Call it refreshed perspective from the double-team of ACRL and a relaxing holiday in Florida, but I came back to find that library land seems to have gotten their knickers in a knot of late. If it wasn’t the New York Times attempting to be “on it” with archivists, or another editorial from the Annoyed Librarian that hit every button (and some we didn’t know existed), the ALA election results countdown (that’s mine), or the latest Pew report – something had the collective profession up in knots and on edge – and ready to go Will McAvoy loose cannon.
This, coupled with some self-reflection on my own anxiety and negative attitudes towards my professional life (and a side dish of a Twitter conversation with Andy Woodworth, Liz Burns, and Steve Thomas), leads me to propose a social experiment: Not publicly complaining or whining about libraries – anything from your crazy patrons to the state of the profession – for 24 hours, starting tomorrow (2 May) at noon EST, and ending at 12:01 PM EST on 3 May.
The full rules are here (and are still under some form of development, so you may see minor changes in the next couple of hours), and if you would like to participate, sign up here. And yes, there are prizes. 🙂
No good experiment goes uncriticized….
The beauty of social media is the ability to share an idea quickly and easily. The other side is that criticism to your idea can be shared just as easily, and just as quickly. I wanted to add a section here to respond to what I saw, hopefully answering questions and alleviating concerns.
This experiment does not advocate not talking about your problems, forcing joy, hiding stress, or anything related to those ideas. I’ve been in talk therapy for depression for 3+ years, and I know firsthand the benefits of venting when you have a problem. Do not let taking this pledge affect your mental health and emotional well-being. In short: IF YOU NEED TO VENT TO SOMEONE ABOUT A BAD DAY AT WORK, VENT – but do it privately. Mad about what the Annoyed Librarian said this week? Take it offline, at least for a day. Upset because your budget got slashed? Take if offline for a day. Private conversations are exempt from the #nolibrarywhining pledge (that’s our hashtag on Twitter, use it!), as are posts you may have scheduled weeks ago to go live (for example, an opinion piece in Library Journal or ACRL TechConnect).
This experiment is also not intended to advocate being a “nice” person (you know, that bad connotation the word “nice” can bring, particularly for women) and withholding necessary criticism to make this profession better. I welcome criticism in all its forms – otherwise, I would not be devoting half a blog post to answering what I have already seen in response to my proposal. I view this as a palate cleanser*, a chance to regain balance in acting out of emotion (that has the potential to damage your professional reputation) and thoughtfully contributing to conversation.
I hold no illusions about changing the world with this (except for the person who wins because they will have $25 of found money to their favorite shop). It’s not for everyone. I emphasize this is an experiment – it could be a complete bust and everyone fails within half hour of the pledge period starting. Or, it could lead to a larger dialogue about how we support each other and our institutions and how we communicate and present ourselves. We can go either way.
A co-worker has the following photo in her office:
(apologies for poor photo quality – I was taking this on the run).
This “THINK” philosophy is good to live by, and one I want to try to implement in my life. I don’t see it as inhibiting constructive criticism – in fact, I see it as helping it. My hope is that by taking a day to abstain from being reactionary in negative ways to our profession, we can step back, THINK, and form something very thoughtful later. Social media makes it too easy to not THINK.
On a final note, I would be remiss if I did not mention, and pay proper credit to, my friend Heather Monroe Kinne, who came up with this idea in our knitting community months ago in response to a very serious spate of bullying. It was her idea of #MoreLove that got the idea started in the back of my head months ago, and everyone else mentioned earlier that gave it the time and place to start. (She devotes an episode of her podcast The Fiberista Files to it, but I’m having problems getting on her page right now to link to the episode.)
I hope you will join us in a brief day of celebrating the positive aspects of our profession and our workplaces, putting on hold everything that makes us frustrated about libraries, if only for a day.
* Evidence I watch a lot of cooking shows, though credit goes to Sophie Brookover for using the term first.