PAR-TIC-I-PA-TION, or 37 pieces of Library Flair!


PAR-TIC-I-PA-TION, or 37 pieces of library flair
Originally uploaded by cindiann

Short version: If I’m willing to participate in an organization that is still largely “1.0″ and populated with traditional librarians, why can’t traditional librarians* put aside their fears and perfectionism and choose to participate in social software/web 2.0 activities in their libraries?

Long version: I am a “next generation” librarian, librarian 2.0 (1.5!), “young librarian,” whatever you want to call me, and I recently made the choice to get involved in ALA. I am currently attending the annual conference and having to make hard choices about what programming to attend and what to research later. Rather than continuing to believe that it’s hard to get involved, I chose to show up and agitate–ask people how to get onto committees, talk to those around me who are already involved in the organization, not be shy about talking to presenters, giving out my card, the whole nine yards. As a closet introvert, this is kind of hard for me.

So, if I’m willing to get over myself and get out there and (sssh, don’t tell anyone) try to transform the organization from the inside, what is holding traditional librarians* back from participating in the new web, which could transform every library in the world (for FREE, I might add)? The questions that were asked at the end of the “Reinventing Reference” pre-conference session were very revealing; it was as if people *heard* what was said but didn’t *listen* to what it meant for them, their libraries and their library users.

*I use the phrase “traditional librarians” because I have no other label, and I don’t mean to disparage librarians of long experience, advocates of books (*I* am an advocate of books), meticulous folks, those who are intimidated by technology, or anyone else. If the image below describes you, I am talking about *you*:

Thanks to David Lee King for “the culture of no”; Michael Stephens for “the culture of perfect” and the lead to Death by Risk Aversion. And to the great libraryguy who loaned me his tshirt. You are all super stars and I am privileged to know you.

19 comments to PAR-TIC-I-PA-TION, or 37 pieces of Library Flair!

  • Anonymous

    What’s holding them back? Lack of education (and I’m not talking MLS here, or am I?), miseducation, misunderstandings, lack of time, lack of ability, lack of support (from their libraries, from their coworkers, from their state organizations)–you name it, and it’s NOT there.

  • Dan

    I’m not going to completely disagree, but am I the only one who sees this supposed blockade in libraries not from the “traditional librarians” but from the IT departments? They’re the the ones who rule with an iron geeky fist.

    In my almost 20 years as a librarians (from new whippersnapper innovator to not quite so old fart), most of the senior library staff was happy to let the young’uns try innovations (especially free ones)…it’s always been IT who didn’t allow downloading software, or moving away from whichever tech package they were using. I still remember the fight we had in NYPL over finding the right product that handled multi-languages and the refusal of IT to even listen.

    There is a problem, but let’s direct it at who really needs to hear it.

  • cindi

    That is an excellent point, Dan, but I was head of the IT department in my last job, for 6 years, and it was the librarians who were the obstacles. But yes, in a lot of cases, paranoid IT staff are in the way. The best way to change this (IMNSHO) is to get to know them and take them cookies. :) If the IT staff trust that you aren’t one of those folks who “knows enough to be dangerous,” they’ll be more willing to (let you) experiment.

  • Dan

    Ah, yes…”Knows enough to be dangerous”…I got that title pretty quickly.

    Point taken that it’s not always one group or the other. I guess I’m always seeing posts about “the old school librarians who are afraid of change” and no mention of IT anywhere.

  • cindi

    You probably are, and it *is* a good point.

    I think the “knows enough to be dangerous” label is stupid. That you *do* know enough to be “dangerous” means that you’re interested, involved and very likely teachable. It’s up to your IT to do that rather than push you away with a reactionary “NO, you can’t have that!” And it’s up to you to let them know that you are interested.

    Seriously, dude, go get to know them and show them that you are not dangerous, you are on “their” side–interested in technology. If two of my former librarian colleagues had not done that for me, I would still be in the reactionary silo.

