Category Archives: rant

Libraries Gave Up Control

This is a rant post.  Please feel free to turn away now.

I’m not sure how, why or when, but libraries have totally given up control.  Think about it.  We don’t control our revenues.  We don’t control the systems we depend on.  We don’t control the content.  We have almost no content that we actually own.  We barely control the organizational mechanism we have relied on for decades.

As a public institution, most of us relying on tax dollars, it makes sense that we just can’t spend whatever we feel like.  But our insistence on remaining unbiased has certainly hurt us here.  Not only do we need to speak up.  We need to control the messages associated with libraries.  Other Public service groups have a much louder and more sophisticated voice than we do.  Teachers, police, fire fighters, even postal workers are much more organized than we are.  This has to stop!

Why do educational institutions still get to control their prime service?  Yes, educators, for the most part, still have control of the curriculum they teach, the methods they use, and what happens in the classroom.  They still have control over their prime business.  We do not.  Publishers, vendors, and other content providers are eroding the very core of what we do.  Is it inconceivable to believe that eBooks will dominate the book world?  In many cases, eBooks already dominate.  So what will the world look like in 10 years when every has an eReader?  What will our business model be when we have virtually no content to provide the technology that seems to be mainstream?  We need to defend our rights as providers of a public good.

When did we turn over control of system creation?  It’s actually kind of funny, we make the systems and then we turn them over to someone else who charges us for the very systems we created.  We need to refocus on system design, but more importantly, we need to retain the control over the systems.  This is about much more than the ILS, but I’m talking just about every worthless, complicated system we have.  I’m talking about calendar and event systems, ILS, print-release, computer-reservation, CMS, discovery layer, etc…  As an added bonus, if we created these systems, we could actually integrate the systems.  Wouldn’t it be nice if a library member could make a computer reservation, register for a program, and check out a book all from one system?

I know this is just a rant.  I don’t really offer much in the way of constructive solutions.  I am so hopeful for the profession that I love.  But I am simultaneously worried.  I can’t look anyone in the face and say that I think the trend will be good to us.  If our control over revenue, content and systems continue to erode I think the writing will be on the wall.  I guess much of the solution from where I sit (it’s snowing in Chicago) depends on us joining together.  We need to join our voices together.  We need to pool our talents and resources to create systems that actually work for us.  And we need to talk directly to the authors.  The SPARC addendum works (sometimes) in the academic publishing world, maybe it can work here.

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The Art of Being (Done)

The Art of Being has been one of those defining books in my life.  Fromm’s suggestion that being is the ultimately goal as opposed to the goal put forward by society that having is the end all changed my whole outlook.  Well recently another important life lesson has emerged.  Lifehacker recently ran a post called The Done Manifesto which lays out 13 important lessons:

  1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
  2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
  3. There is no editing stage.
  4. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
  5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
  6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
  7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.
  8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
  9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
  10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
  11. Destruction is a variant of done.
  12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
  13. Done is the engine of more.

This is a mantra that I am putting forward both in my personal life as well as the leader at Prairie State.  To me, the goal of perfection is not possible.  We talk ourselves out of doing so much because we are not sure we can do it perfectly.  I want an organization that will be both good enough as well as an organization that is willing to fail.  Good enough doesn’t mean bad, it means good.  At some point we have attached a negative emotion to the concept of good enough.  Well, good enough is now good enough for me.  I have so much more that I want to accomplish, and spending energy on trying to achieve the impossible perfection is a waste of time, creativity, and energy.

To tie this back to the Art of Being, to me, being done is a much better outlook than having perfection.  Fromm argues that anything that we “have” can be taken away from us, but that anything we are will be with us always.  Perfection fades, rusts, becomes obsolete, and will ultimately end up imperfect.  I am much more interested in the satisfaction of being content with what I have, with what I have created, and how I lead.

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On Loneliness II

While reading Our Singular Strength, I came across a chapter entitled The Solace of Knowledge.

I think this is right on point.  And encourages me in the work we all do.

Also, as many of you know, Michael Gorman is my hero.  For those of you who dislike him, I cannot encourage you strongly enough to be open-minded and read Our Singular Strength.  You can read parts of it on Google Books.

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