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I Don’t Oppose Change; I Oppose Stupidity

"If you don’t oppose change then you cannot be one of the Annoyed Librarian Acolytes."

That’s my nomination for oddest comment of the week. (Perhaps I’ll make this a new weekly feature instead of my planned serialization of a mystery novel entitled Death of the Annoyed Librarian, in which a librarian is murdered during ALA in Chicago, and because of her noted sharp wit and lack of sensible shoes she is immediately recognized as the Annoyed Librarian. Investigation of twopointopians and regressive librarians follows!)

But back to the odd comment. What would it mean to "oppose change"? Or are we speaking loosely here, as in those people who claim they want to "stop climate change"? (Um, yeah, good luck with that. If you do stop it, could you stop it around 70 degrees, with low humidity and a light breeze? Thanks!) Criticizing someone for "opposing change" is a steady tactic of the frustrated trendsetters. "The AL is against change!" thefrustys shriek.

Instead, what if we recast this response. Let’s say for the sake of argument that I don’t "oppose change." I just oppose stupidity. The proper response to someone who says, "you’re against this because you’re opposed to change," is merely to reply, "I’m not opposed to ‘change’ in general. I’m opposed to this change in particular, because it’s stupid and you haven’t given any reason for changing. Your pathetic attention being distracted by bangles and baubles and mantras isn’t a reason to change. It’s a reason for you to sedate yourself and put yourself out of our misery."

Okay, maybe that response isn’t the best one in a workplace situation, but you get the idea. Somewhere recently I saw a list of "ways to stifle change" which was pretty funny. (I think it was on the LLN wiki, but I’m too lazy to track down the specific page. The LLN, by the way, is a great source…for AL fodder. Thanks, Walt!) Set up a committee to work on it, lose documents, stuff like that. But there could be an equally irritating list of ways to try to enact change even if change wasn’t necessary.

One of those ways is to brand any opposition to any specific change as being against change in general. This one doesn’t always work, and like all these strategies is sensitive to the context. If your library is staffed entirely by reactionaries, then complaining that someone is "against change" will be considered a compliment rather than a criticism. "She’s against change, huh? I always knew there was something I liked about her!" Being against change in general is just as stupid as being for change in general. Both positions are divorced from reason and evidence, which is usually what we require to make decisions in the workplace. Speaking in generalities about "change" is what shallow management gurus do. Making decisions about actual changes in actual libraries is what librarians do.

There are other tactics of the frustys, some displaying active bigotry toward older librarians. "She doesn’t like this new tech thing because she’s old, and old people are slow and stupid." That’s a sharpened paraphrase of something I actually heard come out of a librarian’s mouth at a conference once. Some like to smear all older librarians with the same brush based on very little evidence. In my experience older librarians do adapt more slowly, but they do adapt if given any reasons to, instead of just being mocked for being behind the times. To the younguns, you being terribly excited about some new thing doesn’t impress librarians who’ve been around a while. Those librarians have seen too many trends come and go to be impressed anymore. Are there some stupid older librarians? Sure. But there are plenty of stupid younger ones, too. I know. I’ve read their blog posts and tweets.

Then there’s the "everyone’s doing it" argument. When that one comes into play the disagreement can also split uncomfortably among generational lines into traditional parent and children roles. "All the other librarians are trying this cool new approach!" squeal the frustys. "Well, if all the other librarians jumped off a bridge, would you?" "Sure! And I’d liveblog it!"

Being popular in itself isn’t a reason to change anything, and yet it keeps being trotted out in arguments, even if the frustys don’t realize they sound like children whining to their parents that all the cool kids are doing X so why can’t they.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, let me humbly repeat that I’m not "against change." Instead, I’m against having useless changes foisted upon me by the shallow and the stupid, and I believe that skepticism is a healthy intellectual virtue, and not something to be dismissed in favor of so-called inspirational messages. Do I get inspired? Sure I do. I just don’t get inspired by shallow prats and "motivational" speakers.

And do I have acolytes anymore? I thought they all left when I moved to LJ. Oh, and the phrase back then was "dimwitted minion."

