Discussion #1: Change is in the air

From the foundational readings, and I will also admit there may be some influence from the book I am reading, Writing on the Wall: Social Media–The First 2,000 Years, intermixed throughout this post, there is one particular theme that kept coming up, concerning change in the library, that continues to bother me as it obviously bothers those writing these materials. It is librarians’ reluctance to change. People are always looking for new ways to access and share information and over the last few millennia we can trace the evolution of record keeping and how quickly each technique was adopted and embraced. The use of papyrus, paper-making, the invention of the printing press, the postal service, telephony have all played a part in the spread and creation of information and each invention seemed to be readily grasped by everyone, in some manner or other (Standage, 2013). Yet here we are presently at a crossroads with the path towards technological innovation to our left and traditional library services to our right. And which path do librarians choose to follow? The path of least resistance, the ways in which they were taught, the traditional “Paper Library” path to the right. As Buckland points out, “people worry…about the advantages and disadvantages of using computers” but for items/materials they are familiar (paper!), little attention is given (Buckland, 1992). It perplexes me to no end that librarians have become content with their services even when the rest of the world is crying for change. Here are just a few of the reasons librarian should be jumping for joy over the innovations that come with the Electronic age:

  • “Electronic documents are not localized” (Buckland, 1992).
  • Multiple people can use a document at once.
  • Easy to copy, easy to edit.
  • Storage is no longer a matter of shelf space. 

Now, when you ask someone in the library profession what their mission is, they will typically respond, “to serve our users to our best ability by providing them with the best access to as much information as is available/possible.” Why then, are librarians so fearful of change, when change appears to open up a door librarians have been searching for for centuries? Let’s face it, new technology is inevitable, it’s going to keep coming and if libraries don’t open their doors it will pass on by, leaving libraries in its dust.  

Taking a step away from the changes that are facing the library, I want to get personal and provide my experiences in working in a library for over five years. This reflection is sparked by Brian Mathew’s discussion on staff collaboration and teamwork in Cultivating Complexity.While I would love to copy and paste his section on “Co-Discovery & Co-Development” for you to read, I will at least provide a few important concepts:

Guidance is key when working as a team, not a machine.

Explain why, do not simply issue new commands to implement change.

Let staff experiment with solutions.

Let the staff be involved, feedback and brainstorming are key. (Mathews, 2017).

For me personally, I have been able to see a team of workers function in an environment plagued with drastic budget cuts and staff layoffs. I have also been able to watch this same team, over the last year, evolve with the help of a new Director and new Tech Services Librarian. We (the team) are currently in the middle of strategic planning (working on our SWOT analysis at the moment) and with the guidance of our director, each member has been given the chance in helping with the development of planning and each is sought out for active participation and brainstorming. The Director has shown interest in getting the library staff working together as a team, something we (at least since I’ve been there) have failed to do (typically each staff person would focus solely on their daily duties that helped keep the library open, but as far as growth and community involvement, there was little to none). As things begin to change I can feel excitement buzzing through the staff, including myself, as I look forward to being able to use the library skills I am learning in iSchool to help expand the library’s reach and use. At this point I feel as if I am teasing by bringing this up again, but the strategic gamification that I am co-working on at the moment is a result from active listening and guidance between Director and employee, and she has supported us the whole way. She is actually responsible for us focusing on strategic planning as the subject for our games and I must admit, the experience has been the most eye-opening and helpful. Change is happening and I am glad to be a part of it.

Here is a picture of one of the games we made. I will also include the instructional Powtoons we created for it. 

“They made it their own and, thankfully, I listened” Mathews, 2017).

Alley, A. & Hanshew, J. (2019). Emory & Henry library trivia. [YouTube video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFPW76gMt0U
Buckland, M. (1992). Redesigning library services: A manifesto. Retrieved from http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/sunsite/Redesigning%20Library%20Services_%20A%20Manifesto%20(HTML).pdf
Mathews, B. (2017). Cultivating complexity: How I stopped driving the innovation train and started planting seeds in the community garden. Retrieved from https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/handle/10919/78886
Standage, T. (2013). Writing on the wall: Social media–the first 2,000 years [E-reader version]. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Writing-Wall-Social-Media-First/dp/1620402831

Join the Conversation


  1. Hey Adam,
    I enjoyed watching the instructional video for the game you and your coworkers made. I think it’s great that you are able to apply the foundational readings to your personal experience doing SWOT analyses, Strategic Planning, and overall regrouping as your Library evolves. Just like life, libraries should always be changing and adjusting to change. It is sad to hear that some coworkers had to go, but encouraging to read that you and your team are moving forward!

  2. Super cool. I enjoyed your post and the video. Such creativity! It says a lot about your library that your director has been so engaged in listening and guiding your gamification, really balances out the first part of your post.

  3. Hi Adam,
    Just wanted to say I really enjoyed the use of the video! I thought it was super helpful that you and your coworkers made that for the patrons to view.
    I also wanted to say that it’s great that you were able to relate the foundational readings and the texts you are reading outside the class to your experience with environmental scans and SWOT analysis. It’s interesting to see how libraries can evolve over time and work towards a change that can be beneficial for the community. As we know, change can be either good or bad but we will never know until we open ourselves up to it. It is a shame to see the resistance to that change but I feel inspired knowing that you and your coworkers are working to market the library in new ways. I think it’s incredibly exciting and I believe your community will feel that they are welcomed and will enjoy your work.

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