By Meredith Farkas
Mon, 09/10/2012 - 13:12
What is stopping you from creating change?
Have you ever seen something in your work that you wanted to change but did nothing about it? What stopped you? Maybe you didn’t do it because you were too busy, but maybe you also felt that creating change was too daunting and you didn’t feel capable of making it happen.
So many talented people dissuade themselves from creating change because of feelings of inadequacy and fears of failure. Structures can also inhibit change. Maybe you’re new to your job or professional organization and you feel as though you need to put in your time before you can suggest or create change. Unfortunately, the longer you are part of an organization, the less likely you are to notice the things that are amiss.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have joined the profession when I did—at a time when the “pay your dues” mentality was being replaced by “makeithappen-ism.” The fact that I, as a new librarian, could build a major professional presence because of my blog is a testament to the notions that barriers are coming down and that there are many different ways to contribute to the profession. The Twitter hashtag #makeithappen, coined by librarian J. P. Porcaro, is a rallying cry for librarians new to the profession to let go of whatever is keeping them from taking professional risks and creating change. Groups like Library Society of the World on FriendFeedand ALA ThinkTank on Facebook are bringing passionate and tech-savvy librarians together for mutual support. There are now so many formal and informal channels for finding professional partners-in-crime, discussing ideas, and supporting change. If you want to make something happen, the biggest thing holding you back may be you.
In my January/February 2012 column, I wrote about libraries building fab labs, where patrons can use 3D printers to actually fabricate solid objects. I’m sure the first person who had the idea of libraries facilitating this kind of activity had to overcome significant skepticism and downright resistance. It takes commitment and confidence in your own vision to successfully shepherd an idea that represents a radical change in the role of libraries. As this example indicates, radical change is possible and can create an infectious vision that positively impacts many, many other libraries.
I’d been out of library school only one year when I saw something I wanted to change. Most of the early online professional development opportunities were offered by established organizations using costly enterprise products. I felt strongly that online professional development programs could be built primarily with sweat equity and without organizational sponsorship, making them free or affordable for those who don’t have access to professional development funding.
I worked with four other amazing young librarians to create Five Weeks to a Social Library (sociallibraries.com/course), a free synchronous and asynchronous online learning program designed to teach librarians about social media through experiential and reflective as well as individual and group learning activities. The project required a great deal of work, but it successfully demonstrated that professional development programs can be done on the cheap and made accessible to all. It’s a model for online learning that has been replicated in a number of settings.
I don’t fear for the future of libraries, because I feel confident that passionate, energetic librarians will soon be “making it happen” from directors’ chairs. While I’ve moved into a management position, I’m still committed to keeping the spirit of #makeithappen alive in my professional life. This is the energy that will keep libraries meeting—and exceeding—the changing expectations of their patrons. This is the energy that will keep libraries vital and relevant well into the future.
MEREDITH FARKAS is head of instructional services at Portland (Ore.) State University. She is also part-time faculty at San José State University School of Library and Information Science. She blogs at Information Wants to Be Free and created Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki. Contact her at librarysuccess[at]gmail.com.