I’ve been thinking about generational conflict a lot lately – we just finished our annual fundraiser at the radio station, which is a time when volunteers new and old really get a chance to mingle. I had lots of great conversations with new undergrads about their classes, music they’re digging, and cat videos. I also sat through soliloquies from some veterans about how things used to be back when they were young. It was like those cliched “When I was your age…” tales only they didn’t allow for any dialog – just listening to stories about “the good old days”. It totally annoyed on several levels, but mostly the missed opportunity for the vets to learn from the rookies. We’re all pretty much on the same footing, and I don’t think the vets remember that.
Remember when you were young? Remember when you were first starting out?
I try to.
When I was first getting into libraries, I was totally one of those young guns who thought I knew more than anybody else and that we needed to raze the system and start new. I kind of went to library school out of spite to fix things that I thought reflected outdated ways of looking at libraries and information management. I’ve mellowed some, but I still think we need to make sure the voices of new professionals are heard. I worry about many SLA members not seeming to understand the worries, concerns, and issues of new librarians (or whatever you’re called). Not only is it hard to feel heard, but the opportunities to learn and grow are often stifled. I sometimes wonder if it’s because human nature makes letting go of things difficult, or is this like a form of professional helicopter parenting?
I worry we’re going to drive away or wear down a generation of librarians through this ineffective management and poor communication. Mentorship should be able to address this to a degree, but it alone is not enough.
I try to be mindful of this as much as I can when working with others. We need to think about the opportunities we had (or wish we had), and how to make sure similar opportunities are available for coming generations. I’m talking about responsibilities, work, and professional growth. This little empathy and memory could go a long way.
So in my renewed effort to do something about it, I’m trying to figure out ways to work with a broad group of people who want to get stuff done to make the opportunities and learn from each other. I will also continue to try and give newer people a platform to speak their case to those who need to hear it. The hardest part, and most frustrating, is working through quagmires brought about from stale practices and poor documentation tactfully. Inertia is hard to overcome, but we need to push through it. If not for ourselves, but for those who will follow.