… and that’s the last time ever I’ll quote Rachael Hunter in a blog post, I swear.
A really great thing happened this week. My organisation’s new website went live. It’s an attractive site, but far more preciously to myself, it’s got a number of whizzy extra features – RSS, facility for comments on reviews and an array of sharing options.
Even better – I get to feel a share of ownership. Did I do all the work? Not by a longshot. My role is elsewhere in the organisation, so although I was lucky enough to make a few small contributions the real dog work was taken on by a very capable and now very tired team.
Those pieces of work were fun and satisfying, but they’re not where my sense of ownership arises from, and it’s more than simply feeling proud of the first step of a great new venture for my library system.
This sense of achievement stems from what I hope and feel to be a positive contribution to our organisational culture that helped create the preconditions from which these developments could arise.
Following on from the epochal LIANZA conference I mentioned in an earlier post, a trio of colleagues (including myself) asked our management team if we could put together a presentation about the potentials of the web 2 world for North Shore Libraries.
All bells and whistles were pulled out, with a slide show demonstrating the more flexible organisational options offered in a web 2 content delivery system by yours truly and MOUNTED ON FLICKR (that certainly demonstrated the limitless world beyond the powerpoint show), discussion of successful approaches from around the world and our crowning glory, a modded google earth which had us swooping down from orbit to enter a 3d building on Auckland’s North Shore (I think it was the Sistine Chapel) with a bookshelf on it… on which our customers… could find books with reviews!
Our colleague (the brilliant Paul Croxson) didn’t even let on what his part was going to look like, so that last bit had all of us gobsmacked. Wonderful stuff!
What followed was… nothing. Apparently.
Now, us Web 2 types in libraries, if we want to get something done, we do it. If we don’t know how to do it, we find out how and then we do it. If we need to collaborate, we find someone else speaking the same lingo, and then we do it.
Managers are concerned with staffing levels to cover new channels of customer interaction, they are concerned with risks associated with those channels, and here’s the clincher webkids – this is rightly so. Their job is not to leap and embrace every change that comes along (although there are times when they do just that). Even when they do, their job often becomes one of convicing their managers of the worthyness of the project and so on.
Even with the swiftest possible path in these matters, in public libraries at least, all of these changes must be made in a publicly accountable way – that is to say with due diligence as to the whys and wherefores, the how tos and the thou-shalt-nots.
So there is a certain type of collision that occurs at these times. They aren’t of people disagreeing, or people ‘not getting it’ – although that’s a not unfamiliar phrase used by our people about these processes – it’s simply a matter of differing approaches and priorities from the various stakeholders.
And that concept of ourselves as stakeholders is where the potential for change can come in. If we try once and see apparent inaction as failure and give up, we’ve opted out. I’ve known many people in my time in libraries who say “the management just don’t get that… (insert your grievance here)” but don’t take the time to make sure that “the management” (who are, surprise surprise, just people after all) have the opportunity to get it, whatever it is.
So here’s what I did, and here’s where I feel a bond of ownership of this week’s accomplishment: I allowed myself to realise that by allowing us to present on web 2 matters to them, my management had signalled their interest to learn more and move down that path, and legitimated our (and thus my) interest in helping that process along.
I volunteered for web content creation jobs and snuck in web 2 tools, then highlighted them to my colleagues – a set of embedded Picasa slideshows, RSS feeds thrown into grazr widgets to allow live browsing of mixed newsfeeds on current events pages.
I offered tips and advice to any manager foolish enough to stay still for long enough, and supported organisational learning when I could.*
No way did I do all the work, and no way did I even do the hard work. I had a heck of a lot of fun, sometimes worried that I was being and annoying geek but you know what? That frustration over ‘they don’t get it’ just didn’t come into the matter. You’re damn right I’m proud. My definition of a good working life is to have fun, and be effective at the same time.
So yeah, good work team, good work me.
And you? If you’re working in an organisation where they don’t get it? Well, now’s your time. Patience, persistence, positivity, craftiness, sneakiness, cheekiness… whatever you’ve got to throw into the mix, so long as you’re having fun you’ll get there. Just remember you have to get there with the people around you, not in spite of them.
* The funniest moment of this process was when I was giving our city Library Services Manager Geoff Chamberlain an overview of netvibes to link the potential of RSS to a prominent method of accessing it and demonstrated the live video search widget. Confidently, I put in “cute cats” limiting results to youtube, figuring that this was a pretty safe bet… well the cat was cute alright, and at least she was wearing lingerie as she prowled about her bed… oooooops!