Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Creating change by directing elephants and riders

For some reason, I've been reading a lot of "business books" lately. I read Re:Work a couple of weeks ago and I just finished Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

My short review of both books: Both of them were well-written, thought provoking books that will change the way you perceive work and change respectively. Do yourself a favor and check them out, but only if you're ready to have your mind blown and your way of doing things forever altered.

In Shift, the Heaths talk about how our brains are divided into two distinct parts: the rational part (the rider) and the emotional part (the elephant). In order to create change that sticks, you have to make a compelling case for change to both parts of the brain. Additionally, the Heaths assert, you have to shape the path for both the elephant and the rider to be successful.

Change, the Heaths assert, doesn't happen until you can do all three things.

I thought of a lot of ways that I could apply this to my life. Then I started thinking about how this process works (or doesn't work) in libraries.

Despite how often you hear librarians complain about the glacial rate of change in libraries, I don't think that libraries are uniquely dysfunctional when it comes to change.

There area lot of people who have been doing certain things for a long time and are deeply invested in those processes--even when they don't work anymore. This is true in every area of the library, but let's focus on cataloging since this is a cataloging-related blog.

We've been doing the same process for at least 30 years, right? AACR and AACR2 have switched up the game some, as have advances in technology, but we've been producing bibliographic metadata for a while now.

Think about how many things have changed--shelf ready processing, programming languages that allow us to repurpose publisher metadata, web scale discovery systems--and then think about how resistant we, as a group, are to change.

This will never work. We can't do that here. It's too expensive. It doesn't meet our needs.

Sound familiar?

We are so invested in the way of doing things that work for us, that getting the elephant and the rider down the new path seems far beyond what we can do. Even if my elephant and rider say 'let's do this!,' I still have to convince the riders and elephants of everyone else in my department.

Change is hard. I know it, you know it, and the Heath Brothers know it. But that doesn't mean that change isn't worth doing. In fact, I would argue that change is the only way that we, as catalogers, are going to stay relevant.

Take the time to evaluate which changes make the most sense for your organization and then create a compelling argument for making that change. Make sure your argument appeals to both the rider and elephant of those you have to convince.

Be proactive. Be visible. Be awesome

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