Lack of collaboration=stagnation?

August 18, 2011

Yesterday I had a conversation with another librarian who was in a situation where there was absolutely no collaboration happening in his office.  The manager micro-managed and refused to provide information or training on databases that the information center held with the other staff members because it was “his area of expertise, and no one else needs to know about it”.  This center was even thinking about not letting the librarians sit out in the open so they are not tempted to talk to the professionals (their patrons!) and do more work.

This whole situation, frankly, appalled me, in so many ways.  Most glaring, though, was the idea that each staff member (there were 3 of them) were little islands of their own under the umbrella of the information center.  Very little teamwork (if any) was done, and it didn’t sound like when there were outreach opportunities attempted, that there was any support of each other.

However, collaboration isn’t just between staff (although that may be fundamental to a working, healthy, and successful office), but it is also collaboration between the staff and the patrons.  This librarian had tried bringing in the patrons into the library, talking with them about their needs, and chatting with them to make them feel at home.  I had a similar situation whereby I, and a colleague, developed a program to discuss the needs of each department by identifying experts and setting up 15 min. meetings with them to get to the root of their needs.  This also opened up the door for a closer relationship with our information center and the people we serve.

I fear that the situation described to me yesterday will not only cause discontent and dysfunction in the office environment (leading to a lack of innovation in this ever-changing landscape), but the lack of support for collaboration with patrons on a regular basis (not just as responding to search requests) will soon show to both patrons and management that the information center really isn’t an integrated part of the business and therefore expendable.

I hope that any others in this situation realize that times are changing so fast, and that information professionals need to keep in the forefront and anticipate the changes, identify the needs, and truly be an essential part of information seeking and finding the truth.  To ignore this means to be passed by and could be detrimental to your company.

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