Thursday, June 15, 2006

Be a contrarian librarian

There are Annoyed, Shifted, and Ubiquitous Librarians, but have you thought of becoming a contrarian librarian? Blog Business World has a nice piece called Contrarian Thinking: Don't Follow the Herd. The author says, "Think about this idea for a moment. When following the crowd, you are always behind, by definition. It's impossible to become an industry leader when travelling in the competition's dust. Fad followers are already several steps behind." Being a contrarian in a service industry like ours can seem...contrary to how we normally think. In many ways we are always following behind our patrons, because their needs and preferences guide our decisions. So, if our patrons are all using iPods and reading blogs, that's where we need to direct our attention, right? If they do most of their searching with Google, we need to have a presence there too, don't we? Certainly, trends and needs to guide our decisions, but the real breakthrough moments come from addressing needs in a unique way, which requires a good dose of contrarian-ism. I was reminded of this point as I was catching up with items in my aggregator and discovered some related posts on Creating Passionate Users. In one of her posts, Kathy discusses the merits of changing up contexts and putting the expected in an unexpected light. I have quite purposely tried to do that with undergraduate services in my library by putting librarians in new, unexpected contexts. I try to show up at normally librarian-free environments like our computer lab, student organization fairs, the career center, and community service projects to name a few. The idea here being that 1. patrons will notice that which is different, prompting remarks like, "What's the library doing here?" and 2. that being in a surprising context will demonstrate that we can help patrons with all kinds of needs, prompting remarks like, "Wow! I didn't know you guys do that!"

What does it take to be a contrarian librarian? In a word, guts. It can be as strange for us to be out-of-place as it is for our patrons to see us out-of-place. Another of Kathy's posts asks readers to do something scary every day. After all, don't we want our patrons to take a chance on us and ask us questions even if they're a little scared to admit they don't know something? Like it or not, risk is a part of any business, even the library business, so embrace it as a chance to be creative, explore, make breakthroughs and be contrarian.

Somewhat-related note: I happened upon a new-to-me marketing blog called Make Marketing History - "the views of a marketing deviant." Seems pretty contrarian!

Update: I knew that the phrase "contrarian librarian" sounded VERY familiar. That's because, even after a quick check, I seem to have missed that there is one! Check out the Contrarian Librarian blog. (It looks like the first post went up on CL the same day as this post...eerie!).

Categories: creativity_and_inspiration

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