Friday, October 01, 2010

Some Thoughts on Change

Change has been on my mind a lot lately. The calls for change that come out of every corner of librarianship, the calls for change we hear our library users making, and the change that occurs whether we want it or not that we have little control over - those changes caused by sharply declining budgets, natural disasters, and various other calamities.

I don't know that our profession is more or less prone to change than any others - I'm inclined to say more, for the simple fact that as technology providers and material distributors regardless of format, we probably see more than average, and also have to plan for three jumps ahead.

Here at the UTC Library, we are full up on change. We're still in-process with implementing WMS as our new library system. We are also awaiting word on what the WMS course reserves module will look like. We're planning for a new building, including the nitty gritty details of what speakers go where, where we want wiring, how we'll be handling laptops, and more. And all of this work-change, without even mentioning what library folks deal with at home when they take their librarian hats off (which for us include new babies, kids just entering high school, health issues, recent moves, and more).

Making major changes in the abstract, while a worthwhile exercise (particularly when it comes to planning for time, resources, dataflow and workflows) does not mean you can plan for every eventuality. I have been surprised at discovering things that we thought were obvious that fell off plans, and things that were un-obvious being major players. I've learned more about building layout and architecture, local holdings records, display issues, and the interplay of library data in general than I ever thought I would have cause to deal with.

I discovered some things that probably should have been obvious, but were not. For instance, that you cannot plan for every eventuality. That even when combing new systems for problems, you are bound to miss something. I am not surprised that six heads are better than one when tackling issues, but I have been surprised at *how much better* those many minds are at pulling a thing apart and identifying important pieces. I've found that while we advocate change, and - in the best cases - are willing to implement it, sometimes we forget how utterly exhausting it can be. I've found that in some cases a few problems may be better than one, because at least you can give your brain a break by moving onto something new for a bit. Good humor and genuine collegiality can alleviate tempers and soften a multitude of sins. Honesty can be both uncomfortable and productive. Transparency and conscious information exchange can nip mistrust and resentment in the bud. Some questions don't have easy - or satisfying - answers.

The change we've been dealing with at work has been an exercise in personal growth for me. My colleagues seem very good at this sort of thing - whether it is because they are uniquely suited to this sort of merry upheaval, because they have the wisdom of more professional years than I do, because we mesh well as a team with our various personalities, or some combination thereof, I do not know. In any case, I'm grateful to be able to learn from them, express my frustrations with them, and find solutions to thorny issues knowing we may not always agree, but we all have the same goals in mind. Those common goals give personality clashes, differing opinions and the occasional grumpiness more of a generous family feeling than the workplace stumbling blocks they could otherwise be.

Some days I go home weary in my bones, and others I go home energized and scratching out ideas into the late hours, with the dog left wondering when I will mentally come home from work. In all cases, though, working here, I am happy to come to work in the morning (though not, usually, to see morning itself). This makes all the difference for me - I can handle tsunami upheavals of radical change as long as I feel I have a supportive workplace based on real teamwork, honesty, and common goals. As a manager, this gives me something to chew on as I consider how to build and maintain that sort of feeling for my own staff.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Amen. Thank you for putting my thoughts into words without even knowing you were doing it!