are we untamed?

In an effort to become a “tamed” knowledge professional, I’ve been spending a good deal of time studying for comprehensive exams and pondering what lies ahead… for me AND our profession. Many a rant have surfaced while I scour the literature, but none has ignited my soul and caused me to come out of hiding (I’m referring to my lack of posts, Doc), as has an article by James Neal entitled “Raised by Wolves”.

My study group is systematically making its way through previously administered “comp” questions, assigning research and reporting on them BY a member of the group TO group members on a weekly basis.

Here was my question for the week:
In a recent article, James Neal addresses some of the challenges to an organization that increasingly hires information professionals who have been educated and socialized in ways that are different from the prevailing mode of those in the organization. Identify the challenges in creating a cohesive information organization with staff from diverse educational and professional backgrounds and discuss how those challenges can be effectively met.

And here is what I have to say about it:
I found Neal’s article (via google search per my metecrap post) VERY negative and narrow minded, almost in opposition to our education at OU. He conveyed an us vs. them mentality. Aren’t we all in this together? Isn’t the goal to elevate all of us toward active participation in our knowledge society/ecomony? In my opinion the very traits of the “untamed raised by wolves” are the new added strengths to the field of librarianship—which I believe is morphing into a blended information profession. The controversy over this question, then, is whether you choose the positive side of the changes in the profession, or the negative ones.

A paragraph in the article subheaded “the untamed librarians” best conveys the perhaps “sought after answer” to the question stated above. However, in my savage opinion, the wisdom is definitely a bit rough around the edges. Although elitist, the acknowledgment of the issue is healthy.

“The untamed librarians…
These necessary developments in the preparation of librarians, in the hiring and organization of staff, and in the definition of professional roles in academic libraries suggest the metaphor of “untamed” vs. “domesticated” professionals. Academic library administrators must be more sensitive to the diverse background, interests, aspirations, and “hunger” of these new professional staff. They must commit to a more “ferocious” staff orientation and training commitment and seek out creative opportunities for employees to “pack” together more routinely. They must provide more effective training for managers in working with more ambiguous definitions of professional and more blended staff participation. Academic libraries are being forced to cope more routinely with “savage” and competitive conditions; the ability to recruit and develop new expertise in the organization and to integrate with compassion and understanding the multitude of “fauna” now seeking to work in our setting will be a critical measure of success.”

Also, I found the following Seven Deadly Sins of Library Managers blog excerpt interesting, in that it does a good job, I believe, summarizing the concepts at hand.
“The most recent issue of the British information industry newsletter FreePint includes an interesting article entitled Seven Deadly Sins (and Desirable Strategies) for Library Managers by Rachel Singer Gordon, webmaster of the library careers site and author of The Accidental Library Manager. As Gordon writes, back in 2004, some 343 library staff members responded to an online survey on their managers’ qualities and effectiveness. The article summarizes respondents’ comments about the best and worst qualities of their managers. Among the “sins” are micromanagement, lack of communication, fostering divisiveness, abusiveness, failure to listen, avoiding conflict, and taking credit for other’s work. Among the desirable managerial strategies are encouraging growth, providing autonomy, looking out for staff, respecting everyone’s contribution, leading by example, communicating and listening, and providing leadership and vision.”

In my own words, I see the challenges grouped into areas concerned with:
— digital divide, i.e. tech savvy and “not”
— differences in professional training and background
— libraries, as most other professions, are becoming competitive and must respond in order to survive
— patron needs change and require different skill sets from librarians, thus the need for hiring diverse professionals

I see the “remedies” as:
— ensuring managers are aware of learning organization concepts (reference Kline and Saunders; you could expand the answer just on these principals):
1. assess the culture
2. promote the positive
3. make the workplace safe for thinking
4. reward risk taking
5. help people become better resources for each other (cooperation and feedback)
6. put learning power to work (continuous training)
7. map out the vision (Collaberation)
8. bring the vision to life
9. connect the systems (or as I like to call it… communication)
10. get the show on the road (strategies for implementation)
— increased and effective cross-training
— using social networking (either technical or face-to-face) to foster a cohesive group
— increased and improved communication
— developing leaders, not managers

Indeed, good staff relations play a pivotal role in every organization, as every work environment is also a social setting. Cooperation, collaboration, communication and a supportive culture positively affects morale and productivity. Effective managers must guide and direct organizational activities in such a way as to inspire loyalty and respect while encouraging and rewarding quality and excellence.

In a learning organization, everyone is a learner. Real success, then, is defined in terms of what happens in the entire organization, not just in a specific department. For the continued success and growth of libraries, I think it best to rethink Neal’s idea that “another class of professionals has entered the environment, often in key leadership or in critical support positions. Drawn from a wide array of academic backgrounds and work experiences, they increasingly challenge the standards and practices of library professionalism.” This type of thinking may cause permanent decay of the present-day institution. Instead, we should focus more on his summarizing statement, embracing the new life the new information professionals are infusing: “They may fit effectively or be creatively disruptive in the transformed libraries we are seeking to create. Either way, they are needed for their important contributions to academic library innovation and mutability. They will grow in their influence and relevance to the future academic library.”

I’ll take on the role of being creatively disruptive over dead any day.


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