In my last post I advocated not rushing head forth into technological change merely for the sake of it.  Let’s flip this on its head and consider the situation which I’m sure many of you are familiar with.  You’re looking to introduce a new change, technology or process into the library world – and let’s say this one really beats every prior milk bottle out there okay!  It’s ready to go, or heck even already rolled out – there’s just one problem.  The holdouts.

We’ve all got them, know them, or heck are them.  In the latter case you have my sympathy, but for the former too well then I feel for you even more.  Whilst I was working full time in open access I spent a lot of time dealing with hold outs in the UK and Europe, and it’s a skill that continues to serve me well to this day.  If you ever attended one of my workshops or training sessions on effective advocacy you know that my twin principles of win are the logical appeal (this will work because it is practical) and the emotive appeal (this will work because it will be good for you).  That’s simplifying it a lot, but it is the essence.

But that’s all well and good when you’re working on bringing a group of people on side.  Groups of people, librarians, academics, customers etc can be largely looked at as being one of five groups. 

  1. The early adopters (I think that’s me) – those ready to throw out the milk bottle for the milk cube and embrace the new. 
  2. The cautious engagers – those willing to give something new a try, just so long as they don’t have to be at the forefront.  A lot of uni libraries can be like this.
  3. The mass in the middle, for whom the new event or technology is relevant but whom won’t be rushing to engage nor disengage with it anytime soon. 
  4. The skeptics – they’ve seen it all before and aren’t that impressed.  With a lot of effort they can be flipped over to real engagers, but you really have to be able to push their buttons.
  5. And on the far side the hold outs.  Who move for no man (or woman).

In the open access world I’ve been very familiar with this idea of button-holing people roughly into these groups in my heads.  I could spend all the time in the world on my hold-outs, expound the benefits to them and the world of open access and they’d still find some reason to dislike the concept.  My old boss always advocated ignoring them and focussing on the first three groups, using the principles of if the main mass moves most of the rest will follow.

Although there will always be others who just hold out no matter what.

It’s true.  Just look at email. At one place I once worked email was the de facto communication tool.  The university regulations specif iced you HAD to use it and that all official communications would come via it. And yet a certain head of department refused to even have a computer on his desk.  He was a group 5 hold out and then some.

However, leaving aside those in other departments or sections what about those hold outs who we work with on a daily basis.  Those team members we have to bring along during a period of change, or even more tricky our colleagues we work alongside; out peers.  How do we get them to embrace change?  I don’t think it’s viable nor healthy to simply think as my old boss put it “Forget about them, they’ll find themselves outmoded and replaced”.

In my limited experience, the only way I’ve ever found to bring change to the practically unchangeable hold-outs is to spend more time with them.  Find out their reasoning for disliking a new system or approach.  And then work with them to show them how the new resource can make their working life easier, more enjoyable or rewarding.  it doesn’t always work as some people will remain bloody minded to the end (and I’m thinking of certain members of my family here and less thankfully people I work with).  But at least you can be happy you’ve explored the possibilities and made the effort.

And this effort won’t have gone to waster as all the arguments and considerations you’ve made with your holdout – well just apply them to any other members of staff you’re trying to bring along.  Chances are they’ll be more easily convinced!


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