Divine Mistakes

It’s mad! It’s gay!
A libelous display!
Those dreary vows that everyone takes,
Everyone breaks!
Everyone makes divine mistakes
The lusty month of May!

“The Lusty Month of May” from Camelot, by Lerner and Loewe

It’s May!! The month of “Yes, you may.” My musical song for May fits in perfectly with the Cheetham and Hoenke article.

The song aside, of course I’m not at all against self-discipline and living up to values. Living up to values is one thing, but sometimes we take “dreary vows” that we THINK are about our values, but really are about something else–about boxing ourselves in without really reflecting on what we’re disavowing. “I’ll never use a Kindle, I’m old-fashioned. I like real books.” (OK, I still love real books. Still old-fashioned too. But boy, do I love my Kindle.)

We shouldn’t dance in the library. We don’t need games in the library. We don’t make stuff at the library. And then we find to our surprise that all those things are really wonderful in the library, divine mistakes.

In Casey & Stephens (2007), the authors talk about how “the culture of perfect” can hold back the transparent library. The idea of perfect holds us back from making mistakes, since if mistakes are unacceptable, it’s a lot easier to do nothing. Or alternatively, to act like we’re going to do something, but in fact do nothing except hold meetings, and steering committees, and analyze a project to a lingering death. As Frierson (2011) writes, “You’ve experienced enough strategic planning to know that the majority of the time it’s not going to get you anywhere, and it’s going to take a long time to do so.” A fear of mistakes contributes to this problem: you can’t make huge mistakes if you say the buzzwords everybody else is saying, do only the things everybody else is doing.

Cheetham & Hoenke (2013) write, “By not making mistakes, by not taking responsible risks, by waiting until someone else makes it perfect before can adopt it, we miss an opportunity to benefit from any success of the project now.” We need to bear in mind that although decisions can be hard to make, we can’t get out of them. Not making a decision IS making a decision–and it’s a decision for stagnation and obsolescence. Cheetham & Hoenke further write, “We grow from those mistakes” (Cheetham & Hoenke, 2013). Or, as Big Bird might say “It’s about the little mistakes you make as you begin to grow” (a secret adults ought to know, too!) Stop making mistakes, and you stop growing.

Mistakes can be mopped up and fixed.They can also be learned from. And they can even not be mistakes at all, just a turning path that takes us where we didn’t know we always wanted to go–a path on which the evil spirits cannot make the turns (Stephens, 2014).

“Closer to Fine” is a great musical metaphor for the Internet environment, since the web is not about linear progression or perfect organization, but about unexpected connections, serendipitous paths, all the “crooked lines” we take between one interesting idea and another. While perusing our virtual symposiums, I’ve been struck by all the ways people have connected ideas from the course–mind maps, flow charts, rugged mountain paths, songs and stories. There is no one way to weave the ideas together.

Tallulah Bankhead famously said, “If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.” Sometimes the greatest regret we have from a risk is that we didn’t take it sooner, and delayed our opportunity to learn, to grow, and to live fully in accord with our most heartfelt values. So as we move on from this class, I hope we all get out there willing to make those divine mistakes.


Casey, M., &  Stephens, M. (2007, April 1). The transparent library: Introducing the Michaels. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2007/04/ljarchives/the-transparent-library-introducing-the-michaels/

Cheetham, W, & Hoenke, J. (2013, August 19). Making mistakes in our daily work: A TTW conversation between Warren Cheetham and Justin Hoenke [Web log post]. Tame The Web. Retrieved from http://tametheweb.com/2013/08/19/making-mistakes-in-our-daily-work-a-ttw-conversation-between-warren-cheetham-and-justin-hoenke/

Doctorow, C. (2013, February 25). Libraries and makerspaces: a match made in heaven [Web log post]. boingboing. Retrieved from http://boingboing.net/2013/02/25/libraries-and-makerspaces-a-m.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Frierson, E. (2011, August 10). Leading with heart. In the Library with the Lead Pipe. Retrieved from http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2011/leading-with-heart/

Stephens, M. (2014). Reflective Practice [Panopto]. Retrieved from http://hanakoa.sjsu.edu/Panopto/Pages/Viewer/Default.aspx?id=8bf2996e-2a90-4c14-982a-7cbb945cd222

STGtv [seattletheatregroup]. (2010, July 3). (Official) DANCE this flash mob @ Seattle Library choreographed by Nick and Anna Golla [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/iITUxFo9hB4

Valdez, R. (2014, February 16). What’s in a game [Web log post] Retrieved from: http://287.hyperlib.sjsu.edu/rachaelvaldez/2014/02/16/whats-in-a-game/



About mollificence

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

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