Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Devil is in the details...

It was an interesting start to the day. I swung by Raley's to pick up something for lunch. I settled on a salad and a Diet Pepsi, and the total came to $6.66. Yep, that infamous number from the Bible and the subject of an Iron Maiden song. (Whoo! Maiden!) But I suppose I should not be surprised because I am Rosemary's baby. My mother has the same maiden name as the character in the book, and the movie came out when she was pregnant with me (so now curious folks can figure out how old I am!). She is not a fan of horror flicks anyway, but her friends made sure she did not see the film! This post started out being about wikis and how information can be changed or misleading, such as the character Rosemary was based on my mother. (I know several people who were relegated to wikipedia's sandbox and/or were branded a "vandal".) But then I realized I skipped over Thing 15, so I should not be so wiki about wikis, apparently.

In Rick Anderson's article, the statements "During the print era, if you wanted access to pricey indexes or a collection of scholarly journals, you had no choice but to make a trip to the library. It wasn't a good system, but it worked. Sort of. That is to say, it worked moderately well for those privileged with a good library." most of you know, I grew up in another state capital: Albany, NY. There were plenty of libraries to go to if one was not meeting one's needs. But then I thought about my sister, Carolyn. She currently lives in Podunk, NH. Okay, not really Podunk, but close enough. It has about 2,000 residents, and so you can imagine that the library serving her and her sons is not large nor really convenient for her to patronize. I can't speak to what services they do provide for folks beyond the bricks and mortar stuff, but I hope that it does offer some of the same services SPL does. My eldest nephew will be starting school this fall (yikes!), so he'll need information for school reports soon enough. Michael Stephens wrote that the 2.0 librarian "bases all planning and proposals for services, materials, and outreach on user needs and wants." I know that this has generated a lot of controversy in the past for SPL. Remember everybody all up in arms about SPL buying copies of "Jackass" on DVD?

"What are we, Blockbuster?" "We're a library, not Burger King! Why do we have to get trash instead of good literature just because they want it?"

But that concept is more than buying stuff the public wants. It is finding ways to get information in the hands of users regardless of when or how or even if they think they want it. That's what we all struggle with, isn't it? I don't see that ever going away, no matter how technology evolves.

One statement in that same paragraph jumped out at me: "This librarian does not create policies and procedures that impede users' access to the library". Oh boy! Ladies and gentlemen of SPL, this is something that has been a thorn in the side of many of us. There has been many changes (some work, some not) to the policies and procedures in the past few years. Fine structure, fine threshold, collections procedures, library card applications, borrowing limits.....and each have been hotly debated, whether at an individual level, a branch level, or an institution level. Some folks don't like change because they just don't like change. Some feel it is unfair to the folks who abide by the rules to let others "slide" a bit. Others think that by fixing one thing, you are breaking another. Regardless of the argument, no policy and procedure is going to be perfect, and what works in 2009 might not work in 2019. In the social work world, we say that if we do our jobs right, we put ourselves out of a job. Pretty idealistic, but not a bad thing to strive for. I think good policies and procedures that work right now (and continue to keep them current) are a worthy goal for us to strive for.

More musings in a post to come....


  1. OK, I had a whole nice long comment and blogger ate it. But here's what it boiled down to.

    I think, rather than working ourselves out of a job, if we do our jobs right we can move on to do more interesting things. Granted, I am perhaps predisposed to think newer is often more interesting. But I'm more than happy to get customers to do for themselves, especially if it means staff gets to do less rote and more "value added" (a term I hate, but I don't know a better one) work.

  2. I don't recall anyone hotly debating any new policies around here. What are you talking about???

  3. SD, I meant that the library should strive for good policies and procedures not putting ourselves out of a job. (It's social workers who should do that.) Sorry if that was unclear. CF, how about library staff have to pay fines? Not all debate surrounding a policy works its way up to your level, though. Sometimes it is just my Libra-ness that makes me debate with myself about the merits of a new policy. I follow it regardless, but....

  4. As many new policies as have been put into place at SPL recently, it would be strange indeed if there were no employees who questioned them. Of course, people will only express doubts openly if they believe debate is going to be tolerated. One way to squash dissent is to marginalize people who disagree.