I was strolling throw Facebook when I saw this post. I believe this may help new librarians coming into the field and even existing ones. Now this is one person’s view on the matter. If you would like to add, please leave a comment below.
Lately I’ve observed a lot of younger librarians frustrated with older librarians who seem averse to change/new ideas/technology. I earned my MLS at age 22 and even though I am pushing 40 now, I have always been the youngest librarian at my POW. So I know the “frustration” well. I am offering these survival tips that took me a while to learn. They are offered in the spirit of trying to help, not trying to shut anyone down. If you have additional tips, feel free to add them!
1). Particularly if this is your first full-time professional position: listen and observe, deeply and widely, before you speak. At least for 3 months. If some procedure seems odd to you, simply ask “why do we do it this way? How did this process evolve? What aspects of this process work well? What are the benefits for us and our customers?”
2). View everyone as someone you can learn from. Everyone. That “crusty librarian who doesn’t own a smartphone!” might have very deep knowledge of book publishers, community members, or something else that took years to learn.
3). Every stupid process is in place because it was expedient or made sense at one point. Find out the history. If all the reasons supporting the process have dissolved, it is easier to argue for change. If some reasons are still valid, rethink whether change is “worth it” and rethink the best approach.
4). Some people treat criticism as a tennis match – when you say something negative, they will automatically lob negativity back to you. So make sure your own behavior is irreproachable by every traditional measure. Always show up to work on time. Always pitch in. Always fulfill commitments. Always meet deadlines.
5). Ask yourself, is this a preference or a problem? For example, you might think it’s lame that your supervisor uses MS Word rather than an app to write up the weekly reference desk schedule. But if the schedule is posted on-time, there are no mistakes, and people feel that they are being treated equitably, does it really matter that the scheduler used oldskool technology?
6). It is not the workplace’s responsibility to cater to your preferences or make you feel comfortable. When it comes to preferences, at best it’s majority rules. At worst, the most senior vocal person rules!
7). Fully understand the problem before you offer a solution. Assembling quantitative data, especially in terms of UX or the financial bottom line, is always helpful. Either you’ll conclude that it isn’t as big a problem as you first thought, or you’ll have better ammunition in arguing your case.
8). Get to know your colleague as a human being before you try to have more difficult conversations. If you understand why (s)he enjoys librarianship, what tasks bring her/him joy, what aspects of the workplace are annoying on a daily basis, etc., you might be able to figure out good approaches for introducing change.
9). Age and close-mindedness aren’t always the same thing. “Baby Boomer,” “Generation X,” “Millennial” and other categories are only starting points or short cuts. Don’t deal in labels – get to know people as individuals.
10). Progressivism (or its opposite) in one situation doesn’t mean the person is progressive (or not progressive) in all situations.
11). When you must have difficult conversations, center them around customers and efficiency. Don’t bring up personal attributes like age, close-mindedness, etc. – this will only make your opponent feel personally attacked.
12). If there is a technological solution, make sure that it has no barriers to entry, is extremely reliable, is user-friendly, and has no bugs. Test it repeatedly, in many different circumstances, before promoting it to others. Don’t provide colleagues a technological excuse for rejecting technology.
13). Ask yourself, does this technology truly improve workplace efficiency? Or, are we just swapping one inefficiency for another? Also, does this technology enable us/our customers to do new things that we couldn’t do before? Or is it merely a different way to do the same thing? The most popular technologies (think eBay and facebook) are usually those that are free, easy-to-use, work on many platforms, and enable us to do entirely new things.
14). If you can’t get traction on *this* issue, work on something else. Most libraries have a million things to do and not enough people to do them. There are many ways you can rack up significant accomplishments.
15). Go where you’re celebrated, not where you’re tolerated. If you are encountering stick-in-the-muddism from nearly all your colleagues on nearly every question, accept it as part of that workplace’s culture. Update your resume and find another job where you fit in.
16). Remember, you will be the “oldster” someday. Use your colleague’s (poor) example as motivation to keep yourself up-to-date and open-minded.