If You Build It, They Will Come

Meredith Farkas has a lovely post over at Information Wants To Be Free on “You May Not Be the Person You Think You Are, building from the thought that “We all have a story of our life in our heads that informs who we think we are and what we think we are capable of.”

Then, over at Library Stuff today, Steven M. Cohen quotes Dr. Mark Goulston from Never Eat Alone:

“The essence of it is that you need to have a clear, precise, compelling and totally convincing vision of what your best life looks like. When you see it, commitment naturally follows. If commitment doesn’t follow, the vision wasn’t important enough.”

I think this sums up part of what Meredith’s talking about — getting past our old stories and telling a new tale is a necessary first step in becoming the people we’re meant to be.

But, besides being what self-help books generally boil down to (my favorite in this genre being one that came through my former place of work (mfpow?) a while back called Write It Down, Make it Happen, it seems to me that we can also extend this same principle to librarianship. Without a clear vision of where we want our libraries or our profession to go — whether we talk about strategic planning or Library 2.0 or 21st Century libraries — we’re stuck in the story of what we were, not what we need to become. But, any compelling new story has to build on our existing foundations, taking the best bits from our old stories and weaving them into our new vision. To be meaningful, our story of who we are and what we think we are capable of needs to resonate with people, to fit into our larger professional mission.

Library folks should appreciate the power of stories; they are, after all, part of what gives us our purpose. Maybe reframing the question of “the future of libraries” as the question of how we want to tell our story can help us move past terminology and tangential issues and focus on the core of our tale: the plot, the action, the resolution. And, as with any compelling story, borrowing from older archetypical tales helps our audience understand where we are going. Borrowing from the tales they tell us lets us build connections and build a bridge to the new.


  1. K.G. Schneider:

    I have a suggestion for the former-place-of-work name. When I was in the Air Force, we referred to that (slightly tongue in cheek) as “Base X.” Maybe we could institute the concept of “Library X.”

  2. Steven:

    That quote really kicked me in the butt when I needed it the most. What did I do today? I went to Staples and bought some badly needed accessories to organize my book research.

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