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Helping Others Get Over the Fear of Change

Photo from Flickr by Lyndi&Jason

Photo from Flickr by Lyndi&Jason

Change can be scary. Moving to a new city, having a kid, getting a dramatically different haircut – we often fear the unknown. What if I can’t make friends? What if I am a bad parent? What if my hair looks stupid? Fear can often hold us back from great experiences and doing great things.

Sometimes in libraries there is also a fear of change. Most readers of this blog are likely embracing change and see it as the only constant, but I am willing to bet they have colleagues or directors who are less than excited about all the rapid change taking place. These co-workers likely have done things the same way for a long time and may not see the value in new technologies.

Through some discussions and reading that I’ve recently done, I have found a few things that are useful to remember when trying to help people get over their fear of change:

  • Play and have fun – Don’t take yourself to seriously. Libraries are fun places and the work we do is fun. We’re not brain surgeons. No one will die if we use the wrong subfield in a MARC record. We need to be able to have fun. Failure is going to happen, and that’s good because it leads to learning. Learning a new technology is all about failure and play. Instead of already knowing how a new technology works, you have to just start playing and clicking on things until you understand it, failing multiple times in the process.
  • Listen – Listening to people is an important tool in getting people over the fear of change. Instead of talking about how great a technology is or how much it will benefit people, try listening. Often through the simple act of shutting up you can better understand people’s concerns. In fact, sometimes people just want to be heard. You don’t have to do anything, but they want to at least know that they have a voice. As Epicetus said, “We have two ears and one mouth so we may listen more and talk the less.”
  • Tell stories – Well reasoned arguments are great, but when trying to change someone’s mind they often fall flat. Stories are much more effective when you’re trying to make an impression on someone. Instead of saying “this widget will increase your productivity 77%,” say “I was using this widget the other day, and boy did it make life easier!” Stories will get you further than facts and figures.
  • Make use of a group – People are much more comfortable in a group setting. If some people may be hesitant to learning a certain technology, perhaps try it in a group setting. Groups are powerful. The peer pressure and the idea that “we’re all in this together” can help people get over their fear and improve themselves and gain new skills.

I’d like to thank Margot Price, David Lee King, and my library school bud Becky Canovan for discussing this with me and helping me clarify my thoughts on this. Are there other things that you have found helpful in getting people over their fear of change?

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Library 101…Now What?

David Lee King and Michael Porter unveiled the Library 101 project last week. From what I have gathered, their premise is that there is a lot of social and technological change and libraries and librarians need to adapt and develop some basic skills to stay relevant in this new era. I feel there is a lot of truth in this and it can be helpful in framing discussions about libraries.

The response from the library community over this project has been mixed. They have over 2500 fans on their Facebook Page. There has also been a more critical response on Annoyed Librarian (the comments are especially interesting). Whatever your reaction is, I think that this is an opportunity for librarians as a community to think about the future and moving forward as a profession.

The list of 101 skills on their strangely named 101 RTK are links to good resources, but a bit contrived. I think that as librarians we don’t need to focus on whether or not we have Hulu as a skill. We need to focus on the larger issues that they mention like lifelong learning and the ability to quickly adapt and change.

Change is the norm these days. Having the ability and the aptitude to strategically navigate change is the real skill that all librarians need to have. Having the “ability to type” or “handle ourselves during a conference call” are not things that libraries should be focusing on. These skills will constantly change. Hulu is moving to a subscription model. Twitter and Facebook won’t be around forever. Not all librarians need all these skills. There are a variety of skills that people need for their different positions in public, academic, and special libraries. It would be more helpful if we could focus the discussion on which skills all librarians need.

The best part of the Library 101 project in my opinion are the essays. Most of them focus on those basic, overarching skills and bring up some really good points. My question now is “what is the next step?” Now that we have some of these basic skills spelled out, things like fearlessness, marketing, unlearning, and even math, how do we change people? How do we influence cultures of fear at our libraries? How do we help our colleagues develop these skills necessary for a successful vibrant library profession?

I started a discussion on the Library 101 Facebook Page. Let’s come up with some answers.