Transparency Builds Trust

I’m going to undress now.  Apparently, you like me better naked.  The cultural shift toward transparency fueled by the growth of social media has forever blurred the boundary between one’s public and private self.  In our hyperlinked, viral, always-connected world, word-of-mouth (think amazon user reviews) holds more sway than any glossy brochure a company could ever create.  In this environment, companies, CEO’s and even regular people like me must consciously work to show their authentic self.  We must actively manage our reputation, which now involves a solid understanding of Google algorithms and a willingness to get personal.  A 2007 piece about the new breed of ‘naked executives’ by Wired Magazine Online, asserts that a sense of authenticity is formed primarily by online exposure and that, “it’s hard to trust someone who doesn’t list their dreams and fears on Facebook.” (Thompson, 2007). The idea is that getting real with your constituency means showing everything- your mistakes as well as your successes. This kind of bare it all transparency humanizes the company or the online persona, which translates to higher levels of trust and goodwill. And I want you to trust me, which is why I’m getting naked. (It’s weird, because my mom always taught me that it was you  who I needed to trust if I was going to get naked…) Anyhow, here goes:

I can be inflexible. And I’m slow to change. There. I said it.*


These are BIG warts for an aspiring librarian. Libraries that are truly interested in creating positive outcomes for their community- the kind of library I want to work in-  tend to place a high value on transparency.  And according to two well-known experts in this area, Casey and Stephens (2007), the transparent library is all about three things:

  • Being open to communication

  • Adapting to change

  • Scanning the horizon (trend-spotting)

I think I’m okay with the communication part. I talk, I tweet, I write; I blog; I ask; I listen; I teach; I learn. I love to give and receive input. Check.


But I fear that I may run into trouble on the adapting to change part. I’m the girl who just got a smartphone.  According to a recent Pew Research Center report,  55% of Americans have a smartphone (Rainie & Poushter, 2014). This means I have only just recently joined the majority. I’m not sure exactly where that puts me on Rodgers’ Bell Curve, but let’s just say, I’m not an “early adopter”.

So, I’m slow to change. I liked my flip phone. I still like Crosby Stills & Nash. To mitigate this shortcoming, I will seek out libraries that provide ongoing learning opportunities and the chance for me be a part of the change rather than have it imposed upon me.  Good libraries do this.

Since I tend to be slow to change, I may, theoretically, not be the best trend-spotter.  Yet, armed with a clearly defined mission, some good research skills, and a working  environment that rewards innovation, I will likely rise to the occasion.  After all, that is what successful organizations are capable of: they raise the tide to lift all boats, including both patrons and employees.


As for the inflexible part: well, I’m working on it. I had an employer tell me in an exit interview (I was moving out of state) that I should be more flexible. It stuck with me, which was a gift, of sorts. And now, when Michael Stephens discusses the ‘Culture of Perfect’ I see that there is much to gain from letting go, trying things out, and trusting that my mistakes will teach me what I need to know.

*Full disclosure: this is not a complete list of all my shortcomings, but let it suffice for now.


Casey, M., &  Stephens, M. (2007, April). The transparent library: Introducing the Michaels. Library Journal, 132(6), 30. Retrieved from

Thompson, C. (2007, March). The see-through CEO. Wired Magazine Online (Issue 15.04). Retrieved from

Rainie, L. and Poushter, J. (2014, February 13). Emerging nations catching up to U.S.  on technology adoption, especially mobile and social media use. [Web log post].  FactTank, News in the Numbers, Pew Research Center. Retrieved from

Diffusion of Innovation graphic. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 and modified using Skitch.


11 thoughts on “Transparency Builds Trust

  1. Ah yes. I, too, have been told something similar. My former employer once told me during a review that I don’t respond well to change. I will definitely concede that point, I have never been comfortable with change even when I know it’s necessary. But in my defense, I worked for a company that was in no way transparent. When change came, we never saw it coming and we never got any explanations for why things were changing. When we asked why, the standard response was “this is corporate’s decision.” Well I’m definitely starting to wonder if I would be more adaptable to change if I worked at a transparent organization because the fact of the matter is that I’ve never worked anywhere where there’s any transparency! End of rant 🙂

    1. @stephenie, I do think it matters where you work. Some places bring out the best in you and others, the worst. Of course, we’re all responsible for our own feelings and actions, but finding the ‘right’ place to work is important.

  2. You made me smile, because I still like Crosby, Stills and Nash too. But then when I was a teenager, I dove my peers crazy by listening to Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw and Harry James. I’ve made a conscious effort to find new music over the last two years, and it hasn’t been as painful as I thought it would be. 🙂

    1. @boblucore, Glenn Miller Ha! I feel like in high school it was super important that you listened the ‘right’ music, but after that, peers were more respectful of personal choice. It’s funny how (if your not a major music person) music can pass you by, and all the sudden you realize you’ve been living without it, or surviving on the tried and true. That’s why Pandora and some of these other music sites are so cool for discovery.

  3. Playing “Southern Cross” while I type. 🙂

    Such a personal and insightful post. It takes courage to share like this. I find that “living out loud” can have benefits.

    I also struggle with change, even as a urge us to embrace chaos. Sometimes, it’s nice for things to slow down.

    1. @michael, seriously. That music is a true symphony. Nearly all their songs continue, after all these years, to give me goose bumps! Alas, I can’t study/write with music, so no tunes here for me right now. I like your phrase “embrace chaos”. It goes along nicely with the new mantra I discovered (on the inside of a beer cap) “Bravely Done”. I’m going to use this myself and also at home with my 5 yr old daughter, instead of telling her “well done” or “good job!” I can tell her “bravely done!”. Perfect.

    1. I’m kinda partial to this song…but CSNY is my all time favorite band. How can you go wrong with lyrics like “Paranoia strikes deep. Into your life it will creep. It starts when you’re always afraid. Step outta line, the man come…and take you away…”

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