Change is the theme

WOW! Change is the major theme on the biblioblogosphere right now. Meredith has a great post about Knowledge Management at her institution.

T. Scott has a great comment on the post:

One of the things that I would encourage you to remember is that it doesn't take a LOT of the people in an organization to make change happen. The cultural shifts happen very subtly, when a small core of forward thinking people adopt new tools and processes and start to demonstrate successes with them.

This is how I get most of my work done. When I decided that I didn’t want to be the only one adding content to the Intranet anymore and when our staff decided they wanted improved communication in the library I went right to my deputy director. I told her what I wanted to do and she said okay. I did not consult with anyone else. I went about my job designing a communication and knowledge management hub for our library. While I was working on it I would drop hints about how things would work when it was done and the staff started talking. When I released it I made sure to offer a happy upbeat presentation – happiness is contagious. Seven months later I can say that at least 1/3 of our staff is using the Intranet on a regular basis. But Meredith is right:

Clearly, though, the solution to these problems is not so simple as creating an Intranet or a wiki or whatever. There has to be a real change in culture or people won't use the tools they are given. That's really where the managers have to come in. Management style is so crucial to KM. The way you manage people will make them more or less likely to share what they know.

I had management behind me with this project and it’s not up to management to make sure that people are documenting everything in a place where we can all get to it. While I see the whole job security side of not sharing – I don’t understand where that comes in in an organization where people have been there forever. It’s not like out administration is out there looking for someone better to replace people – they just want to know what you do on a daily basis in case you can’t get into work – or you have an accident and have to suddenly go on disability.

In 2002 I had to do just that. I had torn a ligament in my shoulder and had to have it repaired. I spent the whole 2 months or so before that documenting every thing I did on a daily basis – and when I came back 3 months later I still had a job – not only that but people were able to appreciate how much I did just a little bit more.

Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for Meredith – I don’t know how to make people see that knowledge management is necessary and that change is sometimes required to reach a desired goal. Meredith says:

Some people were just plain antagonistic to new technologies.

This is the most frustrating part of my job – having to fight with people to show them that a particular new technology is going to make their life easier – and I’m not talking only about new fangled things like blogs & wikis – like Meredith said people are against using a simple spreadsheet. The worst part is when you see this antagonistic attitude in someone who deals with the public – then you have even more hurdles to get across in order to make change a reality.

Anyway, while it’s sad that we’re all dealing with these frustrations at work – it’s a little bit comforting to know you’re not the only one out there. Make sure you read Meredith’s post and the comments – there is a great discussion going on over at Information Wants To Be Free.

Managing Change Part 2

I wrote my review of The Accidental Library Manager last night. I mentioned that I liked the Managing Change chapter and then this morning I saw that Info Career Trends has a bunch on managing change in libraries:

  • What’s Online? Recommended Resources
  • What’s Your Story? Knowing Yourself Is Key to Surviving Change
  • It’s Not Personal, It’s Business: Practical Advice on Dealing with Change in the Workplace

Accidental Library Manager

A week or so ago I finished reading The Accidental Library Manager by Rachel Singer Gordon. I was waiting to have some time before I wrote about it – and now I have some time.

First, this is the second of Rachel’s books that I have read and I have to say I like her writing style. I love that it seems like she’s talking right to you – I love that she makes topics like managing budgets something you want to read in case there is a little pearl of wisdom in there (although I will admit I did eventually start skimming that section :) ).

So, I guess the first question is: Am I an accidental library manager? I don’t think so. When I was hired in 2001, the deputy director asked me where I saw myself in three years and I said “Not as a Web Assistant”. It has always been my goal to be a manager – although I guess I never knew it would be in a library. I grew up with parents who owned their own businesses – so I learned a lot about managing business and people. I’m proud to say that both of my parents are the kinds of employees who companies seek out – they are so good at what they do that people know their names and want them on their teams. My mother is a manager and she recently described her managerial style as friendly. She treats her employees as friends, staff meetings take longer than they probably should because she wants to hear about people’s weekends or family before she gets down to business. She has found a way to master the friend/boss roll – something I hope to accomplish in my career.

Back to the book. Rachel starts her introduction by telling us that there are tons of other books on being a manager in a library – but I’m glad that I read this one first because – like I said already – I like the way Rachel talks to me through her writing. She covers everything from becoming a library manager to managing people to managing change and what people want in a manager. Bet you know what chapter I liked the best.

Managing Change. “You may need to challenge ongoing, longstanding practices, some so entrenched that no one remembers their original purpose.” (pg 183). Didn’t I just talk about that in my post about managing programming projects? I think I did – except that I believe a lot of these practices came about because of the tools that people had to work with.

If your work life devolves into a constant series of putting out fires, it may be time to step back, look at the overall picture, and strategize a new way of managing change in your organization. (pg 186)

The other key? Communication! This is a constant theme and something that came up a lot in our strategic planning process at work. People want to know what’s going on – and if management doesn’t share then the staff gets cranky and feels unimportant. This is why our intranet has been so great for our library – it has improved communication significantly – everyone can see what other departments are doing and managers have an easy way to share with the entire staff.

Another theme covered in this book – something else that’s close to my heart. Training.

It is the managers' responsibility to offer and support training within the library. Training doesn’t always have to cost money either. At Jenkins we register for free webinars and hold them for our whole staff in our multi-purpose room. This allows the staff to hear speakers they may not ever hear otherwise. The problem is that if your manager won’t give you an hour off of the desk to attend then it’s a waste of time for the people organizing the event.

Rachel mentioned that some libraries have in-service days so that the entire staff can attend training sessions without having to worry about who’s helping the patrons. I love this idea!!

Anyway, I could sit here and summarize the entire book for you – but the people at Info Today probably wouldn’t like that ;)

I highly recommend this book to anyone in management or considering management in a library.