We are excited to have Bria Parker as a guest contributor this week. Bria has a Master of Science in Information and works for a large academic library in the Midwest. She is also the first New Librarian to contribute to our site (we are so inclusive). I think this post is something that a lot of us new information professionals are grappling with and will spark some great comments, so please feel free to add yours. Thanks for the awesome post, Bria! ~ Ed.
DISCLAIMER: I have a great boss, and none of this is directed at him. ~ Bria
If you’re like me, you were required to take some sort of management course in Library School (Information School, Archives School, whatever). And if you’re like me, much of it seemed like a spectacular waste of time, because really, how many of us are managing a department or institution right out of grad school? Oh you are? How nice for you. You can stop reading now.
For the rest of us, management seems to be in the distant future. For now, we must content ourselves with being managed by others. Whether your an archivist, librarian, or like to live dangerously and walk a fine line between the two, being managed, being a cog in the wheel, is not something grad school really prepares us for. Sure, sure, we are prepared for working in groups and we all probably are adept at interpersonal relationships. But that is with our peers. So what can we do to prepare ourselves for developing effective relationships with our superiors
Sure, sure, we’ve all had jobs before now in which we were managed, but when it comes to the professional world of libraries and archives, how do us neophytes operate in the pre-existing hierarchy that is [insert institution here]. We are now professionals, too, so how do we assert our thoughts and ideas when we disagree? What happens when you disagree with how things are done? Or about the way things are about to be done? What happens when you disagree so strongly that maintaining the status quo compromises your belief in what’s right? What can you say? What is the appropriate action? How could anyone get so worked up about old stuff?
If you’re a New Archivist, it is likely that you are currently facing this dilemma, or will soon. How does a new archivist (or librarian) balance the feeling that you might know more about a particular aspect than your superior(s) (either the particular aspect in question is your specialty, or you’ve studied it more recently than others) with the feeling that perhaps you’re just too naive to really understand the bigger issue. I was recently faced with this exact issue, and it broke my confidence. For months others and I had planned and planned, and had developed reasonable specifications. I felt like the research I had done, and all of my previous study really prepared me, and that the right path was chosen for the project at hand. Then someone stuck a stick in our spokes. “No. We aren’t doing that.” Umm…what? Had I been completely wrong? Where was this coming from? Do others not trust me? Am I too stupid to see something?
Unfortunately, a management class and group projects with peers did nothing to prepare me for such a crisis of faith in myself, nearly buckling to the decrees of others whom I felt did not truly understand the issue (despite us having talked about it for months).
The situation that brought on this rant has been resolved (thankfully) in a manner that did not require me to give up much ground (the compromise was a true compromise, with both sides giving a little). My colleagues and I were able to successfully defend the decisions and choices that were being questioned by others. No feathers were ruffled and nothing was as confrontational as the email exchanges leading up the successful meeting had indicated. This is a good thing. Yet while I leave this situation feeling that yes, my knowledge and training did prove to be correct, I was not really able to address the feeling of naivete and inadequacy that plagued me during the two weeks this went on. I was never able to resolve to myself whether or not one of the issues was that I just didn’t get the big picture.
Ultimately, this has been a great learning process for me, and no class would have prepared me for this lesson. But I’d like to know some of your experiences and seek your wisdom. In the future, what should one do? How can one manage the dichotomy of knowledge versus naivete? What if this hadn’t come to a peaceful solution? Should I have stood my ground and possibly made a bad impression? Or should I have buckled to their collective will? Enlighten me, New Archivists!