In the information world, we’re often told that reference and providing information is happening less and less in the library because of Google. True, finding things is easier than ever, but as author Neil Gaiman said, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.” However, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from Google; they’re still the closest thing to a librarian outside the library, and are often seen as innovators in technology and employee management.
Just a day or two ago, Google released their findings on Huffington Post about a study consisting of “more than 200 interviews conducted over the past two years with Google employees, plus an analysis of various attributes and skills on different teams at the company.” This is part of Google’s new shared learning website, re:Work, which is dedicated to sharing their secrets and strategies for making the happiest and most productive work force. As a librarian, I really appreciate their open access of information.
Google’s study focused mainly on teams – what makes them work, what makes them fall apart, etc. Notre Dame’s business school had a similar study that monitored six different teams (all at different companies) and concluded that work groups do better when members are motivated to help each other. Makes sense to me…If I like my coworkers and want to help them, then I’ll probably work harder on that project.
While these were meant for businesses, I think all these traits apply to library professionals as well. You have a primary team (your department) and secondary teams (other departments) which you work with to make the library work; if you don’t have a good support network with these five traits, then your group might not be at its best:
I think these can all apply to an individual as well, particularly number one. Psychological safety is not only necessary to your team, but to each of us as individuals. I’ve worked for tyrants where “do this or you’re fired” was the only motivation I and my team got – I hated that job because I was constantly worried about losing my job. Even if a boss just jokes about firing you, it can really mess with your head. Me losing my job, my source of income, my ability to pay for my rent is funny to you? I’m single with no kids, it must be 10 times as terrifying when you have to worry your house/bills/car/wife/kids are in constant jeopardy. No, NOT funny.
Right now, I’m in the best job I’ve ever had and one of the main reasons is because I feel very secure in my job. My boss and my director are very nice and laid back people who don’t use threats of firing me to get the job done – not only does that make me more loyal and motivated, it also helps me sleep better. I’ll admit, I occasionally get PTSD “oh no, they’re about to fire me” flashbacks when I get called into somebody’s office. So far, it’s been all positive – ask me questions, give me assignments, things like that. Looking back, I can definitely say feeling secure in my job makes me feel more dependable.
Whether it’s confidence or “fake it till you make it”, being dependable makes for a better team worker. When I join a team for something and I feel competent and dependable, I feel like I’m able to communicate more clearly. You can’t have that structure and clarity without clear communication, right?
As far as meaning and impact go, I’d say those are the easiest ones. We work in libraries! We’re helping children learn to read and develop, teaching young readers to become adult readers, helping turn the jobless into employed citizens, helping people of all ages better understand technology, or even just helping find a book. I see the meaning in what I do every day, and I see the impact I make in somebody’s life. I’ve helped a little girl become a voracious reader, I helped an old man get a Facebook account and see his grandkids for the first time in years; if you don’t find some meaning or don’t see any impact working in the library, then I don’t know where you find it.
Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian