At this point, it feels pretty unnecessary to reiterate how libraries are constantly changing, but let the record show I’ve acknowledged it, CHANGE IS A THING. It will always be a thing. Whether it’s a pandemic, a system migration, or even a new boss, change is unavoidable. Throughout my career I’ve come up with various philosophies and strategies for managing and leading through change – all with varying levels of success. The one philosophy I consistently come back to is the importance of finding the silver lining during times of change. This is not meant to diminish or ignore the challenges associated with change, but rather underscore the value in identifying the ways in which we can benefit when change occurs. To help you do that (and because everyone loves a good checklist!) here’s how I go about identifying ways to leverage change:
These are two very important, but very distinct activities. I’ve always viewed management as a more project focused function. Setting deadlines, gathering data, establishing workflows, making sure we’re on target to meet the objectives. You know…the kinds of actions you check off a list. On the other hand, leadership is more focused on people. Crafting the vision, empowering staff to contribute to the process, advocating for team members during both the good and complicated times. These latter activities are especially important during times of change because they help motivate and influence staff to be actively engaged and invested, which makes it easier to actually check off all those items on your to-do list.
Because of the diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, expertise, when change occurs, it sometimes just hits differently depending on your circumstances. Be cognizant that your reaction to change will not necessarily be replicated across the entire team. And you know what? That is how it should be. It’s that diversity of perspective and response that ensures comprehensive and meaningful discussions about how to address change. Just think how ineffective institutions would be if every response crafted was designed to meet the needs of only a subset of the impacted individuals.
Everyone has a responsibility to foster Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) regardless of your functional responsibility or level. Any conversation about change that does not include DEIA is incomplete. When you fail to include diverse voices at the table, the solutions crafted are neither effective nor sustainable.
You can make things better or you can make things less bad. Now – this may sound like semantics, but there’s an important distinction between these two actions that often hinges on your authority in any given situation. When you’re trying to make things less bad, it’s likely you don’t have control. Think of COVID. This entire situation has been defined as making a terrible time less terrible. On the other end, when you do have more control and resources, you can work to make things better for your team. Things like flexible schedules, professional development, or even giving them the space to innovate. All of these activities are designed to make things better for those you are leading.
People who work in libraries typically care deeply about their work. They worry about “getting it wrong” or “not getting it right.” It’s critical to normalize or facilitate a culture of trying which embraces the fact that as we know better, we do better. We don’t look back at older versions of TVs or phones and think “they got it wrong” – because they didn’t! The same is true of change and evolution in libraries.
If you’re going to establish a culture of trying, you got to be willing to conduct meaningful assessment. Now is the time to ask all the questions! Who cares? Why do they care? What does success look like? Bottom line…when dealing with change, you need to be thinking about who should be involved or at the very least communicated with. Sometimes you don’t realize in the immediate that others need to be involved, but once you register voices are missing – EXPAND THE CONVERSATION to ensure necessary perspectives are represented. If you’re not engaged in assessment, you’ll miss out on opportunities to adjust, improve, or in some cases even stop doing something that is no longer important.
Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. The essays represent their personal beliefs and not that of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.