keeping up, respectfully


I started on a quick post about the Computerworld article Top Five technologies you need to know about in 07, and pointing out that it wasn’t as much one of those snappy articles that tells you what you need, but that, despite its imperitive title, it is an accessible intro to emerging trends in web use and development, which is useful for those of us that facilitate public and workplace computing, natch.

But then I felt the need to disclose that it came across Signal vs Noise,  the blog from a commercial software developer (the developer of Ruby on Rails, mentioned in the article,) and to say, snarkily, how much I appreciated Basecamp‘s role in eliminating seriously tedious meetings. Which lead to rethinking this all, because I’ve begun to bristle at declarations of old/wrong ways of doing things, and new/right ways of doing things.

While I’m behind the thinking in The Cluetrain Manifesto (as much as anyone can be behind a catchphrase-intensive market phenomenon book and still respect themselves), I really resent the way that it’s caught on, rhetorically, as a way to designate who’s on board with an agenda, and who’s not. Because, especially in libraries, you can’t just write off people who have different priorities, and you can’t promote anything using just arrogance and know-it-allness. It writes off collective memory, and it’s annoying. It’s not just a generation gap in the workplace issue. Archivists get maligned all the time for “not having a clue”, but all the sneering and bad rhetoric won’t lead to fixing that. Rather, there’s going to have to be some consensus on what a group wants, and what they need. I don’t think it’s as arbitrary as faux-business jargon. Moreover, libraries just don’t work the same way that businesses do – the getting left behind is a perpetual, arguable state. And it’s not like innovators in our world can just set out on their own- job hopping is an unsure option if you’re looking to make effective changes.

I’ve been thinking and talking alot about project management lately, and how libraries can’t make things get done in the same way as businesses, and that they shouldn’t just adapt to a business model, but need to figure out project management on our own terms and for our own purposes. I don’t want to work for a corporation, and I don’t want to work like I work for one. But I want to do work that has an impact, and I want to be able to work hard, get effective direction, and get recognized for it.


2 Responses to keeping up, respectfully

  1. Leets says:

    See, I think libraries could take a page from the corporate world’s book in many ways. At my organization, nothing worthwhile ever gets accomplished in part because of the hierarchical nature of libraries and that everyone has to be able to have their say and give their input before anything can be done. Things get discussed to death and the momentum dies. Also, innovation is looked down upon. Nobody wants to be the first to try something new in case it doesn’t work. As the old adage goes, there are way too many chiefs and not enough Indians in most (at least academic) libraries. In the corporate world there is often much more freedom to try new things and you’re encouraged to get this accomplished in a timely manner. Things languish here for months, if not years, constantly being “tabled” at those usless meetings you speak of. I’m not sure what can be done about this, but it seems to be a huge problem in many libraries.

  2. Mimi says:

    I’m totally for taking a page, but not the whole book. We’re not corporations, and thus we have freedom that they don’t have. I think we have opportunities to make work-models that are more effective, but it’s going to take negotiating on part of both initiators at the bottom and holdouts at the top.

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