You CAN Do It!

There is an interesting set of posts up: one from Emily Lloyd at Shelf Check about how a library as institutional hierarchy can stand in the way of creative workers and an adjunct post by David Lee King (who is mentioned in Emily's post as an example of someone whose library lets him shine) about how to create a space and place to be creative.

Both posts give ample food for thought.  Having worked in small, flexible and nimble libraries during my entire career - where yes is heard more than no - I haven't faced the challenges folks have in larger institutions, where hierarchies and rigidity are constant concerns.  When I went for a week in a staff exchange to our state's largest library I ran smack up against those layers. "Wow!" I thought.  While I appreciated the level of staff support (in our small library we pretty much did a little of everything) at the larger library, I also liked how quickly we could hatch and do creative projects at our place.

On the other hand, no matter how big or small the institution, creating your own path to success is possible by working to create buy-in for your ideas by keeping co-workers, supervisors and decision-makers well informed and in the loop. David Lee King speaks eloquently to that point. As a manager he has alot of flexibility for his own work and for people he works with.  But he always makes sure that people are in the loop and know where he is going.  His success builds in a better chance of permission as he goes along.

You can start small.  Build trust in that you will do what you set out to do - without drama; with good communication; with honest evaluation and with an eye on making the case that the idea or project that you are working on enhances the overall goals of the institution. Show your competance and rewards will follow!

Be prepared to explain, demonstrate and patiently grow your project.  Each time you show success and get the buy-in of managers, other departments and co-workers, you are just that much more likely to have an easier time with your next idea.

Most important, if you are in a rigid organization that gives workers few creative outlets, think about how long you really want to stay there.  There are many libraries, directors and managers that encourage the best of their folks.  Think about a change - my friends and colleagues who have done so have been much happier in finding places to work that encourage and nurture their creativity.

If leaving isn't an option, get involved in the larger library world: your state and national library associations; the Library Society of the World; social networks full of clever library types.  Nurture your inner einstein there and share your goods!  My Galaxy Quest mantra:  Never give up!  Never surrender! 

Image: '093 - Death in a Hierarchy'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/27888428@N00/4737579655


  1. Galaxy Quest does have a great mantra. Always give it your all even if you get turned down. There's an open window near the bolted door. And if you look closely maybe you'll see a tiny Alice sized door at the bottom of the locked one. :)

  2. Thank you for this post! Sometimes a little reminder is always good.