Got an idea? Have another! Your head has plenty of room.

Lifehacker has a great quote today which librarians the world over will find inspiring. Or apocalyptic. Permit me to explain.

The idea from Francis Crick is simple: “The dangerous man is the one who has only one idea, because then he’ll fight and die for it.” In other words, the world is an ambiguous place in a constant state of flux. If you choose to see things from only one angle, or to believe that things can only function one particular way, you will more than likely find that at some point reality does not conform to your wishes.

Fair enough, you say, but what does that have to do with libraries and the people who work in them? A few quotes may be illustrative:

  • “Why are you giving that patron money? You’re making change for a patron?! But we don’t do that, we’re librarians!”
  • “I’m sorry, Professor, but that is a reference book. We can’t let you take it out of the building to make copies in your office. Would you like to fill out this form so we can set up our copier to work with your departmental code? It only takes three business days to process and then you’ll be all set.”
  • “Everyone has to fill out this form once a year otherwise they shouldn’t be able to check out books. Yes I know they have registered and paid for their classes, but this form isn’t going to fill itself out, you know.”
  • “I don’t see what Dr. Smith is so upset about; I received her request for materials and I will deliver them to her the day before her class needs them. What? No, I didn’t inform her that they will be ready then, why would I need to do that?”
Of course these are composites and not representative of particular individuals, but they do convey a certain tone of inflexibility – a tone for which librarians are infamous. Nor do I mean to suggest that librarians who make statements like this are bad people – far from it. Statements like these are usually born out of a very strong conviction about How Things Should Work in order to provide the best experience for everyone. The problem is that this conviction tends to alienate librarians from the communities they serve and to cut them off from an essential talent: the ability to appreciate, or even recognize, a great idea that you had absolutely nothing to do with.
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One Response to Got an idea? Have another! Your head has plenty of room.

  1. Keely Dorran says:

    I find this very inspiring, and I’m happy to know that modern times are requiring flexibility, adaptability and conceptual expansion from library staff (speaking as a library tech, myself). I hold the belief that we are human before we’re anything else- and that as such, our time is equally important, our efforts are equally valuable, and each of us deserves to give and receive respect. That said, I wonder if many of the less flexible persons in library work have at times been overwhelmed or had a negative experience with individuals when they did extend that go-the-extra-mile hand. Regardless, and though it’s challenging, we all must move on and find a way to make our positive experiences the basis for our behavior and expectations- not the other way around. It’s good old-fashioned optimism and customer/patron-centered service. However, those aren’t my only ideas! :)

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