The becomingly modest thing to say would be “you probably don’t remember me,” but in fact I think there’s a good chance you do. In the early 1970s, when I was between the ages of seven and eleven or so, I was a regular visitor to the children’s room located in the basement of the Dallin Branch of Robbins Library in Arlington, MA, where you were the children’s librarian. I want to take this chance to thank you publicly for your kindness, your patience, and your help. You significantly shaped my idea of what a librarian should be like, and I will always remember you and be grateful.
Let me start out by acknowledging that “Science and Religion in the Library” is a provocative subtitle, and to some degree it’s meant to be. Let me explain what I mean by it. For my purposes here, I’m going to define as “science” those aspects of library work that deal with figuring out and describing things as they are, and as “religion” those that deal with figuring out how things should be and why they should be that way. In the sense that I’m using the terms here, science is descriptive, and religion is prescriptive; science is involved with “is” questions, while religion is involved with “should” questions.
Can, Should, and Will. Pt. 1: Because What Libraries Need Is One More Venn Diagram | Peer to Peer Review
I came up with the diagram below while I was thinking about library management during a lull in traffic at the reference desk recently. My original intent was sort of wryly humorous (it is hilarious, don’t you think?) but the more time I spend looking at it, the more I think it’s a potentially valuable tool for helping give shape to conversations about priority-setting and decision-making in libraries, and maybe in other organizations as well.
When you apply for any kind of managerial or administrative job, there’s one interview question you can always count on: “Tell us about your management style.” I hate that question. Not because it isn’t a fair and legitimate one, but because (in my opinion) a good manager won’t be able to answer it.
We can’t handle more than a tiny, tiny sliver of the world’s information output. One thing I believe it implies is that we might want to raise an eyebrow at the Library of Congress (LC)’s decision, a few years ago, to become the permanent archive of Twitter.
I’m becoming increasingly convinced that everything we do in the presence of others is, among other things, language—and in the academic library, virtually everything we do is done in the presence of others. we are constantly doing things that send a message—sometimes explicitly, but more often implicitly. In fact, everything that we do sends a message. If we don’t pay attention to what I like to call our “organizational body language,” we run the risk of sending the wrong message inadvertently.
Everyone agrees: libraries are critical institutions. Librarians certainly feel that way, but so does the general population and even (mostly) politicians—especially if asked publicly. But since I’m kind of a fussbudget, I can’t help wanting to drill down into that sentiment a bit. What do we mean when we say that libraries are “critical,” particularly when we’re talking about academic and research libraries?
The concept of surplus value clearly works well in a marketplace context, where goods and services are exchanged for money in real time, making it easy and intuitive to think in terms of value versus cost. But what relevance does it have in the library context, where services are (or seem to be) provided at no charge?
We all know the story of Procrustes: he was basically the Basil Fawlty of Greek mythology, a terrible hotel owner with a single iron bed. He would invite passersby to spend the night as his guests, and would then either stretch them or cut them to fit the bed. In academic libraries, the temptation to take a similar (if more gentle) approach to our patrons and their research needs is great.