Magazine article American Libraries

You There! Back in Your Box!

Magazine article American Libraries

You There! Back in Your Box!

Article excerpt

Buzzwords are like D bestsellers. When they're hot, they're very hot. When they've cooled, they're icy. Think of the buzzwords of the past few years--"empowerment," "reinventing," "pushing the envelope," "on the cutting edge," and "taking it to the next level." Can you think of a greater torture than having to attend a three-day seminar on any of those well-worn platitudes? We've been there and done that. Spending any more time on phantom panaceas would be akin to wearing straw hats, flowered shirts with ruffled sleeves, canary-yellow ties with bright-pink paisley patterns, bellbottom trousers, and wide-lapel jackets. We're ready for this year's management version of the navel ring.

If we want to be fully empowered and reinvented envelope pushers who will implement cutting-edge ideas that will take us to the next level, we need to engage in the newest kind of guru drivel. We need to think "out of the box."

Consider a job notice for a cataloger position that I glanced at the other day. In addition to the usual requirements--MLS degree, two years of experience, three languages, computer programming skills, and a willingness to take a vow of poverty--they were asking for someone who could "think outside the box." It made me wonder what they were up to. Did this library want to create a new classification system, maybe a marriage, of Melvil Dewey and Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan?

Think about it. Do you really want your cataloger thinking outside the box? Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I Want my catalogers to be inside the box, cranking out work so that the new books can get on the shelf and into the hands of patrons. I don't want them thinking up new subject headings or creating an 11th class for the Dewey Decimal System. I want them properly applying existing principles, with speed, accuracy, and efficiency-not creativity. Not only do I not want them out of the box, I want them belted to their seats and the doors to their boxes bolted.

The same thing holds true with my business manager. I most assuredly want him stuffed so tightly into the box that he can barely breathe. I want him to-be the proverbial jack in-the-box with his head pushed down and the hatch securely fastened. I do not want him engaging in untested accounting procedures. I want him to stay. …

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