Like any new parent, I am obsessed with sleep. How do I get my baby to sleep longer? How can I get more sleep? When is the best time for my baby to nap? Will I ever have 8 hours of continuous sleep again?
On one of my sleep fact-finding missions I came across an interesting phrase in the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth: Sleep Inertia. This seems like it should be a good thing. Start sleeping and keep on sleeping, right? Unfortunately sleep inertia is “a feeling of disorientation, confusion, pain, discomfort, impaired mood, and the inability to concentrate or think well that occurs upon awakening” (27). Babies (and parents!) who are overtired tend to feel sleep inertia more than those who nap and sleep well. Their bodies are getting two conflicting messages–YOU’RE AWAKE/TIME TO DO STUFF! GO TO SLEEP/YOU’RE EXHAUSTED!–leaving babies super-cranky and clingy and forcing mom and dad to down yet another cup of coffee.
After fighting my own battle with sleep intertia on Monday and coming in to work on Tuesday, I couldn’t help but wonder if the static nature of some academic institutions and libraries is really just a bad case of Change Inertia. New projects, decisions, and proposals are causing the same kind of confusion, discomfort and impaired mood in people who would are fighting to keep things the same. I don’t mean to equate people in libraries to my at times cranky infant, but I do think its worth noting that change doesn’t come easily to everyone. Even the best of changes are uncomfortable for some people, which often stalls progress and leads to the library stasis we all love to complain about.
I always love reading the stories behind Library Journal’s Movers and Shakers, particularly those in the Change Agents category. They are an inspiring group of individuals, but what impresses me most is the simplicity of their change implementation. They always begin with a question: Why aren’t we doing this? What would make us better? But what makes them so impressive is that these initial questions are followed by thoughtful action. Why aren’t we doing this? turns in to We SHOULD be doing this, which then becomes the kicker: What is the best way for me to do this? Although change agents often involve others in their moves towards improvements, the key is this: They act. They don’t rely on others to do the work for them. Real change agents are able to move past the confusing state of change inertia to produce action. It seems like a small feat, but we all know how easy it can be to keep on keepin’ on. You have hours at the reference desk, piles of purchasing recommendations to go through, classes that need prepping. With all of the mundane day-to-day your mood quickly deteriorates and the what-ifs and maybe-we-shoulds take on a larger than life quality until there is no way that you could possibly have the time to do all that.
You’re trapped, and the worst part is, you put yourself there. I feel it every day that I don’t get enough sleep. I’ll never sleep again! My baby will be a baby forever! The truth is things will get better and there are little things I can do to help both me and my baby sleep better and lessen the effects of sleep inertia. There are also lots of small things that all librarians can do to begin improvements in their own institutions. Building momentum seems like an overwhelming task, but in reality it begins with even the tiniest of changes.
What are some ways you can push past your organization’s change inertia?