Ready for concrete advice on handling resistance to new ideas at your library? I hope so, because that’s what you’re getting today.
Step One: Find out why your colleagues oppose your new idea. There are lots of different reasons why people might oppose an idea, and different colleagues may have different reasons. Here are the few I often hear:
- Someone at the library has already tried the idea, and it either didn’t work or was not supportable.
- The current service, program, or whatever the idea is about works perfect well.
- The library doesn’t have the resources to implement the idea without cutting back in other areas.
- The idea and the issues it’s attempting to fix are not as important or time-sensitive as other issues happening at the library, so your idea should wait.
- The idea won’t actually fix anything and/or it is change only for change’s sake.
Note that none of the above reasons are particularly personal. Here are a couple of the more common personal reasons one might assume as to why their colleagues oppose their ideas:
- The new librarian’s colleagues don’t yet trust the librarian to come up with and implement a solid idea.
- The new librarian is not in charge of the area of the library related to the idea and is therefore stepping on someone’s toes in proposing it.
Try not to assume that it is personal! Listen to your colleagues when they voice concerns and try to figure out where the issue with your idea actually lies. Once you know where it lies, you’ll then be able to come up with workable solutions and not make the situation worse. At the heart of this advice is the recommendation that you learn as much about the issue as possible. With that in mind, let’s look at my next piece of advice.
Step Two: Observe the library at work. Ask yourself these questions: are people territorial at your library? Do you have a territory to call your own? Although the word territory is generally seen as a curse word around libraries, it is important to be aware of people’s perceived work boundaries. Actually, let’s not use the word territory at all and instead use the words boundary and authority. (Or are these also curse words?)
In any case, when dealing with an unfamiliar landscape, I recommend that you survey the field. During the first half-a-year or so, spend a good deal of time observing how your library works. While you are learning your specific duties, be sure to learn about others’ duties and how their work fits with yours. Also look at the different services and see how one impacts another. The key to this step is gaining a more global perspective on how your library operates.
Step Three: Document the area of the library your idea will most impact. Look at data, chart workflows, and start to build a construct of how the current system works. The bigger the idea, the more work you will need to do at this point. If you don’t have data, then maybe you need to start assessing the system. Does it really not work as well as you think it doesn’t? In what ways does it specifically not work?
Step Four: Bring the information you’ve gained from the above steps and start analyzing. The key thing to making change happen isn’t to just come up with a great idea!!!! The idea is only great if it benefits the library’s patrons, services, programs, technology, or whatever area of the library your idea is about. When you have opposition to an idea, you may need to build a case for the idea, argue its benefits, calculate the cost in resources, and plan out the change process. The best way to do that is to gain information and then use it. Don’t ignore the information you find. If something doesn’t look right, then keep digging.
Think you’re done? Not quite. There’s advice to be had in my next Advice post.