Adapting to change requires reacting positively to change – even creating change – and ultimately ensuring that it works to a special library’s advantage. Equally important, special librarians themselves can thrive, both personally and professionally, when they become change agents …. think “resilience,” not resistance.
Special librarians achieve sustainability by understanding that end user requirements and forces at work (e.g. new technologies, globalization and a mobile workforce) all demand change—and by reacting positively. Libraries must cope with staff shortages, budget cuts, outdated technology, competition from unexpected sources, and even negative stereotypes. In the face of all these challenges, it can be powerful to develop those parts of yourself which make you “The Change Resilient Librarian.”
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, resilient means “able to … spring back into shape after bending, stretching or being compressed.” That’s with regard to an object. With regard to a person, it means “able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.” In addition to a career history that includes dealing with difficult conditions, I know that I’ve sometimes felt “stretched or compressed” at work and I imagine you have too! Combining those two definitions helps me think about what qualities define the Change Resilient Special Librarian: one who can bounce back from unexpected and uncontrollable change, and not simply recover from, but triumph over challenges—even creating positive change.
When I think about many of our clients who fit that description, the following list of shared attributes comes to mind:
- Visionary – the ability to imagine expanded relevance and influence
- Innovative – using classic skills in new ways and finding new tools
- Strategic – tying content, products and services to organizational business needs and objectives
- Proactive – creating opportunities for the library to contribute and participate
- Networked – building connectivity to company leadership, other departments, professional peers
A change resilient special librarian is often also an applied technologist, meaning that they think of software applications as tools used to support strategy and specific goals—a very practical approach. At Lucidea, we think of technology that way too.
A resilient librarian is a change manager. Accepting the new, the different, the exciting, the inconvenient—even the stressful—and developing a strategy for managing it can be extremely empowering. Leaders who manage change both reassure and inspire their teams—and individual contributors who do so build a professional confidence that allows them to thrive even when they’re stretched, compressed or facing difficult conditions.
Would you describe yourself as a Change Resilient Special Librarian? If so, we’d love to hear more about how you express that resilience in your career, and how you encourage it in your staff and colleagues.
Download a copy of the white paper from Lucidea’s SLA Hot Topics Session, “Building the Resilient Library: Leverage Change and Become Indispensable” drawn from our series of panel discussions on the “Sustainable Library.”
Special libraries, archives, and museums can boost engagement through crowdsourcing transcription, which is also the perfect volunteer opportunity.
Skills for special librarians include using learning theories such as connectivism; users need to see connections between information sources
Medical librarians share professional development goals and needs with other special librarians; the MLA provides learning opportunities.
Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction can be used for class planning to help get your special library students in the correct mental state for learning.