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Managing a Multigenerational Staff

by on April 18, 2017

Working in library management comes with a whole host of challenges as we all know. It’s important to empower staff members, but also to be able to make the tough decisions when they need to be made. There’s no shortage of opinions, and staff members are as varied as they come in libraries, and that’s a good thing. Our staff members are a variety of ages, backgrounds, experiences and they represent all the ideas under the sun. The beauty of our field is truly our diversity. An extra component is managing an multigenerational staff.

It’s important to attract up-and-coming librarians with their minds focused on the future, knowledge of trends, and the latest technology. These folks reflect our patrons, and the patrons who will come after them. They have recent educations and they are sometimes aware of the needs of a changing landscape of younger patrons with younger families. In many ways, this Millennial Generation (yes, I’m one of them) is also a reflection of the success of librarians in the 1980s and 1990s. The amazing work done by librarians in those years paved the way for the newer breed of librarians with an updated focus. I’ll be the first to say the reason I became a librarian is because of my experiences with librarians between 1985 and 1995. They made me the librarian I am today, point blank.

Before I go too far patting myself and my millennial colleagues on the back though, there is a lot to be learned from our more seasoned staff members. Essentially every experience we crave and seek out, to develop our careers and our motivations, has been experienced by our older colleagues. Ideas and energy are great, but a real opportunity is lost when younger staff don’t consult their older colleagues, who have carried the torch in this field, to keep our libraries a sought after destination in our community, during many years of change and technological advance. There is no substitute for experience, and it’s the experiences that have already been had, that can teach us about the future.

The staffers we are talking about have seen more changes in libraries than we can imagine, and possibly more than we will have coming down the road. The experiences they’ve seen are ones to be asked about and studied. They saw the rise of the technological era, and every step along the way someone would ask them, “Do we even need libraries anymore?” and they would shout, “OF COURSE WE DO!” There would not have been jobs for us to earn, if not for the work done by our older colleagues before we arrived.

Times change, and the library changes with them. It’s very easy to pigeonhole staff members of a certain era, and say they “hate change.” This frankly is a very short sighted point of view. Some might, but perhaps it’s because they’ve seen success in what works, and have let older processes guide them through successful careers.

The next time you are pondering the point of view of a colleague from a different era, step back for a minute and reflect on all they could share with you, whether younger or older. We are all on the same team, and can utilize our strengths, whether it is experience, new ideas, time tested practices, or a knowledge of new technology, to make our staffs strong, and varied. No one group has everything we need to be successful, because it’s each other that we truly need.

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