you hear the darndest things in library meetings

I’m posting these quotes as a continuation of my thinking process about what I see as a developing reactionary movement in librarianship. Not that there hasn’t always been a “let’s do it the old way” contingent in libraries, but I think it is perhaps more unified than in the past. I hate to be pessimistic and/or so centered on this very moment of the profession, but I can’t help but think that, like much of the information world, we’re at a crossroads. I’m not sure we’ll collectively choose the right direction. I hear about great things happening in some libraries, but I also hear about too many things similar to the quotes below. Once upon a time my jaw dropped when people would report things like this. Am I jaded now? As requested, I’ll protect the sources that have emailed me or passed these along in hushed tones in libraries and at conferences.

Where: A long range plan meeting.
Who: The library director.
Quote: (multiple times throughout the meeting): I hate computers, I hate computers, I hate computers.

Where: A library redesign furniture meeting.
Who: Adult Services staff.
Quote: (in response to the high table and stool combo being unusable for laptopping): We don’t want them to be too comfortable!

Where: An everyday conversation.
Who: IT staff.
Quote: (in response to installing Firefox on public computers) But then they would have a choice.

Where: Circ desk.
Who: Circ clerk.
Quote: (in response to a patron asked to place a reserve) Sorry, that’s not my job. [walks away]

I don’t think I need to comment on these quotes except to say that they’re so bad they’re caricatural.

Let’s not end the work week on a negative note. Michael Casey’s post It’s About Me, and You is about responding to disagreeable comments in meetings and it really resonated with me. Libraries won’t progress unless committed individuals stand up and respond to things that make them bristle. Now is the time for boldness.

8 thoughts on “you hear the darndest things in library meetings”

  1. We’re at a crossroads indeed. Libraries are on a journey and aren’t “there” yet, and maybe never will be and that’s OK. Librarians and staff need to move forward awake, bold, and sharp-witted because we’ve got to deliver the library science–not the hate, the back-biting, the fear, prejudice, luddite bullying, or lazy megalomania.

    BTW, Walking Paper is looking awesome — love the new design.

  2. I’ve heard the “not too comfortable” comment myself as it relates to transients. I also know library directors who still print off all of their email.

    I went to a conference yesterday with these problems. The question was, how do we change? One retirement at a time :)

  3. @Jeff
    I’ve heard of some of library directors biding their time, not adapting or changing. This is a problem for sure. What concerns me most is the attitudes of tomorrow’s leaders. Just because someone was born in, say, the 60s or 70s (or whenever) doesn’t mean they’re going to necessarily be any more forward thinking than the colleagues they replace. I’m afraid that if the profession just waits for things to be better as people retire we’ll be doing that continually.

    Glad you like the new look. And yes, I second your emotions.

  4. sad to say, I have also heard these (pretty much word for word) at the opposite end of the country…
    maybe a sadder one, presenting a plan for YA programs: “But then they’ll all come!”

    sylvie, climbing up a steep hill in flat land Florida

  5. A Lesson for Libraries

    Overheard in a hospital:

    Nurse to Aide: “It doesn’t matter what we want. What’s important is what the patient wants.”
    Nurse to me: “Everyone around here complains.”
    Me to Nurse: “That’s true wherever you work.”

  6. Hey! Let’s not put all the blame on the more established librarians. I’ve met my fair share of under 25 year old future librarians in grad school who are of the libraries-are-only-for-the-studious-and-book-lovers school of thought. On the flipside some of the most open minded hip people I work with are closer to retirement than not. There are definitely some old school attitudes that persist regardless of age.

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