In this incredible world of movement and change and the mind-stretching opportunities that new technology brings to us, we can often be left standing in the awe of too many choices; the wonder of what is coming next. Craving the new. Still, there is the steady world of libraries that continues to deepen and hold space for what is now, what is then, and what is to be. Libraries discover and describe our world–the historic world and the now, the present and the rare. When I lived and worked in Boulder, Colorado, I met so many academic librarians, many whom worked to acquire, protect and share rare volumes. Eye-and-mind opening. At the time I was doing so much work to update, reimagine and build contemporary approaches to service. This work is important, and still is. The work of securing historic volumes, art and realia of the years that came before us is important work as well. There is something settling (and often unsettling) at looking at pieces of the past. Libraries, like museums, keep us aware, giving our lives and times context. In this time of pandemic, these actions still hold true. It helps us to look forward as well as backward, for context and understanding. Libraries are still holding this charge. Visit the websites of small or large libraries and you’ll see this commitment still alive. Libraries remind us of who we were, who we are and who we can become. A rare, and valuable offering.
How many times have you said to yourself: I should have known when that happened it wasn’t going to work out! No matter what it is–a relationship that you were plugging away at, a deal you were trying to close or a conversation you were earnestly trying to have with a relative. You look back and probably say or think these types of things to yourself: “How obvious!” “How could I have been so blind?” “I was so dumb not to turn and run right then!” And so, you take a little bit more time to kick yourself around about it, saying things to yourself you’d never say to a friend. You feel the slow slide of misery because you didn’t speak what you thought, what you knew, in the moment.
Here’s what I suggest you tell yourself if you’re in this place:
For whatever reason, I wasn’t equipped, skilled or in-strength at the time to recognize it, metabolize it and act in alignment with my integrity. Maybe I was listening too much to process or didn’t have enough information to make the best decision/stand up for myself/ question what I was given. Maybe I was off-kilter, who isn’t many times. I don’t know exactly how it happened. Though I recognize it now. Now I know what I knew–what I thought I knew, before. The gauzy known is now known again.
You recall the inklings of discovery or discomfort. though you either couldn’t do anything with it or you didn’t want to believe it. The mind wants to believe the best, even when it has only a bit to hang onto, when it wants to believe in a person, an idea, an ideal.
We look back and say ‘I knew that was going to happen.’ Or we think ‘I knew all along I shouldn’t trust this person.’ And truly, perhaps you did know. This is what we often call instinct, intuition or gut-feelings. But knowing isn’t substantial until it is put into place, in actuality. What we knew becomes what we know when it is experienced. This doesn’t mean our ideas and values are unreal. It means that they are revealed. What we knew is now known more deeply. You were moving into the known. And, knowing this, you can depend on trusting yourself, the knowing, the naw of questioning the next time it comes around. Remember, recall so the next time you can honor your instincts, your knowingness. You don’t have a crystal ball that shows the future. Your mind is keen when your recognize patterns. This is how we learn, how we know for the next time.
NOTE: Dissolution, self-criticism, unwarranted disruption and uncertainty is intense. If you are experiencing this, step away from blaming yourself. I wish you peace and self-empowerment.
In moments when we don’t know what to say, what to write, how to respond–it is as if we know nothing. The world becomes a blank page. We reach out and the page tears as we try to find words that are simply too small for our naked eyes or perhaps written in lemon ink. We forget about our decades of life and experience, and, in that moment we know nothing but the blank. This blank, this nothingness-of-knowing scares us right down to the marrow of who we are (who we think we are, who we know we are). A thick, blank sheet–of paper or fabric–is thrown over our heads. And we gasp, we twitch, we even perhaps throw ourselves out, like a character we are writing about who needs attention. We throw ourselves out when we don’t know. Don’t know the answer. Don’t know the next plot point. Don’t know how we got ourselves into this mess of words and ideas. Why didn’t we stick to a job that was more solid, something that would never have us thinking about how we know nothing? Why didn’t we think more before we said ‘yes?’ The blank makes us wonder. Why did we trust the people we did when, somehow, we knew all along? We knew all along they’d leave us blank. We knew all along. Then we become that blank.
