"How did you go bankrupt?" Bill asked.
"Two ways," Mike said. "Gradually and then suddenly."
~ The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
I've been thinking a lot about New Year's resolutions. When January 1 rolls around I want to be able to commit to three priorities for 2011. It will take me a while to settle on a list that I am likely to be successful with. As part of the process I am reviewing where most of my resolve has settled in 2010, and while it's not critical to discuss what they are (okay, okay, they are bike empowerment, money management, and music), the larger point is that they are all things that had to be built up slowly over time, rather than discrete events or accomplishments.
One of the laws I have discovered is that most things operate this way: gradually, and then suddenly. It's how I got comfortable using a bike instead of a car for grocery shopping, how I finally started learning how to save money, and how I am learning to play guitar. It's also (sometimes) how relationships are destroyed and how people get cancer. Time is the undeniable factor in it all, and I am now branded with the lunar cycle so I never forget it.
Librarianship is not to be crammed for. There are aspects of it that are best applied by quick thinkers through rapid-fire protocols and honed instincts, but doing it well is not something to be achieved overnight. There is a lot of listening and marinating that has to go on for a while before you even have a frame of reference for how things work in your particular organization, and you won't even know what your goals should be for a while.
I would have thought that by now the print library would be a heck of a lot more organized. What have I done with it in three years? Very little, but not because I wasn't paying attention; it's precisely because I was paying attention that I put my efforts elsewhere. I realized that people don't really use it, and they are not necessarily going to use it if I make it fancy or put out a candy dish. I realized that the job is not necessarily as originally described because a job description is always a somewhat artificial construct.
I would like to think that some of what I am learning is transferable, but it is also quite specialized. Each organization is different, and delving into the differences is what makes you an asset: How does it work here? What does this mean in our context? You can ask these questions all you want in your first two years (and a ton of other questions), but there are all these other subtle and unspoken things that you'll glean, and Time seems to be the only dispenser of these particular pearls of wisdom.
So be patient. With yourself, your staff and your organization. These things take time.