Nicola Wright London School of Economics and Political Science
Nicola will explore a range of areas where our habits might be holding us back from enjoying the future. Nicola is Director of LSE Library and the Librarian of the British Library of Political and Economic Science, which includes the Women’s Library. Nicola’s career has focused on leading change in libraries in order to meet the demands of a digital world, with roles at the British Library, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Imperial College London. Nicola has contributed to a number of national and international initiatives in support of evolving the role of research libraries and she has served as Chair of Research Libraries UK from 2017-2019
My talk is about how we can make change in the way we deliver our services. I’m focusing on the habits we have and how we might need to challenge these in order to enjoy work and the process of change a bit more.
I’ve chosen to illustrate my talk with images from the Women’s Library – to celebrate 100 years of women having the vote – but also as an example of a significant change. Socially, politically and economically.
I’ve chosen this image as it encapsulates what having the vote in a democracy means – freedom. And to get it some women were prepared to lose their freedom and go to jail.
Change is about doing something familiar differently – involves looking at things differently, thinking differently, behaving differently I thought it was worth reminding ourselves what a habit is – although Femi has discussed this previously in the context of unconscious bias. Sometimes habits can be useful – and other times they hold us back.
This is an anti-women’s suffrage poster – but it’s funny and shows that not everyone was in favour!
I’m going to consider habits in the context of change or a desire for innovation in a library setting. I’ve chosen to look at 4 specific areas – but obviously there are many more – and my aim is just to give a few practical examples to help us challenge our habits.
Human letters 1909 – Daisey Solomon and Elspeth McClennan
At this stage don’t restrict your imagination – think big, don’t say ‘we tried that already’, ‘that won’t work’, ‘so-and-so will never accept that’… Avoid over complication – focus on two or three really important point, the detail can come later The idea might be a bit whacky – don’t judge too soon, reality can come later. E.g. UKRR – 12 years ago it seemed impossible to dispose of journals and yet preserve a national collection. HE and the BL working together? But it was achieved. Preserve by disposing.
Switching gears – from creative speculation to planning and action.
Data – use a variety of approaches, not just a survey. Need quantitative and qualitative data – what is the problem and what can be done. Interpretation – the data won’t give you the answer. Interpretation is important but it is ripe for habits to come into play and warp a sound interpretation. Keep a questioning mind, don’t allow the data to match your preconceived ideas. Or lead to paralysis. E.g. UKRR for monographs – lots of data, doesn’t give a neat list to de-duplicate but still have to do something. Think laterally, digitise, shared store, then dispose? Action – don’t let the best be the enemy of the good. Pick a few things and focus on that. E.g, the RLUK strategy.
Christabel Pankhurst, Flora Drummond, Emmeline Pankhurst in court at Bow St on sedition charge for encouraging people to rush parliament
The picture shows how hard it is sometime to listen to someone you don’t agree with…
This is a softer – probably more complex part of change. Listening to others and trying to understand their point of view. Feelings – might be ‘illogical’ or ‘irrational’ but they are powerful and must be understood. This can be incredibly challenging – when one person fundamentally feels differently. Understanding leads to compromise – if you want to get something done, especially a big change – you have to compromise. Compromise is not weakness, it is a good thing.
Bad habits – avoiding this altogether, belittling people’s feelings
Be prepared to go round the loop of listening and talking a few times Persuading is not the same as telling people. Say it often in lots of different ways.
Katherine Douglas Smith c 1908-14 Portsmouth
Our sense of humour, our kindness and our willingness to give others the benefit of the doubt.
These are all essential to the listening and talking stages of change – and change won’t happen unless people feel listened to and understood, and are persuaded about the benefits of change.
Fun and enjoyment can be found in the darkest of situations.
Rahul Belani and John Lenahan – for work shopping this over dinner last week
Suffrage postcards – collected by Jill Cragie
What do we need to change, to change?
What do we need to change, to change
Nicola Wright, Director of LSE Library
Habits – some good, some bad…
…a tendency or disposition to act in a
…a learned behavioural response to a
Imagination – what
could it be like?
Thinking – how could
it be done?
Listening – what do
Talking – who’s with
Freedom – remove blocks to creativity
Simplicity – focus on the key aspects
Judgement – not yet…
Data – analyse a range of sources
Interpretation – be careful
Action plan – focused and determined
Feelings – these matter
Understanding – appreciating others
Compromise – finding a way through
Persuade – convincing people
Encourage – with patience
Support – actively
Don’t lets lose…
Our sense of humour
Our kindness towards others
Our faith in each other