And there is the blank page before us. Holding our wonder and our grief. Holding our disenchantment and mix of confusion and sadness. We know nothing. We think we’ll scribble on the page and at least get something done. If we think about those scribbles too long they seem like scars.
This blank page. This space in front of us that makes us feel like we know nothing. This blank page, this blank space is not a mirror that erases the past ten years. It is not the effect of distraction or our longings that have leaked over time. It is nonsense and pure, plain sense all at once. We can recede into nothing, and still, the page is there for us when we remember–when our words, our voice is called out–scribbled or cursived.
We can know nothing for a while. We all know nothing for a while.
The idea of boutique-ing programs or projects can fly in the face of what seems like big success. We often think of success as being large, more people, more things–more. Boutique-ing isn’t so much about numbers as it is about creating something that is memorable to individuals–no matter how many (2 or 2000).
One key thing to remember when boutique-ing a program is get to know your participants as much as possible before your event, your week-long workshop, your program or happening. What are their needs, expectations and reasons for putting your event or program on their calendars? How can you find more about them without prying or being obnoxious? What questions can you ask–not simply to ask questions, but to help make a connection with the person and and the happening?
All this sounds simple, though it takes intention and willingness to get personal.
Be gentle, kind and real when asking questions of your potential participants. Encouraging interest can make room for humor, creating a helpful bond between all participants and those behind or in front of the scenes.
Keep thinking this: How can we make this happening more memorable, easier, more boutique-ed?
Recently, I came across this post I wrote some time ago, musing on writing and and how it can can be intertwined with loneliness. As I re-read this piece, I thought about how in many ways there is a distinct type of loneliness that can surround our writing practices and often infuse our writing, particularly when we are working character struggles or lone characters. I made a few edits to the post, infused by a few new ideas.
Often we think of good story scenarios as being ones that have multiple characters and clear, obvious and perhaps predictable happenings. We long for happy endings even in the mire of worry and worrisome scenes.
Good stories can sometimes be lonely stories. What I mean by lonely is that the story can be focused mostly on a singular character. The cast of characters are not there, filling out a storyline or bringing more layers to the tale. Sometimes the story is a singular one. A story that is about one, single character–one single person’s reactions and responses to the world that they have stepped into or the world that feels is happening to them.
Often a singular story turns outs to be a poem. Or poem-like.
No one wants to be trapped inside one character’s mind for too long. It becomes too insular. And still there are singular stories. The stories of what happened when she crossed this milestone she set for herself but never told anyone about it. Or the story of when the world came crashing in when there was no one else around to hear or feel impact.
There will be lonely scenes when expressing these moments. Allow that loneliness. You may want to bring an outside character in to bring another insight or perspective for a moment, even if in memory. As in real life, we are so often left to figure it out for ourselves. This is lonely business.
There are still colors, light and rare shadows in loneliness, even when life is drab.
Any experience that is built to serve everyone and anyone really serves no one. I have been thinking, talking and acting on the idea of boutique-ing programs and services for a while now. It is about customizing to real people. It is about creating commitments between providers and consumers. It is about making what we do more real and deeper for all those involved. Stay tuned for more about Boutique Programs.
Learning is the constant disruption of an old pattern, a breakthrough that substitutes something new for something old. And the the process begins again.
– Cathy N. Davidson , Now You See It
I have pondered this quote for a few months now. It reminds me that as our habits of living, communicating and engaging have changed, of course, so have the ways we learn. Indeed, we learn how we live.
Find out a little more about the fascinatingly practical approach Cathy Davidson takes to learning, unlearning and to conceptualizing a new approach to living, collaborating and dealing with our world of disruptions and learning moments in this article “…Fixing the Future of Distraction.”
We all work within various projects, systems and work arenas that have either natural or adapted ebb and flow. Our days start (generally) around the same time. Our correspondences take on a cadence and tempo that, whether they are working well for us or not, become what we know to be natural or at least the norm . Then there are jarring moments. These moments are mostly colored in a shade of out-of-the-blue. Sudden can be good. It can be what we need to get our minds around the matter in a new way. Suddenness can breathe some life back into a stagnant system.
