Answering the What Do I Have to Stop Doing Question

I’ve heard this question a couple times, and heard it asked again at ALA2008 during the OCLC Symposium. The question usually goes something like this:

“We’re being asked to do all these new things, and we’re already extremely busy. What did you have to stop doing in order to start doing these new things?”

I didn’t get a chance to answer it (we moved on), so I thought I’d tackle it here.

A couple thoughts

Usually, the person asking the question (when I’ve heard it, anyway) comes from a more “traditional” branch of librarianship, and hasn’t really tried out “new” things like blogs or IM reference services. And they (like many of us) feel that what THEY do is extremely important stuff. So when they ask, they’re usually seeing all the daily work they do, how important and satisfying they find that work to be, and start thinking… “well, what does he (ie., the speaker) expect me to give up? It’s all important stuff, and I don’t have enough time in the day to add something else to my already busy daily schedule. What does he expect me to drop?”

I think they’re asking the wrong question.

Why? That question is focused on ME. What I’m doing. It’s focused on librarians and departments and “the way we’ve always done things.”

How about re-framing the question? Instead of focusing on the work we already do, why not focus on meeting the library’s priorities? What are the goals of the the library? The organizational priorities? Figure those goals out, then work to meet those goals.

Will your daily work change? Maybe. Will some things that you currently do not get done? Maybe – but that’s ok. Because you’ll be focused not on “doing stuff,” but on moving the organization forward.

So yes – the less important, non-prioritized stuff will either get done or get forgotten – and that’s ok. Because you have reframed your question.

How would YOU answer this question? I’d love to know!