The imitation of librarians

One of the other readings I loved this week was “The user is (still) not broken,” along with the related original post “The user is not broken.”

Possibly my favorite quote from the latter is “Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be.” It reminded me so much of one of my favorite quotes:

Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, when you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.

~Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, 15th century

I am not religious, by the way, but I adore this anyway. It seems so insightful about human nature. It is so easy for us to be angry or annoyed that other people aren’t doing things the way they should be done, and lose sight of the fact that we fail to meet our own best aspirations all the time.

In the participatory library, the spirit is to respect and value the user’s way of doing things. When librarians get too attached to our format (which those darn users just Will Not Learn properly!) and not to our service, we lose sight of our primary mission–which is not to control or change people, but to help them get closer to their own best aspirations, as we are all always trying to do.

References

Kenney, B. (2014, January 27). The user is (still) not broken. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/libraries/article/60780-the-user-is-still-not-broken.html

Schneider, K.G. (2006, June 3). The user is not broken: a meme masquerading as a manifesto [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://freerangelibrarian.com/2006/06/03/the-user-is-not-broken-a-meme-masquerading-as-a-manifesto/

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About mollificence

library student, writer, mom, Kindle addict View all posts by mollificence

5 responses to “The imitation of librarians

  • Elissa Papendick

    This really sent some sparks flying! There are interactions that happen everyday at the circulation desk, especially with course reserves, where the users are just not conforming to our system. I’ve been noticing this for a while, but this finally put words into what is happening.

    I really like this statement: “In the participatory library, the spirit is to respect and value the user’s way of doing things. When librarians get too attached to our format (which those darn users just Will Not Learn properly!) and not to our service, we lose sight of our primary mission–which is not to control or change people, but to help them get closer to their own best aspirations, as we are all always trying to do.”

    • Molly McKinney

      @elissap Obviously some uniformity of service is useful and helpful, since then people can learn something that is reliable…but if people are repeatedly not doing it “right”, I do think it invites us to consider why and what could be done to follow the path that people are taking.

  • Michael Stephens

    @mollymckinney That quote has power! It would be great to use it for planning sessions for new services or changes to existing ones.

    @elissap I hope you can contribute some ideas for changes to the reserve system!

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