Over the past couple of weeks I have once again been accused of being negative in these blogs and disparaging of librarians.
I prefer to think of myself as a critical friend.
Indeed, my credentials border on stellar in advocating for this profession over 40 years so I don’t think that I am simply negative. I just wish that the library world would stop giving me so much fodder for a weekly blog. There seem to be no shortage of peculiarities. Yes, there are great positive stories – you can read about them in many other places, along with the testimonials and “glad tidings”.
But sometimes we also need to stop and think a bit…
After a long hiatus the Governor of California appointed a new State Librarian. Seems like the poor man is not a professional librarian, the first commentary by the state’s librarians. This of course was an outrage. Not too much praise about him being an advocate, a journalist, friend of the governor, well connected…
A few senior librarians suggested several provocative and rather perverse questions that “the leadership” (the state association executive board) needed to put to him: what did he know about x, y and z? where did he find out? what was he going to do to improve the lot of California’s poor libraries? And, yes, a few were much more thoughtful in recommending forming partnerships and working together.
One even wanted proof that he had a library card and used a library. This in denial of the fact that the strongest supporters of libraries tend to be people who never use them…
The state executive board issued a thoughtful statement of welcome. In contrast, the same day their executive director was quoted in the LA Times as saying it was an outrage that he was not a librarian (she is now pursuing “new opportunities”).
Some respected library leaders objected that they were not personally consulted about the statement (well, that would have taken a few years to get all of the words right, and what did you elect these people for anyway?).
There is even pressure that he should get an MLIS degree while state librarian and apparently one school has suggested that they would work with him. Really? Really? Do I want my primary state advocate wasting his time taking LIS courses on nights and weekends? To what end? I would rather take an hour or two and inform him of the issues and the benefits that could accrue to residents with his support and let him have the time to do the work for which he was hired.
Work Together To Make It Work
He has the job. Get over it. Make it work.
Couldn’t we follow the simple rules of influence?
Welcome him and support him.
Get to know him and inform him, simply and respectfully.
Offer our expertise. Connect with his deepest values and beliefs.
Build a network of colleagues for him. Ensure that he knows the best and the brightest of the other state librarians.
Identify our unique value proposition and unique contribution.
Offer our support yet again.
He may not be a librarian but bleating will not make it so, and will destroy any possibility of good will and support.
Just shoot me in the foot again.