April 11, 2008

Was Burnham Wrong? (Or "These Things Take Time")

Daniel Burnham is known to have said, "Make no small plans." (This is a paraphrase. See Bartleby for the full reference.) In an urban planning context (Burnham's) I do not disagree, but what about for libraries? This week marks the end of my fourth month in this position and, while my dream of starting a digital library here looms large, I think the smaller the plans the better in my situation.

As my readers will agree, I entered bright-eyed and gung ho....diving headfirst into the white spaces on Day 1. Don't get me wrong--I have no regrets about this, but I have come to find that my foray into the white spaces has to be taken more deliberately. This organization has been around for a while and most of its employees have been with it for the long haul. So I have decided that I ought step back and learn what has come before a little more intensely and intently before charging ahead with my hopes and dreams. This comes as much from bruised naivete as it does from a confirmed desire to stay in this position for as long as I am able to. I have time, and I should use it.

In an earlier posting I proudly announced my intention to convert our library into a sacred space by the end of my first year. It is still my goal to make the resource room wheelchair-accessible, and to request some furniture to make the room more user-centered. The rest can wait, or can grow slowly. I've found that it's far more important for me to invest my time in the people here than in that room. It's easy to immerse myself in the seemingly endless flow of acquisitions and emails, but I now have the challenge of quiet networking, day by day and person by person, to better customize my services for each of our dozen or so technical assistance specialists. I seek to change one thing at a time, slowly, rather than find a panacea and shout it from the rooftops.

Anne Lamott has said of writing (I think she may have attributed it to someone else) that it's like driving at night with your headlights on: you can only see a few feet in front of you, but you can make the whole journey that way. I'm going to try it that way for a while and make no large plans.

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