Published on February 26th, 2012 | by Jen Robinson0
Pretty much every conference has at least one session on Generational Differences, and it’s something beaten like a dead horse in some library school classes. This emphasis on differences always kind of bugged me: why focus on what we can’t agree about and instead think of ways in which we’re similar?
I guess I should have spent a bit more time thinking about the topic, because it’s currently hitting me upside the head like a 2×4. I’ve started working for a system that is largely made up of career-long librarians, meaning they’ve been here for 20+ years and this has often been their only job after obtaining their MLIS degree.
This has a lot of challenges, especially as a manager and someone who thrives on innovation and examination of How Things Are Done. Learning to tread lightly in terms of discussing changes is a lesson I’m currently learning.
I have an incredible amount of respect and admiration for my co-workers, many of which have been serving the same populations for decades. They know their patrons and their collection inside and out.
That said, changes can happen slowly over time and are hard to notice if you’ve been sitting in the same spot for a long while: you patrons and their needs change incrementally, and these shifts may not jump out at you. So when someone comes along and observes that services and needs have changed, it’s understandable that you’ll be feeling a lot of emotions: anger that someone else/an outsider is pointing this out to you, a sense of failure that you didn’t notice it yourself, denial about the situation, and a whole wide range of other reactions.
As someone who is personally and professionally open to change, it’s difficult for me to put my head in a space where new solutions aren’t, by default, a good thing. But my head needs to be there on occasion to understand why folks are reacting the way they are. I run the risk of being perceived as one of those people who think new always equals better, which I most definitely am not. Instead I like to approach every situation with a new eye (if I can manage it) and figure out the best solution based on what I see and know.
I still don’t think I’d get much from a strictly “multi-generational” discussion, but I do think reading some literature (especially non-library publications) about preparing people for change and leading the through it would be helpful.