I have this fear of dropping my keys down a grate. It's like my fear of heights, only infinitely more reasonable. If I am not mindful of my keys, a perfectly reasonable series of events could lead to my dropping my keys down a grate and that would totally suck. A friend of mine once had his keys in his sweatshirt pocket, and they ended up flushed down a convenience store bathroom toilet two hours from his house. These things happen! Moreover, my fear of dropping my keys down a grate causes me to act in ways which result in my keys never getting dropped down a grate. So it is a reasonable and effective fear.
Now, librarians have some fears which are, if I may, just ridiculous. These are, of course, the Image Of Librarians and The Future Of Libraries. Personally, I am so confused about why we have these fears I can hardly react. But I'm going to have a go at deconstructing them because that seems like fun and I learned some stuff about how to think about things last week. So.
We're afraid of our perceptions of people's perceptions: of librarians and libraries. The cultural thing that is "a library" and "a librarian" is much easier to define, and people's "perceptions" about them are easy to say. It's lazy thinking, and as I've talked about before, lazy thinking is dangerous, and it's our collective responsibility to say something about it.
If we don't know what folks in our communities really think about libraries and librarians, that's on us. People have deeply complex ideas about libraries and librarians. People have deeply complex views on pretty much everything. If you ask and are willing to listen, people will tell you all about it. Erin wrote about asking our users this question a little while back.
So the real question is why do we prefer our lazy thinking to having a discussion with people in our community? I think we're scared of what they'll say. I think we know that we might not be doing a super job. I think we know that we've somehow got our entire identities tied up in doing work we know isn't vital. I think we want to do what's best for our libraries and our communities but are scared to jump. That's not about the Image Of Librarians or the Future Of Librarians at all, that's on us as individual people dealing with our Stuff. Trust me, I know Stuff isn't easy, but, I mean, suck it up. We've got important work to be doing.
Reasonable fears keep my keys out of grates, but lazy thinking, unreasonable fears and hand-wringing keep our focus away from the simple steps that will lead to our institutions being vital in our communities and our ability to make powerful change in those communities. Let's keep our eye on the prize.