviors of public companies and the information they may or may not disclose (and to whom) will drive some of this, and competitive advantage will drive this as well.

I’m not sure that libraries have these same concerns (or, at least to the same degree: Michael rightly cites certain instances of confidential information like personnel details), and this ought free libraries up to be significantly more transparent. The human issues remain: transparency is difficult because nobody wants to be wrong nor do they want to take an action which may fail (bringing the risk of failed reputation, disciplinary action, etc.)

These issues are probably the most difficult to crack. Oddly enough, I suspect the answer from this has to come from the top–leadership has to lead by example here. Only when people know that transparency is valued (and this value is backed up with actions) will people act according to the stated values.

2 thoughts on “On transparency …

  1. michael says:

    Everyone needs to feel it is okay to be wrong – from the tip top admin types to the frontline folks who keep things running. Maybe it goes back to the chaos idea – if we embrace chaos and learning by doing, mistakes become part of the process.

    • Henry Mensch says:

      Exactly. In the current culture, however, that message has to start somewhere … and in the current world the tip-top folks have the license (and, IMHO, the duty) to lead in this way.

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