Change, or thinking the unthinkable
Posted by lpearle on 10 February 2015
“Life is change”, we’re told. And we need to “lean in” to the discomfort (a real misreading of That Book) or recite the Serenity Prayer or do yoga or something. But change is stressful, no matter how we try to deal with it.
There’s a very loosely connected group of librarians who meet once a year at a day-long conference (the group is called the New England Association of Independent School Librarians, or NEAISL, and has no elist, no website, nothing more than this moveable conference) and this year, Porter’s is hosting that conference. Our metatheme is change in all its permutations and instead of presentations we’re having facilitated conversations. I know, from personal experience, that those conversations we have amongst colleagues are incredibly valuable – going to a conference presentation may lead to a new idea or two, or give an overview of a new tool, but for help with real change, real problems, it’s that interpersonal piece that works best.
So what kind of change? As a librarian, I know that our programs have changed radically over the past couple of decades. The school library my parents had looked very much like the one I had, but the one my nieces and nephews had has undergone so much change that they wouldn’t recognize mine! Gone are the micro-format machines and drawers of film/fiche, ditto the card catalog, the LP collection, etc. and instead there are computers and databases and possibly makerspaces, and no shelves of encyclopedias with annual updates. Do we stay with Dewey, or go with Metis or BISAC or Library of Congress? What is the right size to the collection?
And then there are professional changes, like a shake-up in school or library administration. Sometimes it’s a redistribution of duties or divisions, based on staffing changes. What do you do if you have to change divisions, moving from your Middle School comfort zone to working with Upper School? Or losing your K-12 range to go K-4 only? Maybe there’s been a reduction, where your clerk has been “reassigned” (or someone without any training has been assigned!). And if you’re new to a school, how do you fit into that team – if there is a team; sometimes you’ve gone solo and are suddenly everything from the Head Librarian to the occasional volunteer.
For some people, and I’ve heard from a number, these changes are too much. They’ve gotten that one straw too many and it’s time to think about What’s Next. Years ago, a colleague at another school sent out an email describing a situation at her school, where the new Head was radically changing the program and essentially turning it into a non-library space with a non-library focus. This distress call got back to the school and a few days later, What’s Next became What Do I Do Now? Some of us are trying to prevent that from happening to us, but the strain of keeping up with the changes is difficult to deal with.
It’s my hope that instead of thinking the unthinkable, we’ll be able to band together and share resources, share tool and share our stories, bolstering each other so that we can deal with the stress and the change. What are we doing, and where are we going is relevant to everyone – so here’s your opportunity to vent, share and help. I look forward to your comments!