“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”
-Robert Browning, from “Andrea del Sarto”
That is one of the most famous lines in all of literature, but what does it mean? To me, it means that you should always strive for more than you can accomplish at a given moment. You have to go too far before you know you’ve gone far enough. It is easier to edit too many words than it is to add more.
I believe in that line from Browning’s poem. I believe that men and women both should have a reach that exceeds their grasp. I also believe that organizations and institutions have the same obligation.
In graduate school, a phrase I heard assiduously was “change agent“, a six-sigma buzz-word that has permeated many professional cultures in recent years. In almost every class I took, my professors charged me and my classmates with the task of being change agents in our future or present libraries. In one class, Information Ethics, I was encouraged to have ethical courage*–the courage to speak out when I felt something was ethically wrong, whether in a personal or professional context. In almost every class I took, our heads were filled with images of ideal libraries– paragons of intellectual freedom, teamwork, innovation and exploration.
In reality, libraries are just like any other workplace. The confluence of myriad generations, backgrounds, cultural and social norms, work experiences, professional philosophies, and educations in an organization can either lead to tremendous conflict or amazing growth. I believe that this conflict or growth is a choice that the leaders of any given institution must make.
I believe that change agents can either be seen by their organizations as troublemakers and rebels dissatisfied with the status quo, who voice their opinions simply for the sake of being combative, or they can be seen as catalysts (in the figurative sense of the term) eager to spark change for the betterment of the organization and all the people that comprise it (in the case of libraries, both employees and patrons).
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