The 7 Deadly Librarian Sins

And from on high Library Mountain came down these rules that shall be followed by those charged with carrying out the most noble of professions, Librarianship.

#1 Thou shalt be proactive not reactive.

Jason Griffey gave a presentation today about future trends in libraries, charging us to think about what’s coming next, not just what’s here.  He brought up the interesting point that it can be hard for our patrons to ask for what they want because they’re not aware of what we can do.  Basically the old Henry Ford adage of “If I had asked people what they wanted they would have said a faster horse.”  Seek out new technologies, new methods, new products even if you can’t fully adopt them.  We should be a step in front of our patrons where ever they are.

#2 Thou shalt not ignore the world outside of libraries.

How can you discover new things coming down the path?  Read Wired or other tech magazines, follow blogs on User Experience design or hell any kind of thoughtful design.  Griffey brought up that our patrons’ experiences in other environments become the expectation universally even in libraries.  If Amazon is quick, cheap and easy, libraries should be as well.  We should look at our competitors and take their successful models and adapt them with things we do well.

#3 Thou shalt not covet other libraries.

It’s easy to look at other libraries and become jealous and depressed.  They have shiny new toys that walk, talk and more!  They have amazing community support.  They have money growing on trees.  As lame as it sound each library IS a unique and special snowflake.  We need to assess, with quantitative data. the needs of our communities and work from there and not a place of pouting jealousy.

#4 Thou shalt not get mad at techno-challanged coworkers.

Frustration at coworkers slow or out right resistant to implementing new technology is a common emotion.  I struggle the most with this.  Constant training that have direct impacts on people’s work flow along with recognizing everyday teachable moments help calm the anxiety on both sides.

#5 Thou shalt not ban.


#6 Thou shalt value our patrons above all else.

Yes, they do in fact pay your salary.  While that does not give them a right to mistreat and harass it does mean all goals and assessments must come back to the ultimate question, will it help the patron?  Will they benefit or see an improvement?  Are we making our jobs easier or their lives better?  Answer carefully because we need patrons to be our partners and not enemies to be kept at bay.

#7  Thou shalt not let the technology win.

You are at all times technology’s master and liege.  It must bend to your will and desires.  It is your tool, not the other way around.  If not might as well lay down now and wait for robots and AI to evolve enough to overpower us and take over the earth.  Laugh all you want but just know when it all goes to hell, I told you so.


Can we talk?

I’d heard the saying, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is for permission. Until I started working in libraries I never knew how true it is.

I use my young, techno-savvy image to start social media projects, to suggest new technology toys, and to basically do cool things like go to Wordcamp Chicago and ALA. I find when there are walls in my way I simply go around them or knock them down by talking long and loudly enough. My voice is out there, I say what I think and importantly what I feel. I don’t always get my way but at least you know where I stand.

A long time ago (cough, high school) I felt like I was a quiet person who had nothing important or interesting to say.  That’s probably why I connected with Lisa Barone’s post on Outspoken Media’s blog about finding your brand’s voice and not being scared to share it.

“There’s power in engaging with people by letting them see what you and your business are about.”

So I have a voice and I use it, but her post made me wonder, does my organization? Honestly, no. If it does then it’s not a cohesive one that makes an impact. I feel this lack of voice, position, opinion hurts us and informs our users in ways we didn’t intend to.

The biggest frustration with adopting social media in my organization is getting internal buy-in. My ideas get met with approval and nods of support but when I ask for input or material, silence. Sure, it’s great we have a blog but hardly anyone posts to it. Yeh! We’re on Facebook, but are we interacting or just posting event notices? There is a clear hesitation to fully engage in these new places. There is no social to our media.

I understand the reluctance. No one wants to get in trouble. Libraries take their time implementing new ideas. The Board must take action, than the director needs to approve, maybe even lawyers consulted. A public institution is accountable to the public, I get it. But the process takes time and can wash away the human element, the voice.

Toby Greenwalt was part of a panel at ALA and made a point I’ve been thinking about, where is the human touch in technology and how it’s used in the library. Are you in social media because everyone else is? Use self-checkout stations because they’re successful at other libraries? The follow-the-leader mentality does not create the need that authentic adoption will come from. By adding the human touch, our voice, we can become more than another public intuition. Public libraries are always saying, we’re not like police or fire department. So then why do we act like it, clinical and procedural organizations that are seen as inflexible and out of date. Reading and researching are very personal activities. Why don’t we get personal too? Why do we hide behind passive-aggressive signs and policy filled with legalese. Where do we reach out to our patrons, human to human and not library to user?

Fact: Librarian talk, a lot. Chatter in offices, back channel talk on Twitter, sharing New Spice videos on Facebook. So why are we not talking to our community? Why are we not going to them and starting a conversation? Why do we passively wait for feedback to find its way to use? Why are we scared to say how important our programs and materials are to those that need them most?

If we don’t begin getting involved in these discussions with all our passion then public libraries will continue to be seen as poor orphan children walking around with our hand out begging for change. Public libraries need more than change, more than leftover funding. We need to find our voice and add to the discussion and we can’t do that if we are standing on the sides, being silent because we’re scared to speak.