I've been at this game for nearly a quarter century, and have, perhaps, paid a due or three, but I am scarcely less annoyed than Jane when the impatience of my younger colleagues is dismissed with the notion that you need to be wait your turn and "pay your dues".
Experience rarely yields wisdom. It certainly doesn't necessarily make one more capable at anything. And we're at a point in our profession where the change we are undergoing is so dramatic that experience can actually be, in some ways, a drawback. Nonetheless, experience can, sometimes, provide a bit of perspective. With that in mind, here are some observations and, perhaps, a bit of advice:
1) This has nothing to do with a particular culture of librarianship. There is nothing peculiar to librarians that makes our organizations especially change resistant or unwelcoming to the ideas of people who are new to the field. This is about human nature and the dynamics of organizations. I defy you to show me any mature industry or field of endeavor in which more than a small percentage of the organizations within that sector truly foster a culture of innovation, mentoring and risk-taking from top to bottom and from side to side. Drucker started writing about this stuff in the thirties. The reason that this is important is that it means that if your goal is to change the "culture of librarianship" you are choosing the wrong battle and you are doomed to lose.
2) The notion that "millennials" are somehow intrinsically more risk-taking, eager for change, and impatient with the slow movement of the organization, while "boomers" are congenitally risk-averse, overly cautious, and unwilling to allow their younger colleagues to advance too quickly is bullshit. It pains me to have to point out that it was the boomer generation that marched and chanted and actually believed that we could overthrow the capitalistic system altogether -- preferably within the next three weeks, back in 1968. (We thought, of course, that we invented rebellion, being entirely clueless about what our grandparents had done in the twenties). The more difficult truth is that a significant portion of young people in all generations are eager for greater social change and impatient with their elders-- but then they turn into the elders! Most of the radical rebels from the sixties & early seventies turned into the cautious, maintain status-quo managers of the 90's and 00's -- and it will happen to the millennials as well. Your challenge, if you really want to be a change agent in the long haul, is to manage to maintain that idealism, energy and impatience throughout a long career. Most people don't.
With that as context, here's my advice:
1) The corollary to number 1 above is that change happens one library at a time. If you're on the leading edge of comfort with change, you need to put yourself into an organization whose interests are aligned with yours. If the predominant viewpoint in your library is "you've got to wait ten years until you've paid your dues," you are not likely to change that. (If there are just a few people who feel that way, don't worry about it -- just ignore 'em). Start looking for an organization where you're going to have more freedom and get more support, and set your sights there for your next career move. Those organizations are out there. There are many great and wonderfully innovative and exciting libraries of all types. When you're early in your career, don't fuss yourself with trying to turn your library into one of those. Your focus should be on getting your precious self into one of those libraries where you've got good mentors and the leadership that will help you grow and experiment and have fun.
2) In the meantime, be specific about the changes that you think you can effect in the organization that you're a part of. Identify the people in the organization who have the power to change things, and figure out why the change that you think is necessary is going to help them solve one of their problems. That's the only way to sell it. Let them take credit for the idea, if that's what it takes. And look outside of the organization for satisfaction as well -- you may find that you can have a greater impact there. Five Weeks To A Social Library was a stunning achievement, and its ripple effects will be felt for a very long time.
3) As your career progresses, don't allow yourself to become complacent. It'll sneak up on you. One day you find yourself a department head with several eager young librarians reporting to you, with lots of exciting ideas -- but now, if one of their ideas blows up, it's your neck on the line. Can you discipline yourself enough to be willing to give them the same kind of freedom and opportunities you're craving now? Or will it look very different from that perspective?
4) Be patient. I know, I know, that sounds like "paying your dues," but I don't mean it that way. Change never happens unless there are people who are continually pushing, but sometimes change takes a long time. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon. If you're really in it for the long haul, you have to be willing to stick to it. One of the things that I really wanted us to be able to do when I got here was get more formally aligned with the medical school curriculum -- at that time we did a variety of orientations and occasional in-class presentations, but it was all ad hoc, dependent on the particular interests of a particular instructor at the time. I worked on building relationships within the medical school, on understanding what they perceived as the major problems and issues. The goal was building trust and a greater awareness and appreciation for our expertise and range. It took ten years before the door I was looking for appeared -- and then it was easy to open it and walk in because we were prepared and ready for it. Now we're not just formally involved in the curriculum, we have librarians leading a significant part of a complete revamping of the curriculum. The important thing in this context is that I didn't know if we would ever get there. Sometimes you just have to keep planting those seeds without knowing if the thing you're looking for will ever sprout.
Back to point 1 above -- libraries have been changing steadily for centuries, it's just hard to see that when you're relatively new. Even the most authoritarian, hidebound, do-it-like-we've-always-done-it library is far more progressive and open than its counterpart of twenty-five and fifty years ago. But the majority of libraries (the majority of organizations) will always be in the middle of the pack, waiting to see what the leading edge organizations are doing before they're willing to take those same steps. Fortunately, there are always organizations and librarians that are doing amazing and wonderful things. And in our world of blogs and instant networked communication, it is much easier to figure out which libraries those are. Students have much greater opportunities for getting the lay of the land than their predecessors of even a decade before. Rather than being frustrated about being unable to change an organization that is in the middle of the pack, set your sights on going to work for one of those innovative, exciting places. That's where you'll get the support, experience and energy that you need.
A final note -- when I'm at a conference, hanging out in the bar with the library directors that I tend to associate with, we're likely to be sharing strategies about how we can get our organizations to move faster, to be more innovative, to be more hospitable to new ideas. And we'll be fussing about how we can get the best & brightest to come work for us. We will never be in the majority, and that's okay. If we were, I think I'd start to worry that I was losing my edge.