Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Next Generation Leadership: Where Do We Go from Here?

Rachel Singer Gordon, author of “NextGen Librarian’s Survival Guide” and webmaster of (among other accomplishments) talked about the difficulties inherent in managing and (on the flip side) being managed by people outside your own generation.
Understanding the problem, and how it can affect both the supervisors and supervisees was the easy part. Everyone working in the profession today is aware of the “graying” of the profession, and that we need to both attract and retain younger librarians to continue the profession into the 21st century. The difficulty comes when you start to map out what you can do that will effect that.
The exploration of generational issues was particularly well handled, but the part which dealt with managing nextgen librarians was (I thought) rather ineffective. Many of the suggestions made came from other articles which Rachel Gordon has written for LJ or other professional reading, and were less about intergenerational management than about good management in general.
Her main focus seems to be that if we don’t talk about the potential conflicts, we will fail to take advantage of the strengths of everyone on the team. We cannot ignore such all encompassing social issues (which affect so many people so deeply), and we need to examine what our own prejudices about each generation might be, so we may be better able to see how to change some of these beliefs. No one likes to be defined by an artificial stereotype, whether they are baby boomers, millennial generation or nextgen.
Many of the remedies mentioned are already being tried here at SPPL, i.e. vertical teams of employees working together on committees, collaboration across age lines, and attempting to instill a certain autonomy in the workplace.
The one thing I will carry away from this webinar is a new word (new to me, at least). The term is “neotony” and it means carrying youthful characteristics into adulthood. What a delightful concept! Let us hope that the characteristics being carried into adulthood are positive ones.


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