16 December 2007

Leading the Library

It is a snowy, blustery day in Vermont and while I should be grading my students' papers, instead I was catching up on some reading: blogs that it. I caught this one by fellow Vermonter Meredith Farkas. This is a great post.

Having to write a couple of essays lately on my "leadership abilities", I have had to reflect on what makes me a leader in the library. One of the first qualities I noted was my not being afraid to fail. I agree with Meredith that we oftentimes don't want to admit to our failures. To my mind, this characteristics aligns with not wanting to admit we don't know the answer as well. Perhaps it is because we are the ones that find answers, perhaps it is because we are so concerned with our status that we don't want to appear fallible. Whatever it is, this mindset is outdated and frankly, unproductive.

It is far more productive for librarians to break new ground, to take risks, to challenge tradition. Why? Because we are constantly trying to demonstrate our relevance by expounding on the ever-changing nature of information. How can the same people that demand to be considered as guides through these rapids also demonstrate a fear of failure? Think about the most basic reference interview: you try something, it doesn't work, and you reshape your search and try again. I am not advocating for impulsive, spontaneous action at your library without structure or planning. Quite the opposite. But as we construct plans to implement change, there needs to be a willingness to revisit previous efforts that were unsuccessful. There needs to be a willingness to try something no one else has tried but is needed in your community. There needs to be a willingness to dive in knowing that you can swim to the side when need be.

Sometimes I feel like the library is so worried about staying relevant that we miss the opportunity to step away from relevance onto the road of experimentation. I hope that old and new librarians alike consider the opportunities that are in our communities or are still to be found. There is nothing wrong with failure. There is something wrong with not trying in the first place.

1 comment:

Annie B said...

So right! I often think about the same fear of failure arguing to try new things in my church congregation But, that's no reason that we can't try.