February 27, 2009

"I Will Build a Door"

Filed under: precat — Tags: , , , , — tsladmin @ 12:10 am

There are days when it’s really tough living on the front end of the bell curve, and clearly Dave Lankes had one of those last week. But instead of letting it get him down, it caused him to redouble his efforts and even write an inspirational post for the rest of us. (Emphasis below is mine.)
“We live in Shakespearian Times”

“…I won’t get into the details of the meeting, but suffice to say I had a choice to make – be silent or speak.
You may imagine the choice would be easy for me, but it was not. I too face decisions between easy discontent and uncomfortable action. To stand up invites more work, or derision, and in either case courts conflict. It is just easier sometimes to let things pass.
I know I am not alone in having these choices to make. As I go around the country I encounter too many librarians who see the vision, who embrace change, but have grown too tired and discouraged to hope again. They are quieted by the scars of past optimism. These are the conversations that I have the hardest time with. I want to ‘go all inspirational’ and call them to action, but I too have those scars, and have plenty of times when I tried and failed. It is not a good feeling. I would like to avoid it too. So I never want to fault others for their decisions….
It may sound simplistic, but for me it comes down to needing some encouragement. We need to know that we are not alone. We are not. There is a whole pool of fellow librarians that ‘get it.’ We also need to realize that those who get it aren’t just new librarians, but directors, managers, and policy makers. We have a lot of good examples to show the way as well. When I have those bad days, the first thing I have to do is decide to speak up. Then I have to do something. Even if whatever I decide to do is wrong, it is something. Finally, I listen to Shakespeare. Seriously.
For some people when they need to get a pick me up it is music, for others a movie, for still others it is ‘the story’ I’ve talked about before (that time that you as a librarian changed someone’s life for the better). But for me, Shakespeare … Henry V’s St. Crispen’s Day Speech. I have to thank George Needham for introducing me to it….
How do I stay optimistic? I realize first the issues I face are miniscule to the good I can do. How do I get inspired to face intransigence, or laziness, or ineptitude? I look right past them at the real goal, and those who really need me.
Block me, and I will go around you. Build a wall, and I will build a door. Lock the door and I will break a window. And if I don’t have have a leader to inspire me, I will lead. If I don’t have a team that will support me, I will recruit a team from beyond the organizational boundaries – every policy has a loophole, every system has a hidden reward.” [The Participatory Librarianship Starter Kit]

I think I’m going to print this out and post it above my desk, so thanks for writing this, Dave. And along these same lines, I want to note one other thing about librarians. We don’t get the credit we deserve for leading in the 2.0 world, but more importantly, we don’t give ourselves enough credit. While I always think there’s more we can do, experiment with, and improve, it’s also important to take a step back and survey just how much we’ve done in this sphere as a profession.
Librarians were one of the first professions blogging, and by a pretty wide margin. In fact, I’ll even go out on a limb to say that behind the techies, I think we had the largest critical mass first – ahead of the journalists, marketers, lawyers, and other trades that have a large presence in the blogosphere. And in terms of trying out new tools and integrating them into our services, I’d be hard-pressed to find more early adopters in a profession other than librarianship in the areas of instant messaging, wikis, Facebook, and Twitter. We swarm on a new tool and play with it faster than 90%+ of the folks out there, and we’re constantly trying new things.
Sure, there’s a wide range of skills and adoption among librarians and only a small percentage are on the front of the bell curve, but the next time you hear someone berate libraries for staying stuck in the past, don’t let them make a generalization. We all need to keep moving forward, but there are a lot of good things happening in the profession, making it an exciting time to be a librarian. Make a wall into a door and keep trying. It’s worth it, and you can make a difference.

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