CIL Wrap Up -- Thoughts

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!


Alane said...

Helene, a very worthwhile topic and one, I think, not discussed enough. Where does the inertia and fear and opposition come from and why? I ask myself this just about every time I give a presentation. said...

This reminds me that we have to remember that technology is a TOOL...these tools will have no effect unless we are able to put them into use...let's have presentations about how to talk about technology as tools to those that don't get it...let's bring some EQ into the 2.0 world...we can't ride on the boy-this-is-cool-new-tech-stuff forever.
I get it, Helene...keep talking the talk and walking the walk!

Anonymous said...

I think we should also look into developing better tools to experss those ideas. For all the benefits of 2.0, you're not going to get anywhere with the "obstaclefolk" without a proper business plan and marketing strategy. Telling a naysayer they need to improve gets you nowhere. Showing point by point the ROI gives them little room to argue. Think of it more in a business environment.

Sharon c. said...

Thank you, Helene, for this posting. You can too easily find yourself feeling sort of a CIL hangover when you see so many great initiatives taking place (& fear that resistance in your organization will prevent you from getting there). So I empathize with the librarian who burst into tears about the frustrations of trying to move forward in the face of opposition. There's a balance here - the old change what you can, accept what you can't, be wise enough to know the difference saying can be applied here.

Now, if the librarian in question is the sole advocate for change and - in the face of all of the resistance - gives up her enthusiasm and willingness to move toward Library2.0, the organization itself will lose out. So the way I see it, our job -- as the Library2.0 community -- is to pick this person up, reinvigorate her, help her problem-solve her way through the obstacle course that's been set before her (e.g., offering ideas, such as the concept of doing an ROI analysis of using Web2.0 tech, as someone else has suggested here), and finally, to help her to accept the immovable barriers & still keep her own positive Library2.0 attitude.

As for what role CIL plays in all of this? Though I loved the presentations, it was the networking with my peers that was the most significant aspect of the conference for me. In one-on-one's or small groups I got the true scoop -- I got ideas on how to handle political and organizational issues, as well as technical ones. And I felt enthusiastic again - glad to be a part of such a wonderful profession.

Remember - in Web2.0, it's all about the community, and ultimately, it will be community that helps us to reach our goals. That's what I got from CIL.

Morris County Library said...

>>Where does the inertia and fear and opposition come from and why?

We blog, Flickr, podcast (audio and video), have our Delicious cloud, etc., etc. Today, while Director was at a conference on Future of Libraries, I walked around to each dept our first outing in Learning Libraries 2.0. One staff member said "I don't care," another "2.0 is so passe ... going by already."
I enjoy spending my week-ends editing our videos, but I have no evidence/statistics that show any of this improving patron experience or growing the patron base. It may not all be opposition. It may be Missouri: "show me."