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Comments

  1. humble minion says:

    In my experience, people who want change mostly want it so that they can add a bullet to their resume. My only hope is that once they get enough bullets they move their “change” elsewhere.

  2. e3phh says:


    Whatever it is, I’m against it”

    The former philosophy of the AL before (s)he sold out.

    Sad to see a decline in beliefs for money.

  3. Dances With Books says:

    I could not agree more. I have heard that stupid line of “you oppose change” from the frustrated trendsetting bozos more than I can count. That is usually followed or preceded by the contemptuous “you just don’t get it.” I was a bit more violent, some people would have broken noses by now. Actually I love your response about being opposed to stupidity. I think I will use that line in my workplace for the next meeting some stupid asshat comes in proposing some bells and whistles change for the sake of change. Actually, if a lot of those frusties jumped off a bridge, they would be doing the rest of us who actually work for a living a favor.

    Wishing you best, your proud minion. ;)

  4. ephialtes says:

    Stop plate tectonics!

  5. thelibrarygirl says:

    “Change” and the concept of change has become one of those eye rolling things for me, like the word “synergy.” My gag reflux kicks in when people start touting it aloud.

    My involvement in this profession, the arts, and social justice causes has me constantly seeking better solutions, but I’ve learned to not jump the gun for the sake of change. Personally, I feel that in order to change things there is an aspect of planning that is necessary, and all too often preparedness and forward-thinking (another phrase I am none too fond of these days) is
    lacking. This isn’t something I have just seen in libraries, but feel it is something worth considering if we move toward change…whatever that means.

  6. htrtn says:

    The only constant in this world is change.

  7. another f-ing librarian says:

    old people=’stupid’? huh. i’m old. i was in my 20′s in the 80′s. know what that means? it means i can navigate a DOS directory tree. no pretty icons needed. if i had to, i could squeeze just about anything out of Dialog with a command-line search. oh. and that DOS-thingy? those commands mostly still work with the Windows thingy. yeah, there are a bunch of older librarians who were instilled with a fear of technology by the pecking order — luckily i came into the tech world just after the period of ‘only special people get to touch the compUUUUUUter’. but i am old — and not at all behind the times. i have, however, seen a lot of stupid ‘innovation’ that was expensive and didn’t work, or was completely unsustainable. that may be what most of us ‘older ones’ may really have in common. that, and a certain level of frustration born of watching priorities shift one way — only to see them shift *back* 6 years later, when we get a new director. “how can we move forward with the times? hm. let’s re-arrange the furniture again.”

  8. someone says:

    I’m a librarian but I also adjunct teach in a graduate program in history at another university. The librarian at that institution assigned to support said graduate program is a prominent twopointopian. Despite the fact that this particular twopointopian travels the world to give lectures on twopointopian greatness, said person’s public ideals get applied well…selectively…when it comes to solving actual real-life problems related to the information needs of the students I teach and advise. I’m as unimpressed with “change is awesome for the sake of change” fluff as I am with twopointopian fluff.

    Neither seems to get the books my students need for their research.

  9. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    If we instituted the “needed changes” our youngster keeps on about – why we’d have students using the library in droves. What that dope doesn’t get is our numbers keep going up every year. Also doesn’t get that the 2.0 “solutions” being proposed aren’t being demanded by our students. They’re paying a pretty penny in tuition and fees, and they want/like/demand a personal approach. But then … this person ain’t much of a people person.

    Me? A friend tweets and I really don’t give a s**t. Pretty boring stuff if you ask me.

  10. some other librarian says:

    Well, I’m opposed to change. I want to be paid in “folding money,” large denomination unmarked bills.

    Of course, if I get furloughed from MPOW then maybe I’ll start accepting change.

  11. cft8b says:

    Reminds me of the early 90′s when the web was being dismissed as mainly a marketing tool and that libraries should stick with gophers.

    Things change and you have to listen to the pie-in-the-sky folks a bit before you dismiss them.

