Dean Update: Changing the Face of the Librarian

Dean Update: Changing the Face of the Librarian
Jenny James Lee
June 4, 2014

The steps to changing an organization’s future are seemingly easy – draft a vision, set objectives, meet goals and tell the world. But, a transformation calls for something more - a dramatic change or metamorphosis. Operationally, shifting an organizational culture is not so easy as one has to change perceptions and behaviors of both those responding to the change and to those changing.

Evidence that “they don’t know what we do,” fuels an almost victim-like attitude among some librarians while amusing, surprising, or amazing others. Libraries are bombarded with major changes in the fundamental areas to which they have brought order, reliability, and trust. It no longer is news that electronic publishing, digital resources, online learning, multi-tasking, time jugglers have shifted our well established practices of collection building, reciprocally sharing materials, teaching steps to search and evaluate information, building complex discovery standards and systems and protecting quiet rooms for focused learning. We are shifting our challenge from figuring out what we can do with what we have, to planning, shaping and sharing the doing with others. Resources are enablers [with limitations] more than limitations to enable change.

Recently, after reading a futurists’ account of The Power of Pull* I have been intrigued by the implications for libraries in society that is moving from information stores to knowledge flow. The text illustrates how social media and other information technologies are enabling new behaviors where authoritative information is “pushed,” while knowledge is “pulled” from the engagement among people. The library was mentioned in this account of transforming the information/knowledge world, but only in reference to the traditions of the push world. The authors recognize the power of marshaling our passions to do great things, a quiet practice that is found among librarians.

The Libraries is actively working to understand changes affecting the ways people and information connect and creating new knowledge. We do so not as a theoretical construct or an emotional sense of loss. Our flavor of transformation is to evolve improvements in services and partnering with others, and in the midst of both to articulate a new face for librarians. We certainly don’t claim to have figured out how to brew transformation in an efficient and effective way, but we welcome the engagement with others to figure it out---there is some profound truth in pulling knowledge from other people. In this issue of In Circulation, we share recent stories of attempts to communicate the nature of tugging toward the Libraries’ transformation--we celebrate the entrepreneurial, creative, and promotional activities that our staff have conducted this past year; introduce new talent among our professional staff; honor a past director and her family who contributed to the momentum for our transformation; and share the challenges of adopting technologies to meet new demands for leveraging data to still push information.

But there is one continuation that seems to hold amidst the sea changes around us. Our students prepare for their finals much like we did—spending hours reading in the library. And many are ready to burst out after commencement and continue to welcome summer we share with them.

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD
Dean of Libraries

*The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison, 2012