ASSOCIATES (vol. 9, no. 2, November 2002) -

*Donít Wait Till New Yearís!*


Tinker Massey
University of South Carolina
Richland County Public Library

Itís always a mad rush to join humanity at New Yearís to formulate resolutions for changing oneís behavior. A new look at lifeÖa new endeavor to straighten life out, is usually our way of adopting quick fixes and hopes for turnarounds. Some follow through and most donít, but there is an effort. I often wonder why we donít make that effort every day of our lives, for ourselves and all the people who are around us.

Why arenít we more positive? Why do we leave conflicts unresolved until another time? Why do we adopt an "Oh wellÖ" attitude instead of looking for solutions or compromises?

I hate to pigeonhole people and behavior because I feel we are all very different, but there are many ways that we are similar. Our "herd" tends to want harmonious environments in which to live and work. To this end, we do have the tendency to avoid conflict by shutting down conversation with, "Weíve always done it this way.."; or "Itís not possible.." ; or "Itís not in my job description.." What if our responses took on a subtle change? "Oh, I know weíve always done it this way, but what if we tried this way (or that possibility)?" Changing negatives into positives takes some effort and working the brain a little to see another point of view/option. Every time I hear a negative, I feel challenged to say, "But what if we looked at it this way?" Sometimes I even throw an absurdity into the conversation to ease the tension, and find that others quickly make up other absurdities to top mine. Once that door has been opened, we suddenly find ourselves throwing out good ideas in the arena and listening to others. This process is called "planting the seeds." There is a lot of fertile ground and who knows what might grow in that kind of soil?

Once upon a time, I rode a book truck around the department to demonstrate that ideas as well as books and people could be transported to new places and old. The visibility of this started people to think and soon we had a number of new ideas for our workflow. There was a time when a hallway divided acquisitions and cataloging, and never the twain should meet! I crossed the hall to find out answers and soon (seeing no harm came to me), others were traveling back and forth across the hall for various information. The workflow had changed without any confrontation, but certainly a visible presence. I have experienced the "not in my job description" statements and am always troubled by them. I have always tried to volunteer for new tasks, feeling that it is a way to learn more skills and broaden my abilities and usefulness to the job/department/library, etc., not to mention being handy and getting the tasks done. I have been ridiculed, defied, criticized and denied group acceptance for this, but I calmly explain my side and keep at it with a vengeance. Some people reluctantly give in, and when they see me having fun at what I do, they try to join in. I am now experiencing some competition for those extra tasks and we make it a game to see who will do it first. We all win in this game! I have not had to explain the "rules." It just happens.

When we have to double-check the books before shelving them to make sure they are in the right branch, I challenge the others to find different ways of doing this. Tell me how you load a truck to shelve. When do you check for discrepancies? We compare methods and sometimes we adopt the otherís method. Sometimes we keep our own. Sometimes we acknowledge that none of these methods is best and seek the Director/Supervisor to find better ways of doing something. The crew is the best! We find the answers together and we share those answers with everyone involved. No one worries about numbers. WE get the job done well!

We have two basic needs in our daily library work. Primary is giving the best service to our patrons/customers. The second is getting the job done quickly, efficiently and with great accuracy. To this end, we need cooperation, open minds, non-judgmental attitudes, and thinking that oozes "outside the box" to find appropriate answers. Perhaps you can see that by doing the second, we accomplish the first. This may be a chicken and egg kind of thing, so letís leave that discussion for deeper philosophers. Changing negatives to positives is an easy way to accomplish all of these goals. This is work worthy of our attention.

Being an example for change is the quickest way to get help and get change going. Change is a "constant" in our lives. We can expect to see it every day in so many different ways. Why not attack it at its inception? You canít wait until New Yearís Day to make things right. Do it now!

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