TTW Mailbox: Heretical Ideas in Library School

Dear TTW:

I’m taking a little one-credit class called “The Thoughtful Professional” in my library school. One of the requirements of the class is to send the professor a short email with a “Heretical Idea” about libraries. During the last 30-minutes of each class we discuss the idea. The author remains anonymous.I wanted to share mine with you because a photo you put in your Flickr stream inspired me. Here it is:

Throw away the library policy book; toss aside the library rules!

Most library rules and policies serve no one, except the ineffective managers who implement and administer them. Managers who aren’t trained to be effective leaders create rules to deal with difficult situations instead doing the tough work required to really solve them. Most rules create walls between people. Most rules establish an “us vs. them” situation. How do patrons/users/clients feel when they see a sign like the one attached?

Instead, hire the best people for the job. Train and empower them to provide the best customer service they can provide. Establish procedures and guidelines, including “these procedures and guidelines have been made to be broken or bent.” Hire people who are kind and compassionate. Hire people who are confident in themselves and their ability to make decisions. Hire people who are optimistic and who possess integrity. Give them the tools to do their job, and set them free to do the best job they can do. And then reward the creative solutions that will undoubtedly arise when they have been empowered to do something greater than fall back on weak-minded rules.

Signed, LIS Student

Wowza, LIS, that is heretical! You make some good points. I hope the class discussion went well. I like the format – it gets people thinking outside of their comfort zone to examine what at first might be heretical or forbidden thinking. Thanks for the note.

We know every library has its own unique circumstances, and certainly large libraries in big cities have a certain set of issues that others do not. How can even the biggest library evaluate the rules?

And, TTW readers, what is your heretical idea?