I planned to write about “change” when I was reading Library 2.0 because the concept of “Library 2.0”, as I understand it, is all about adapting to changes and involving users in those changes (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007). Given the current circumstances, we must all have something to say about the changes we are experiencing in today’s world and in our own professions. However, as I proceeded with the readings in Module 3, I found myself emotionally triggered by David Weinberger’s idea when he stated that “Every business is dysfunctional because everything human is at least a little bit broken” (1999). Something hit me, strongly. As I finally started reading The Heart of Librarianship (Stephens, 2016), that “something” finally revealed itself to me – the “heart”.
Long before I joined this MLIS program, I had decided to learn more about new technologies and tools which I believe would serve me better in my future career. Things like database management, website designing, programing, video production, etc. have all struck me as mysterious and fascinating. The reason for me to feel that way is simply because I don’t know anything about them, and seeing other colleagues working with these “cool stuff” makes me feel that what I do as a service staff is not promising and contains little value. To me, a “tech-savvy” librarian sounds much more capable and smarter than a “warm-hearted and helpful” service staff. I know this doesn’t sound right and it may offend other service staff (I’m sorry!), but I want to be honest about my own feelings here.
Believe it or not, this is why the “heart” hits me so hard, because it feels like someone understands me. “Everything human is at least a little bit broken” (1999) – thank you for saying that Mr. Weinberger.
Emerging technologies, new trends, data, social media…these terms have been incepted into our head and pushed us forward into a dynamic information era. We are told to be adaptive, trained to be competitive, and also required to be productive at work. To build a successful organization, we must be professional and avoid mistakes in every possible way. We calculate numbers, communicate with charts and reports, analyze pros and cons, and then implement or cancel a service as our statistics have suggested. I understand how it works and why it works this way, but still, something is missing for me.
Coming into library work as a service staff, I mostly work at the front desk and interact with our users face to face. They come to me with questions about the location of a book, a dysfunctional printer, the time of an upcoming workshop, and a broken stapler…Simple questions like this can surely be solved by technology, but why do we still need service staff at the circulation desk? We are so used to approaching users with reasons, numbers and new technologies, to an extent that we forget about the essence of providing services – the heartfelt interaction between humans – no matter how “inefficient” or “unproductive” it is.
Technology isn’t going to solve every problem for an organization, but people can. Technology appears to be so cool and sometimes they make people like me feel so small, but people understand your feelings and empathize with you. No one wants to be perceived as stupid or less capable, so when users come to us with a seemingly “silly” question, they are also revealing an unconfident self to us. What they need is someone who is empathetic and understanding, someone who does not judge them by their “silly” questions, someone who recognizes the “broken” bit within a human being and protects it gently. In my humble opinion, that’s the bit technology can’t provide, and that’s the “heart” of librarianship.
Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service. Information Today.
Levine, R., Locke, C., Searls, D., & Weinberger, D. (1999). The cluetrain manifesto: The end of business as usual. Basic Books.
Stephens, M. (2016). The heart of librarianship: Attentive, positive, and purposeful change. ALA Editions.