Written as part of a consulting report, expanded and edited for anonymity. 12-19-17.
In geology, a fault is a fracture or discontinuity in a volume of rock, across which there has been significant displacement as a result of rock-mass movement. Energy release associated with rapid movement on active faults is the cause of most earthquakes. You can’t have fault lines without solid geologic forces in conflict — and the culture of most libraries is solid. There are fault lines between masses of professional culture and institutional history, but they are conflicts borne out of love, out of devotion, and out of genuine dedication to the success of the students and faculty the library staff serve. And to take the metaphor one step further, if the campus administration is forced to take action upon the organizational structure of the libraries as an external pressure, there will be an earthquake. Earthquakes can be intensely destructive, and it’s impossible to predict how bad it will be until it happens. But you can guarantee it will be bad, and the chances are good there will be rubble left behind when it’s over. You can climb out of the rubble and repair the damage, but some things will certainly be damaged beyond repair. Far better, if given the option, would be to release the pressure and tension between the plates, the masses of history, through targeted, intentional change, until the two planes of culture can be realigned, allowing the plates to settle more gently into slightly new, less fractured new homes.