A Philosophy for Staying Current: Rather Than Trying New Tactics to Adapt to Change, Consider Embracing New Attitudes and Aptitudes That Will Make You Excited about Change

By Abram, Stephen | Information Outlook, July-August 2011 | Go to article overview

A Philosophy for Staying Current: Rather Than Trying New Tactics to Adapt to Change, Consider Embracing New Attitudes and Aptitudes That Will Make You Excited about Change


Abram, Stephen, Information Outlook


I recently turned 58, and now I am looking mortality square in the face. Well, not really. I don't think about mortality or retirement much, despite having had a few life-threatening experiences. I try to keep what is commonly called a youthful outlook--which, luckily, has very little to do with chronological age and much to do with being open to new or different ideas and experiences.

I've found that many librarians have similar positive and flexible outlooks, which is understandable given our constant need to adapt to changing professional norms and methods. I love that about our profession. We rock!

This brings me to the theme of this issue of Information Outlook--the e-book revolution. This is another in a very long line of revolutions that have had an impact on librarianship, including the Internet, the Web, online databases, and mobile technologies.

How do we get off the revolution roller coaster and develop a culture of flexibility, adaptability, engagement and excitement about change? Roller coasters are a model of contradictions--danger, excitement, risk, ups and downs, fun and fear--much like the overall environment we find ourselves in today. At my age, I've been for a few rides through our changing world.

Change is the new normal, so dealing with every new shift as if it were a revolution seems like a haphazard strategy. Are there some personal philosophies, attitudes and aptitudes that, when adopted into our professional and organizational cultures, will allow us to more easily and successfully enjoy the ride?

Most "top 10" lists about staying current offer tried and true tactics for keeping up with the changes in the world. And that's just what's wrong with them--they're tactical, not strategic. Most tell you that doing some simple things will prepare you for change, but all they do is make you aware of change without endowing you with new behaviors and attitudes that will allow you to sail through. Yes, you can engage in these tactical activities and have some success, but I believe this approach won't make as big a difference in your life as the 10 strategies outlined below.

Play with vigor and intent. Everyone who knows me knows that I'm a huge proponent of play in the workplace. This isn't just a matter of playing with new technologies and Websites; I also believe that fun and humor should enter our work lives on a daily basis.

You can see opportunity in new things when you play. When you research or investigate something with your workplace goggles on, sometimes you miss the bigger opportunities that are present in the innovation. Occasional undirected play at work frees the mind to explore new ideas.

Successful people and work teams leave time for play, both alone and together. Play is not frivolous--on the contrary., it is one of the most potent learning strategies available. I also believe that happy teams having fun together is a predictor of workplace success, employee retention, and lifelong health. Do you make time to play?

Hang out with different people and people who are different from you. Lately, I've been thinking about the echo chamber that is librarianship. I worry that we listen too much to each other and not enough to others. This can affect the quality of our insights and decisions, and even our ability to communicate with our stakeholders.

For example, how do our customers talk about their encounters with new information technologies? If we talk about "e-books" and they talk about "reading," are we isolating ourselves from them?

How diverse is the community of people you deal with? Are there enough non-librarians in your circle of contacts (not including family members)? How about the demographic mosaic of gender, age, nationality, ethnicity, race, language and geography in your conversation zone? Is it diverse? Do you have personal experience with young librarians and young people? …

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