Feedback | Letters to LJ, February 1, 2011"Heretics can effectively shake us up.... Heretics with heart can shake us up and still stand by us as the ... pieces settle into place." Feb 1, 2011
Creativity or heresy?
Michael Stephens’s Office Hours column has conjured up intrigue and inspiration for me.... The quandaries and questions he poses are ones that many (if not most) library managers, administrators, and project coordinators are dealing with daily. “Heretical Thoughts” (LJ 12/10, p. 72) particularly jumped off the page for me. In many library circles we’ve talked about creativity and innovation for years. That discussion is still there, though its force has lightened in the past couple of years as various levels of challenging circumstances have prevailed in the library world. Stephens reminds us that “solutions to common problems can come when librarians tap into their creativity and inventiveness.” How is it that the idea of the library as place of creativity...has become one that is heretical? He quietly encourages us to ponder this.
We so often see that it is the daring library heretics who stir us up, get us going, and move us forward. Isn’t it interesting that a common numbers-or-stuff view of the library world would lead us to feel that it’s heresy to encourage LIS students or library customers to use their personal perspectives and voices to lead, grow, and evolve the library? Stephens makes me think of two things: 1) heretics can effectively shake us up, and 2) heretics with heart can shake us up and still stand by us as the parts and pieces settle into place.—Tony Tallent, Dir. of Literacy & Learning, Richland Cty. P.L., Columbia, SC
In 2009, we created “innovation” as a performance requirement for all staff at my library. Each person (shelvers, custodians, librarians, department heads) must “bring a new idea, development, or system” (Michael Stephens, “Heretical Thoughts,” Office Hours, LJ 12/10, p. 72). In the first year, there were ideas large and small, from posting bilingual “cover your mouth/wash your hands” reminders in all restrooms to hosting a kickoff for parents and children new to preschool story time. We have four elegant wooden planter boxes in the lobby, suggested by a circulation assistant [who also waters the plants], constructed by the custodian, and funded by the Friends. The goal is to encourage and reward the staff for thinking of improvements.
Stephens’s closing paragraph recalls something that Lawrence Clark Powell wrote: “A good librarian is not a social scientist, a documentalist, a retrievalist, or an automaton. A good librarian is a librarian: a person with good health and warm heart, trained by study and seasoned by experience to catalyze books and people.” —Nann Blaine Hilyard, Dir., Zion-Benton P.L., Zion, IL
I am shocked (and disheartened) to read of Jean Costello’s experience at the reference desk (“Why I Don’t Use Libraries for Reference Anymore,” Reference 2011, supplement to LJ 11/15/10, p. 9). Her request, to find an article critiquing Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” should definitely not be the troublesome inquiry that it evidently was. She states that she has 26 libraries near her home, and not one of these had easy access to British Writers (Gale/Cengage) or Twentieth Century Literary Criticism (Thomson Gale)??? Maybe they do but just didn’t have a reference staff who could point her to them. And you’re right, Jean—it’s not a matter of budgets.... I am truly sorry you didn’t get the service that you needed and deserve.—Jennifer Joseph, Reference & Govt. Documents Libn., New Castle P.L., PA
I usually find John Berry’s comments to be “right on,” but he has veered off the path (“Every Issue Is a Library Issue,” Blatant Berry, LJ 12/10, p. 10). I want [the American Library Association] to be a voice for libraries, not every nonlibrary “concern” of members. So where does ALA stand on the recent romantic breakup of Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens? I’m concerned.—Larry Oathout, Dir., Tell City–Perry Cty. Lib., IN
The prominent “Stat Watch” (NewsDesk, LJ 12/10, p. 18) reports that the Oregon library cooperative’s 15 member libraries have 4,078,577 visitors per year compared to 800,000 annual attendees at Portland Trail Blazer games. The implication is that libraries are more popular than basketball....
Libraries are open many more days than there are days with basketball games. Let’s say there are 300 open library days per year compared to 40 home games for the Trail Blazers. The Trail Blazers win the average attendance per-available-day 20,000 to 13,333. If you compare the basketball team with the average per-date attendance of each member library, the basketball team outdraws the average member library by a factor of more than 20.
Libraries provide enormous value to the community. There must be better “evidence” to demonstrate it. —John Roth, Southfield, MI
P.S. My own personal aggregate statistics: annual Southfield Public Library visits: 50; Detroit sports events attendance: 5.