My interviews have offered me more insight into this problem. I've been to libraries that were passionate about user-centered innovation and were looking at how every bleeding edge technology could be used to improve services to patrons. These libraries tried to stay just ahead of their patrons and anticipate their needs rather than being reactive to patron demands. I've been to libraries that weren't particularly tech-forward, but that were at least trying to keep up with their patrons. The librarians there may not have known what RSS was, but they were willing to learn if it could help their patrons. Then there were the libraries where change seemed to be a dirty word. For every question I asked (have you thought about wifi?, what do you think about your current web presence?, etc.) there was an excuse for why they haven't kept up. And while I obviously didn't call them on it in a job interview, these excuses sounded pretty hollow to me. Obviously not every library's service population is super tech-savvy, but at some of the libraries, I've felt a palpable disinterest in learning new things and trying new things. It's the we've always done it this way and it's worked fine so far so why rock the boat mentality. Unfortunately, they don't seem to realize that their service population has changed right under their noses, and with that change comes new requirements to meet patrons' needs.
This is absolutely incredible and most telling. While interviewing, Meredith has encountered all sorts of libraries. Read that bit again -- and read Meredith's blog -- and honestly answer this question: what type of library is yours? What type do you want your library to be? Not sure how to answer? Try this on for size:
I worked in a library where the front-end of the ILS was completely outmoded and unusable by patrons, but it was not changed because the back-end was comfortable and familiar to the staff.
In chat lingo that merits an OMG! But stuff like this happens: We've always had this ILS. We always see ID before anyone uses a computer. We can't have IM on our Public PCS -- people might use it! Those kids can't play that game in here. Why does anyone want a book on iPod? Why would a librarian want to BLOG - it takes too much time???
We have always had the pencil sharpener on the right side of the desk. :-)
Okay..I must stop quoting this, but one more:
I feel for librarians who are full of ideas for improving services to patrons but are stymied at every turn by either their colleagues or the powers that be. I think it is probably the biggest problem libraries have in retaining young/new librarians (with pay being a close second). And more than losing passionate, tech-savvy new-ish librarians, these libraries are alienating entire generations of potential library users - people who believe that libraries are dinosaurs of the pre-digital era, because those are the only libraries they've known.
It breaks my heart to get email from a young librarian that is already disillusioned in their job because of narrow views, colleagues refusing to shift, micro-management and what I perceive to be an unwillingness to dive in and take a chance with new services, new ideas and new technologies. There's this beautiful space in the middle - it's not all tech and it's not all tradition and the "way we have always done it." It's collaboration. It's learning from each other. It's what we did during our debrief last week - all levels and years of experience staff meeting to discuss learning and change.
There is much food for thought here and it is right up TTW's alley. More soon... and I can't wait to meet Meredith at ALA. Oh, have you seen her ALA Wiki? ALA should fall at her feet for such innovation.
And give this a read through as well: http://webjunction.lishost.org/?p=5Posted by Michael at April 30, 2005 04:18 PM | TrackBack