Thursday, June 11, 2009

Librarians as Change Agents

by Tiffany Mair

“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.”
–Giuseppe di Lampedusa

We are never in the same place twice. There will always be some factor that makes a moment or situation we experience unique. Yet, we often resist change with fervor that though unable to return us to a past moment, does have the potential to propel us forward in our lives and careers if we choose to live in the present. When we embrace changes and transitions in our lives, as di Lampedusa implies we should, we engage our capacity to create moments and experiences. By living as creators, we may possess a more positive outlook and accept unforeseen changes in our lives with greater grace.

In my opinion, this mindset and view of life is particularly important for librarians. There are many transitions that we as library students will experience as we move toward our degrees and later, when we build our careers as information professionals. These times will have unique challenges. By keeping our eyes and hearts focused on the reasons driving our work and the passionate principles, such as intellectual freedom and equal access to information, we can stay oriented on a professional journey that is actively evolving and changing. We do not need to feel lost if we center ourselves in these ethical and professional ideals. In a world where the only constant is change, it is important for us to arm ourselves with skills and techniques that will assist us in dealing with any transition. The toughest transitions are not necessarily the unexpected, but surprises can certainly shock the system and dampen our spirits if we assign them that power.

The way we respond to transitions can make all the difference in our perspectives and careers. We can spin out of control and experience the highs and lows of our dramatic lives and bemoan or resist the latest software or policy change, or we can reflect, refocus, and reconnect in order to cope with changes (positive and possibly negative) to move forward into the lives and careers we design for ourselves.


We can experience transitions as positive or negative experiences, but it is important to give ourselves time for reflection in order to acknowledge our present and let go of our past. For example, if things do not happen as we have planned or we feel we have missed the mark, reflection can help us take account of our pasts and allow us time to reassess our skills and talents. Reflection can also aide in accepting unexpected changes in our personal and professional lives.


A part of making peace with the past and living in the present moment is allowing ourselves time and space to transition from reflection to refocusing or recalibrating our mental and emotional focus on new goals. By focusing on how we can act as change agents in our own lives helps reinforce the fact that change is always with us, so we might as well embrace it.


Finally, reconnecting to our passions and working to create our dreams (as students, librarians, or individuals) allows us to accept and move with transitions. When we give up resistance, or at least investigate its source, we can be more effective in our roles – and make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of others. Considering that librarianship is a service-driven profession, I believe that taking the time to reflect, refocus, and reconnect can give us greater freedom in expressing our professional intentions and encourage creative approaches to the many transitions in our lives and careers. Reconnecting is also about building collaborative relationships with other librarians and supporting each other professionally so that we can collectively design the future of libraries and information work. It is also important that we reconnect with the library users we serve so that we can provide the services that are what users want and need.

Change may be challenging and can require significant energy to accept. Working through these processes is well worth it so that we can benefit from the attitudes and accomplishments of librarians who embrace and make change. Together, we can create opportunities from change and become powerful librarians, acting as change agents in our lives and in our profession.

Tiffany Mair is co-editor of The Call Number and plans to graduate Spring 2010. Tiffany serves as an intern at Sacramento Area Council of Governments where she works in the State Regional Data Center and is in the process of reorganizing a small transportation-focused library. She also works part-time as a Graduate Assistant for a SJSU-SLIS Professor.

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