    Excuse me, I have to go spread some snark at the Annoyed Librarians BBS

  12. Techserving You says:

    To thelibrarygirl… very well put. I agree with you 100%. Another f-ing librarian – you’re not old! I HOPE anyway that by ‘old librarian’ people mean librarians who are at least a decade older than you are (although I am a decade younger, or more….) Although as someone just a few years into my 30s, and as someone who opposes change for the sake of change, I find that some of the younger 20-somethings with whom I attended library school (I went late, after a decade in the field) think that *I* am old and out of touch. Sigh.

  13. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    “I Don’t Oppose Change; I Oppose Stupidity” or…those who change things “so that they can add a bullet to their resume.” BRAVO

    I’ve seen & gone through many changes in my 35 year tenure, many for the good of the community & library alike. However, when change for the sake of someone’s Ego comes along, then it’s the clientèle that suffers the most, as in turn we suffer because we are the ones who listen to their complaints. Example: our patrons are older (60+) they have a difficult time getting books off of the lower shelves. Solution…the Community bought a free standing bookshelf, about 5′…we don’t use the bottom most shelf. Enter new “hip” youngster…into “Bullet Points”. The shelf has been replaces with a 3′ hexagonal shelf. Now we have to bend over to see & retrieve most books and walk around in a circle… dizzying effect! Not to mention there is a lot less room for new books. Our patrons have stopped saying anything, because they know that the person doesn’t care
    and brags about it by saying “I get lots of complaints!”

    Amazing, ennit?

  14. oldfrusty says:

    Here’s a new change- Your branch will be getting a Red Box! Any day now! Months later, still no word on when this is happening, AND we’re not getting as many new movies as the other branches because of it. Whose idea was this, again?

  15. spongeboblibrarypants says:

    I don’t twitter or tweeter or whatever the hell it is. I don’t want to be anyone’s Facebook friend. According to a number of States Attorneys General MySpace is a wonderful resource for sexual predators. Those who participate in Second Life apparently have no life.

    I’m in my early 40′s. I don’t know if that is old or not. I feel old. I’ve been a full-time employee in libraryland since I was 22, been a so-called “professional” since I received my MLIS at 25, and would give my left nut and maybe the right one as well to get out of this line of work. Working in a library is like living the real-life version of the movie Groundhog Day. The same thing over and over and over again.

    My father worked a union job for decades. He knew he had to be at work at 8, he got off work at 5, no nights, no weekends, his own time was just that, his own time. I’m expected to attend programs, Friends events, trustee meetings, government meetings, go to conferences, kiss butts, etc. All I want is something like my father had, an 8 hour a day job that pays the bills and leaves you the hell alone the rest of the time.

  16. whoever says:

    “All I want is something like my father had, an 8 hour a day job that pays the bills and leaves you the hell alone the rest of the time.”

    OK, so go get one.

    Some might argue that a good way to begin would perhaps not be writing the post that you did on this particular blog. (On the other hand, AL says that part of the purpose of the blog is for people to blow off steam, so have at it if you really want…)

  17. leavingtheoffice says:

    Perhaps librarians need to look to the late Neil Postman for guidelines on change. “What is the problem to which this technology is a solution? And the second question would be: Whose problem is it actually? And the third question would be: If there is a legitimate problem here that is solved by the technology, what other problems will be created by my using this technology?”

  18. slobbering buffoon says:

    Leavingtheoffice, your points require too much critical thought for me to consider. I’m offended that you don’t jump immediately on any bandwagon that I claim is currently hip. You’re obviously an old fogie.

  19. TwoQatz says:

    Whoever – what is galling after a while is the number of hours our employers STEAL from us. I do like the work – I don’t see it as Groundhog Day. But I got “the lecture” about after-hours duties and I thought “fine, I’ll get the time back in other ways.” A 5-minute meeting extends to 30 because it becomes a chatfest, nothing much happens on Friday = 2 hour lunch.

    I take care of an elderly parent. Every time I have put my mother on a plane and am looking forward to a weekend free of those responsibilities, the workplace comes calling. This is where unions come in handy … but it isn’t going to happen in this state.

  20. changeischange says:

    I can’t count the number of times someone has said to me that change is always good. No, sometimes it is good, sometimes not. Clean underwear is good. Holocaust Bad. Recession Bad. The person who talked about Neil Postman is right.