In my world, I was earnestly focusing on learning more about the world of ebook delivery through public libraries. So many matters involved: evolving my own expectations with clunky parameters (DRM), growing an e-collection that was enticing and within budget, coordinating to help get my colleagues trained to know more about how to make the flow of ebooks easier to the public–setting them more free to the world. Lots of work went into that . Lots of time, learning, relearning, communications (emails! about efiles!) and some roadblocks and victories along the way. Enter the Overdrive letter about Harper Collins (at the time “unnamed publisher”) changing their check-out allowances. The carpet we were carefully stitching was pulled t right out from us– our Nooks and iPads clinging to our chests as February came to a close. That was a shift.
I know this didn’t bloom over night. I’m sure of that. However it felt as if it came down like that. There were folks in on figuring this out…advocating for the library user, right? At least responses from the companies say that. But where are those folks now? Who were they? Who are they (not counting the blog commenters, here). Did they at least receive some vendor swag for sitting in on a conversation about this? I’m surely not the only one wondering: were you one of the librarians who sat in on the discussions with HarperCollins before the big announcement? Tell me, how did that conversation ebb and flow?
In less thatn 4 months, through our focus to create more easeful ebook deliver, we increased usage by almost 70%. That 70%– where will it go, how will it grow now? An ebbing question that lingers.
There were many craggy moments but we knew where they were. Beyond that there were the few days from February 24 to March 7 to start a new rhythm. And still with only an emailed letter, the ebb and flow shifted. Some think for better.Some think for ultimate doom, it seems. Whatever comes from this, a new wave was thrown in during a time of earnest work, causing confusion, some anger and some thoughts of just throwing it all out by people across the library community.
How has the letter changed your ebb and flow? Processes, productivity?
I’m still figuring that out… ebbing back to flow forward.
I know there is much of this going on. How interesting that such and out-of-the blue, seemingly informative and somewhat celebratory letter, can change the coarse of thinking and spiritedness about a matter.
How has your ebb, flow or zest for ebooks changed? Within your system? Within yourself?
In the field of youth services, we often talk about creating language rich environments for young minds. These are spaces that reinforce and encourage recognition and meaning of words, create conversations or even invite guests to craft stories as well as strengthen language development and enrichment. This has been a concept that has long appealed to me and I know that many library and youth serving staff work to create spaces that encourage imaginations, word discovery and word play every day. The concept of language rich environments has evolved quite a bit over the past few years. We encounter words in very different ways. We also interact with words differently (think about how the very word “text” has taken on new meanings and conjures new images and actions).
Language/Word-rich environments are not only beneficial for young minds. All ages can benefit from a space that plays with words, directs imaginations with language and encourages conversation. Here are 5 Why-Nots for having fun with words in your space. Why not try them? …
1. Why not sprinkle your space with questions? Just like a good speech, a good space can earnestly stir up questions in visitors’ minds. “Why did they paint that wall tomato red?” “Why are these particular books and dvds on display?” Why not simply write the questions you think may be going on in the minds of customers and post them? Questions will get answers–or at least conjectures. Conjectures can lead to conversations.
2. Why not use a portion of your storytime to invite children and their adults to simply talk with one another? Give them a start up question to ask the person next to them. How about “What is the most unusual word you can think of?”
3. Why not take a note from Pee Wee’s Playhouse (yes, it’s OK to admit to loving PWP just a little) and do a “Word of the Day?” Send kids and adults looking for the word hidden throughout your library or facility, on titles and in the articles of magazines. (Screaming at the top of your lungs when the word is said aloud, is optional, of course).
4. Why not overhaul your signage or at least one type of signage to send a really clear message that “we want you to be a part of this space?” Take a look at Leah White’s article on signage for some inspiration.
5. Why not have an area of your library or department where talking is promoted. Even if it is for limited times only. The “talking” could be in the form of selections from talking books, on-the-spot poetry or quote readings, or timed ramblings on a given topic. Think of it as a creative take on London’s Speakers’ Corner.
Each day we have opportunities to interact with our customers in deeper ways. What we want to get at is creating spaces–whether real or digital–that are drenched with the human element. Inviting involvement through play with words and conversation starters is one way to turn the human element up. Why not?