Trends, Achievements, and Perspectives
When I joined this public library taking an 18-month contract, I was cognizant of being the new-staff, a perceived placeholder, a transient staff member. With that comes some lumpy integration experiences and yet tremendous opportunity for growth. I’ve reflected a tad on this and other experiences as the contract is coming to an end, and I begin transitioning out.
90 days. That’s the old rule for the time it takes to adapt to new work culture. However, in a contract position, that is too long to get up and running, get on-tasks, generate positive outputs, and integrate into the work culture.
In my experience, one or two libraries included a training section on work culture when onboarding new staff, regardless of being temporary or permanent. However, most don’t explain the cultural attitudes, practices, and values from which recent hires can benefit. It’s thought that the new staff is so focused on the work, learning how to execute tasks and the new boss, that the culture in which they work is secondary, if not tertiary, if not at all considered. In a contract positions, you must get this figured out quickly and you’re usually on your own to do it.
Each library work culture differs in how much they value collaboration and collegial connections. Some claim to actively foster cross-pollination of ideas and build workgroups to achieve a common goal but miss the underpinning toxic gossip culture that erodes this hoped-for work culture. Others have structures to empower staff to cultivate relationships that embrace respect, adaptation, innovation, and celebration. These structures are varied from monthly all-staff themed and fun lunch events to strong terms of reference for using emails and text messaging.
I’ve learned to ask questions and observe a new workplace to more quickly gain acceptance and get the work for which I am hired done above expectations. For example, do I need to spend time building a relationship with a new colleague before asking them for help or input on a project? Or does the work culture have a more direct approach, and I can gather a list of “go-to” people I can email for help when i need it.
I’ve learned to observe how colleagues get work done. Do they spend time in meetings with each other, or do they work independently at their desks or from home? Do they appear to be nice but repeatedly cancel meet and greets or meetings for collective thought generation?
Inherent in libraries as an organization and librarians as individuals is the deeply rooted understanding of change agency. Professional librarians are thought of as catalysts for change, people who can make changes happen by inspiring and influencing others. These librarians focus on people and the interactions between them.
While being a change advocate is de rigueur for librarians, demonstrating and managing our internal change agency becomes rather excited during the COVIS-19 pandemic and put under both stress and heightened levels of expectations. I fully embrace change agency and know that I am a change champion wanting to be part of the change rather than reacting to change. I believe that empowering and inspiring others to make changes necessary for transformation, including changes in attitudes, perceptions, and behaviours, realizes tremendous community and personal benefits.
There are many roles in making changes within an organization, and being a change agent is just one of them.
I look to the CEO or Chief Librarian to be the thought leader, the person who embodies what the future could look like, inspires staff to carry the ideas forward to fruition, and celebrates frequently on the way to the transformational goal.
I am grateful that the interim CEO and the now fully installed CEO/Chief Librarian are change agents. They have the skill and power to stimulate, facilitate, coordinate, and foster transformational work cultures. Their work made it possible for the library to pivot from a transactional, brick & mortar library to a dynamic, relational virtual library that enhances and empowers the community the library serves.
And I am transitioning out to bright and new next steps.