My CIL experience this year was bittersweet and I find myself personally leaving with a lot more unanswered questions and frustrations than new ideas and inspirations. Sure there were a lot of great take-a-aways and ideas, but after giving my talk about Learning 2.0 Tuesday morning I had conversations with so many passionate and motivated librarians that were just so disheartening. One lovely woman even burst into tears. “You don’t know how much your talk meant to me and gave me new hope. I’ve been trying to get our management to look at these things for years, but ... I’m sorry to cry. My tears aren’t because of you. They’re just from all my frustrations.”
This type of frustration I heard echoed in almost every conversation (but thankfully not all) I had over the past three days. And given that this is about the 3rd Computers in Libraries conference highlighting the same tools and trends (wikis, blogs, user-generated content, the long tail etc), I’m beginning to wonder if what the profession really needs is just to give some administrators a good swift kick in the head. Those that I spent my time talking with clearly got all the 2.0 concepts, in fact they were apostles. But after trying to move their libraries forward for the past year or so, they felt stippled and oppressed by stale management and old world politics.
My heart melted a bit every time I heard a story from a passionate librarian whose gallant efforts to provide new and fresh services were crushed by the old guard. Clearly things need to change… but I’m struggling even myself with exactly just how?
The answers I know aren’t simple, but my sense is that these woes can be summed up in one question … Is your library, your management, your leadership culture built around policies and practices that “control” or are they open and flexible to “empower” both employees and your customers?
The answer to this question from all the conversations I've had is obvious. The hard part is trying to figure out the answer to the next logic question … how do we help libraries and management make this critical transition?
To all those I spoke with at CIL who can relate to this post. Thanks for keeping up the “good fight” and doing all that you are to move your organizations forward. It’s hard to fight battles through small change, but with enough small battles, it creates some erosion. And the thing about erosion is ... that if it continues long enough, it eventually leads to an avalanche of new opportunity!