21st Century Librarianship Is Outside Your Comfort Zone


I’ve written about 21st Century librarians needing to think outside the box, which is not easy for most librarians. I think that is because of the professional indoctrination of SLIS and other CE and professional conferences that tend to simply provide more of the same conversations about the same issues and safe solutions. What being a 21st Century Librarian requires is getting well outside your comfort zone – both personally and professionally.

According to our good friends at Wikipedia;

The comfort zone is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk (White 2009).[1] … Highly successful persons may routinely step outside their comfort zones, to accomplish what they wish. A comfort zone is a type of mental conditioning that causes a person to create and operate mental boundaries. Such boundaries create an unfounded sense of security. Like inertia, a person who has established a comfort zone in a particular axis of his or her life, will tend to stay within that zone without stepping outside of it. To step outside a person’s comfort zone, they must experiment with new and different behaviors, and then experience the new and different responses that then occur within their environment.

And, that describes so many librarians (yes, and lots of other professionals also), so it doesn’t really need to be embellished.

The point is, that in order to become a 21st Century Librarian, one CAN NOT;
• remain in an anxiety-neutral condition and expect to accomplish NEW goals,
• stay inside self-imposed mental boundaries and realize a NEW vision of a 21st Century Library,
• overcome the inertia of status quo without experimenting with NEW behaviors to address NEW library customer and community needs, and
• become a 21st Century Librarian by continuing to do the same job you did last year and every year before that.

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What you CAN DO by staying inside your comfort zone is maintain your current library for as long as others will allow it to survive. No one will blame you when your library closes because that’s just the way the economy and governing bodies are these days. No one will blame you because you stayed within the professionally accepted norms and did everything you could within those norms. No one will blame you for your library’s failure to meet the needs of your community and remain relevant, because the future is so unpredictable and changes so quickly. How could you know what to do?

The 21st Century requires new thinking and new approaches to solving problems. Librarians MUST respond to new challenges by stepping outside their comfort zone to experience new behaviors and create new mental boundaries that expand their options for new solutions to new issues.

21st Century librarianship is WAY OUTSIDE your comfort zone!

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6 responses to “21st Century Librarianship Is Outside Your Comfort Zone

  1. Pingback: Making sense of the madness « bringyournoise

  2. Amen! We must constantly push the limits of what we do and what others perceive us as doing. We can’t be afraid. Librarianship is not for the faint of heart.

  3. There is a recent article in First Monday that also reinforces this message: “Increasingly it is less about the resources that libraries offer their communities, but rather how libraries combine their resources, services, space, outreach, and expertise to resolve and meet community challenges in the areas of education, government engagement, employment, and other articulated community needs.” Being a librarian is not a sinecure, and we are “living in interesting times.”

  4. Good afternoon Steve, mea culpa! I forgot the link: http://firstmonday.org/
    The article is entitled “Describing and measuring the value of public libraries: The growth of the Internet and evolution of library value. This article appeared in the November 2011 issue. We have incorporated a number of the measurements into our statistical arsenal, and added the number of consultancies now held at the library by the Connecticut State Department of Child and Family Services. This is due to a lack of appropriate meeting spaces at their local offices!

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