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Publishing Choices

Meetings, Bloody Meetings

If resistance to change and a need to process everything to death were unique to "library culture," the phrase "change management" wouldn't pull up over 33,000 books on Amazon.  If a penchant for lengthy, pointless, unproductive meetings were an affliction that only librarians suffered, Dilbert would not be the wildly successful franchise that it is.  Eric expresses a common frustration about "library culture" but the frustration is misdirected.

I was fortunate that at a very early stage of my career I worked for Judy Messerle, a woman who understood that getting a group of people together in a room, who have little in common except for the fact that they work in the same organization, and expecting them to naturally be productive and efficient is senseless.  Good group behavior is not natural.  So we spent a lot of time training.  We watched videos on running meetings, we discussed good group behavior, we had workshops.  It was simply a standard part of our staff development activities, just like worrying about good customer service or how to deal with difficult patrons.  We assumed that it was something that you had to work at.

In my library I think we generally do a pretty good job (although writing this reminds me that we probably need to do some more group process training in the upcoming round of staff development activities).  I sit in a lot of meetings outside the library and I often come back being amazed that anything gets done at all.  (Go sit in some meetings of your local faculty senate, for example).  Every once in awhile I attend one where the person running it really knows what they're doing -- but it's rare enough to be noticeably refreshing.

Believe me, I'm sympathetic to the frustration that Eric and other bibliobloggers express.   There are plenty of examples of badly managed libraries and change-resistant librarians out there.   But these are afflictions of organizations, not just libraries.  People are inherently nervous about change and are typically unschooled in effective group dynamics.  The "new generation" of librarians isn't going to be any different from the previous generation in this respect.   And twenty years from now, newly minted librarians are going to be complaining about the "traditional" librarians who can't seem to get it through their heads that nobody pays attention to blogs anymore (actually, that's more likely to happen in five -- or less).

That's the bad news.  The good news is that there are those 33,000 books on change management on Amazon -- and some of them are quite good.  It's easy to find people who can run workshops for you on group dynamics and running effective meetings.    Developing effective leadership habits isn't a mystery.  It just takes work.

I think the reason that David Lee King was having trouble with his Library 2.0 Spectrum diagram is that he wasn't asking the right question.  He was trying to establish a dichotomy between the library that he doesn't want to work in and the library that he does (that's a paraphrase he may not agree with), but the more accurate diagram is the tried and true bell curve.  Take any industry and there are going to be a few organizations at the leading edge -- innovative, risk-taking, well-managed, vibrant.  There'll be a few on the trailing edge -- hopelessly mired in the past and probably deserving to be put out of their misery.  Most will be somewhere in the middle, lumping along, managing to get by, trying to follow the example of those on the leading edge -- just not too closely.

The bell curve isn't going to change.  The goal for those frustrated bibliobloggers shouldn't be to "change library culture".  It should be to try to make their library one of those on the leading edge.  Or, if they think that's not possible, they should find one to work in that is.


David Lee King

You say "The goal for those frustrated bibliobloggers shouldn't be to "change library culture". It should be to try to make their library one of those on the leading edge"

But - to get your library to the leading edge, in many cases, requires that you also have to "change library culture."

So it HAS to be a goal, or the leading edge part simply won't happen.

T Scott

You certainly may have to change the organizational culture in your library, but that's different from saying that there is a generic "library culture" that needs to be changed. If the culture of an organization is resistant to change and innovation and is badly managed, then the culture of that organization needs to change. But that's got nothing to do with libraries per se.

Tim Harris

We need to become a more
"productive" society to move forward on any issue. Good points. Perhaps we need to understand where people are coming from first ? I think that its not that people WANT to NOT be productive, but rather they just need to know where everybody's goals and priorities are.

Eric Schnell

Perhaps it is a cultural issue. Perhaps we have leaders without the organizational management skills required in our current evolution cycle. Perhaps we are simply in middle of a paradigm shift and this discussion is a natural part of that process.

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