  • Hello there Cindi,

    I’m right in there with you on trying to change the organization from the inside, and I, too, am chosing to participate at some level in ALA. I think that ALA’s size is slowing it down. Not size of membership, but size of staff, etc. If we took a really hard look at the programs out there, I imagine we could trim out some of them and refocus energies pretty well.

    It was good to meet you this weekend.

  • y.h.

    It has been neither the librarians nor the IT department that keep my library from doing innovative things, but a small handful of management (both of whom do not have MLS degrees or a strong background in libraries). I work with plenty of technophobic librarians and change-phobic IT people, but I find at least I can reason with those people (given enough cookies, coffee, persistence and time).

    I guess the lesson to take away from this is that reactionary, closed-minded people come in all stripes and work in all departments.

  • CindiAnn,

    I find your post very inspiring. There has been a lot of complaining about ALA over the past few years, and there seems to be a turning of the tide. Not that the complaining has died down, but there seems to be more of a willingness to use the disappointment with ALA as a starting point to ask, “What would I like ALA to be, and how can I help create that vision.” We’re seeing that with BIGWIG, with Five Weeks, with Aaron Dobbs’ Improve ALA Wiki (http://improveala.pbwiki.com/).
    I’m excited to see where all this goes, and to willing to help. Thanks for your post!
    -pete (nice meetin’ ya at the blog salon)

  • I’m curious about the “size of staff” comment being a problem inherent in ALA. Not enough? Too much? As a member of said staff, I’d like to say our difficulties stem from trying to prioritize what to do with limited time and resources. The time I take to respond to this blog may have better ROI if I was working on continuing education where revenue is being generated. I really loathe that kind of rationale but it exists in associations, particularly non-profit ones.

    ALA can and will be re-invented by people like you and those who have responded and those bloggers who pointed us to your blog. I salute you!

  • Cindi,
    It was great meting you in person at ALA and I must say that I am happy you were wearing our shirt for the pick.

    The post is spot on. Sometimes I wonder why we, meaning the change agents, must do all the change. Why can’t we be met halfway?

  • Laura

    Great post (and great flair)! Out of curiosity, what were some of the questions after Reinventing Reference?

  • Glad to see another agitator out there, another change agent. It’s a tough life for a young librarian, ain’t it?

    Next time you find yourself without work, get in touch with me.

  • @unemployed librarian: I was surprised to read your blog and am wondering what happened to you to make you so bitter. If you are in the midst of a job search and would like advice on your resume and/or cover letters from someone who’s been on several search committees, I’m happy to help. It’s important that we all have mentors, no matter what level of experience we have.

    I am a young librarian, but I did not say I was new to the profession… I got my MLS almost 13 years ago and am on my 4th position requiring that credential. It took me 8 months and some 40 applications to secure that first job, which I hated.

  • Thanks, Donovan, for the salute. I must admit that I don’t really know much about the ALA staff. I hope that the leaver of that comment gets back to you.

    Michelle, it was great meeting you, too, and I look forward to next time. Good point about meeting halfway; my instinct is to respond that those who aren’t change agents may not even know that change is needed, so they just can’t meet us halfway.

    Laura, the first question at the end of the presentation on blogs was “OK, what’s a wiki?” It went downhill from there–there was a lot of grumbling about not being able to make changes or implement new technologies in their libraries. I don’t mean to be flip, but JUST DO IT, people! and if you find you REALLY can’t, move on to an organization that will let you.

  • Alan Simpson

    Hey Cindi. I’m participating in a training process on Web 2.0 at my library. Can I repost your pic in my blog and link to this? Thanks.

    Alan

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  • Would you mind if I used this pic for a course I am preparing? The course is called “Evaluating the School Library for the 21st Century.”
    I have included the link to your blog. Take a look.

  • Sure! LIcensing terms for my photos are available on their flickr pages. Thanks for asking.

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