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July 06, 2006



You've touched a nerve with me here -- I've never understood why people (especially new librarians) think of the past as static. Librarians have always had new technology to deal with and some of us deal with it better than others. I'll bet there was even resistance when they went from writing catalog cards in "library hand" to typing them on those new-fangled machine!

T Scott

And imagine the consternation when some bright young reference librarian suggested that they start answering questions by telephone!

Paula Barnett-Ellis

This post also struck a chord with me, as I sit at the reference desk and think about putting together a presentation on blogging and RSS for faculty. It's change!

Jenny Levine

Static often equals maintaining the "status quo," which is exactly what I've run into in most of the institutions where I've worked. I'm not saying everyone is against change, but most librarians are so overworked that they sometimes fear new services, new responsibilities, new tasks, even when those things might make them more efficient. I'm thrilled your institution isn't like this, but at my first library job in 1992, we had long arguments about how we couldn't fax articles to patrons because they should just be coming in to the library to get them (easier for us, more difficult for the patrons).

I haven't seen a single blog post or article that says change is new - do you have a cite for that? And I don't see anyone actively denouncing the past. I think what a lot of us are saying is that constant change has accelerated and has become the norm. Most librarians feel information overload and stress because of it. How do we adapt to this environment AND improve services to users? How many libraries have really looked around and adjusted their services to the new online world? Most of the small- and medium-sized libraries I've worked with just don't have the time to even think about this, let alone implement anything.

It's a debate worth having - AGAIN. If you don't jumpstart the debate, it doesn't happen because no one has time for it. I'm glad you've chosen to be part of the conversation! It's never a bad thing to talk about this stuff, only to ignore it.


Here's a quote that I certainly interpret to be from someone who feels change is something new: "Let me make the case for why transformation is needed and why now." And to continue on to the end of Leslie Burger's "revolutionary" platform, "I will work to lead change…to transform our profession, our libraries, our communities."

Umm...so what is different about this? I'll grant you that she also says that change is inevitable, and I admire her enthusiam. But I'm wondering just what it is she hopes to change. Why is the theme for her Year of Transformation entitled "Libraries Transform Communities" when the planks of her "transformation agenda" are all about change within the library? Not the community. The library.

I'm the curmudgeon Scott quotes who is fed up with all this change management rhetoric. Jenny is right, static often equals maintaining the "status quo". However, I have yet to see any organization that has had any long term success at maintaining a status quo. Sure, when processes or budgets or personnel or technology cause a shift, there will be individuals who will grumble, but resistence is futile. Change happens.

Actually, the word I used to Scott was "stasis" - specifically stasis in perceptions of what the library "should" be, stasis in professional attitudes, stasis in budgets. How do we manage those?

More than 30 years ago, I became a librarian just as online searching was coming on the scene. In my first job, I had to fight stasis just to get a photocopier in the library (perceptions were that students should take notes by hand). Ten years later in a different library, I had fight stasis to buy our first desktop computer (perceptions were that these were primarily used for gaming). By the time I started working in private industry, I knew more about PCs than the "data processing" guys did (because all they knew was mainframe).

I suppose much of my attitude comes from the organizations in which I have chosen to work. Some organizations can turn on a dime in order to meet the needs of their clientele. I have never worked for one of them, but every organization I HAVE worked for was determined to try to find a way. Change wasn't something to be managed, it was something to be expected and encouraged.

I've found that academic medical libraries tend to be more "transformative" than university libraries. Following the mission statement of the larger organization (a medical school, for instance)results in a much greater need for urgency. There are lives at stake; how can we do this better/faster?

My own beloved public library (http://www.hoover.lib.al.us/) is never the same place twice - it's a vibrant, well-supported library with a great staff, an actively supportive friends group and board, and a director who is very much in touch with her community. They offer a regular movie program, an active live theater, a "Battle of the Teen Bands" contest. They even have a Teen Book club that discusses books that have been made into movies. By the way, this library started in a storefront in 1983.

Transformative, indeed!


The forces of change and stasis are easy to decipher. I am for change when the status quo does not suit my interest. I’m for stasis when everything suites me just fine. What’s hard to figure out? Change nor stasis are inherently good or bad. It all depends on your perspective and your current position in the environment. It has always been so; it will always be thus. Though Lynn I do have to admit to suspecting that photocopiers are indeed the spawn of the devil.

I think there is one difference between ‘now’ and ‘then.’ Change has always been with us, but the pace has increased in the last few decades. It would indeed be delightful to have one or two constants for a few years. I feel like I am always juggling this change or that. I don’t know how many times I have ‘mastered’ a particular program only to find that a new version has been released and I have to learn it all over again. What’s with that? Has my life been made better with version 287,364,506,584.4 of Word?

And since I have the attention of librarians. There is one consequence of change that has always troubled me. Whatever happened to the old card catalogue drawers? Did they find some other use? Are they all in municipal dumps? Did they end up with antique dealers? You see, even when there is a clear advantage in change (surely electronic cataloguing and searching are far superior to cards) there is also a loss. Many of those old catalogue drawers were beautiful. They were great works of craftsmanship – even art. Can you really say the same of a PC (alright excluding Apples)? Don’t be too hard on people who resist change, for even when change is clearly for the better, there is always a loss with the gain.

Now let’s change the subject.

Ryan Deschamps

While I agree that change is a constant, I think the concern is the required changes are overlapping each other. For instance, I am explaining blogs to some people in the library field and for others I hear "blogs are old."

I'd love to be able to say this is an age thing as well, but the "blogs are old" people are not just twenty-somethings. Some of them are old enough to remember when Russia was scary and Iraq was a good guy. They have encountered change, and see *this* change as bigger than television or the VCR.

All the more difficult is that I used to be able to explain the VCR "it plays movies on your television" -- but have a much more difficult time explaining RSS to people. And if I do get the explanation right, many think treat RSS as the change.

Another issue is that the "change" is not a "library" change like automation or a service change like "DVDs" but an external change that has huge implications on the way users perceive libraries. It's not just implenting technologies, but changing the way libraries ought to speak, interact and play.

Maybe I'm alarmist, but I think this change is gunpowder being discovered in a stone age society. Those libraries who understand gunpowder are going to determine the future of libraries, while those stuck with stone mallets are going to disappear (it is already happening). Do we have critical mass of "gunpowder" libraries to sustain services for the long run?

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