The Only Thing We’re Consistent About Is Our Inconsistency (And That’s Okay)

A few posts back, I mentioned how I often feel like librarians are our own worst enemies.

There’s a lot of factors that feed into that feeling but one of the main ones is that we often get so bogged down in trying to enforce “consistency” when that’s both impossible and also impractical.

Even when you think about businesses that are held up as exemplars of “consistency” – McDonalds, Wal-Mart and the like – you realise that the “consistency” aspect only applies to certain core aspects of their business – the taste of the burgers, the blue smocks of the workers – but other things are completely customized – the decor of every McDonalds you go into is different, the product selection at each Wal-Mart is customized to the area it serves (I don’t know for sure but would imagine they have a lot more NASCAR gear in their stores in the deep south than they in the northeast US for example.)

The same thing applies in libraries – there are very broad “consistent” elements in that any public library in the world is going to have – books, CDs and DVDs for loan, computers for patrons to use, programs that people can attend, some rules around how many items people can take out, what fines are and so forth.

But after that, all bets are off.

How are we inconsistent in libraries?  Let me count the ways…

In my own system (as I would suspect is the case in most library systems) every branch has a very different collection – both in number and type of items.  Every branch, even when they offer the same program in title (“Toddler Storytime”) has staff who will deliver that program in often very different ways.  Each branch has a widely varying number of computers that patrons can use.  Some branches have things that other branches don’t have at all (four branches in my system currently have self-check machines while six don’t – although that’s going to come eventually.)  My branch is currently the only one in the system that loans video games.  Another is the only one that has laptops available for patron use.  All staff interpret and enforce the policies we do have in slightly different ways. Or occasionally, in ways that are significantly different.  (If you’re ever in Regina, go to our Central branch and ask if you can have a bit more time to keep surfing Facebook.  Then go to a branch and ask the same thing.)

Beyond that, even in areas you might expect a bit more consistency, there isn’t.  My branch happens to be one that waives fines very generously compared to other branches.  There are a variety of reasons for this – ranging from precedents established by previous branch heads to our demographics to a lack of set guidelines for what are legitimate reasons for waiving.  (And even if these guidelines come – as is the plan – there will ultimately still be a judgement call element on behalf of the front-line staff enforcing them.)

This inconsistency isn’t just part of front-line service.  At the higher level, there might be inconsistency in overriding vision and strategy – as management staff turn over or priorities change or new innovations are adopted or whatever.

It’s not a big revelation to observe that the reason libraries are inconsistent in their practices is that people who work in libraries are human.  And those humans are trying to meet the needs of the communities they serve in an ever-changing environment.

I keep thinking of the staff member at Edmonton Public Library who replied to my question about user fees in Alberta Public libraries by saying:

The main difficulty here, of course, is that the “policy” in regard to waiving the fee is likely not applied uniformly across the system — or even consistently by me from one week to the next.

That quote was in reference to waiving the user fee for patrons in the library.  But it might as well be a maxim for how libraries are inconsistent by their nature.

We’re inconsistent but that’s not a bad thing.  In fact, personally, I think that’s a good thing and that we should work on embracing inconsistency on a system-wide basis in the name of providing the best customized service on a branch-by-branch basis.

Happy First Birthday Sasha Basha!

Hard to believe it’s been a year since a very important milestone in my life.

Yes, it’s exactly one year ago today that I got my Most Liked post ever on Facebook!  (I posted a picture of Sasha immediately after she was born in the delivery room.  Okay, not *immediately* after she was born!)

When Pace was born, Shea and I kept a fairly regular journal of his first year – milestones and memorable moments – but for Sasha, we decided to do something a bit different.  Instead, inspired by other, much more professional versions, I resolved to take a photo of Sasha each day.

I didn’t always remember to do it, a number of these photos are blurrier than I’d like, and they’re not all from the exact same angle/taken with the same background so the “morphing” effect looks better.

But here’s my attempt…

For non-mobile users who want to hear a sweet Guns & Roses track as the background…

For mobile users who don’t want to support Axl Rose’s crack habit and/or like bouncy, copyright-free jazz tunes…

“10 Actors That Should Be Cast As Authors” and “Readers Match Their Bodies To Book Covers”

A couple fun book related posts I recently came across – 10 Actors That Should Be Cast As Authors and Readers Match Their Bodies to Books

Music Monday – “Every four way stop that I approached/Hey, I was on the right/When I drove past your house again/Hey, like I always do/I think about the one thing in my life that didn’t come true”

An entire hour and a half long Fred Eaglesmith concert, taped in Holland?

Man, I love the Internet for so many reasons…it eliminates time, distance and provides access to stuff you’d never see otherwise.

I can’t imagine what it’ll be like in 5-10 years when literally everything that’s ever been broadcast, everything we can see can be recorded and all of it is available to watch anytime by anyone…

“Live at the Paradiso, Amsterdam” – Fred Eaglesmith

Blast From The Past

This is the first picture I ever took on my first iPhone 3G after buying it at the Southland Mall…

Saturday Snap – One Year Check-up

Sasha enjoying her one year check-up with one of Saskatchewan’s best doctors

Friday Fun Link – 1-Star Amazon Reviews Quoted onto Their Movie Posters

Funny stuff.

What Fact Do You Accept Intellectually Even Though It Still Feels “Wrong” To You?

Lots of cool answers in this AskReddit question

  • There are perfectly nice, reasonable, intelligent people who disagree with my political opinions.
  • You can get from North Korea to Finland by going through one country.
  • That if you don’t have a kid, you’re the first one since your ancestral line started [edit: not just human line but literally going all the way back to the first life forms] to not reproduce.
  • When the sign says Right Lane Closed 1000 yards ahead – the people speeding along in the Right Lane only to merge in at the last moment are… doing the right thing.
  • Tyrannosaurs is closer to today than to Stegosaurus.
  • Everything, including my body, is made up of really tiny particles…most of those particles are themselves composed of empty space.

I’ve highlighted some of my favourites but it’s worth clicking through to read the other answers as well as some of the discussion and follow-up comments these answers provoked.

Ten Random Thoughts

  1. Not sure if the anti-bullying Pink Shirt Day worked for Pace.  He called me a “stupid noob” when I got home then gave me a double shot to the stomach! Time to cut back on the Minecraft I guess…
  2. Talking to people who don’t live in Libraryland often makes me realise that librarians are often our own worst enemies – we’re too controlling, too set in our ways, too unwilling to take risks.  A lot of librarians have observed that if we were a private business, we’d probably be bankrupt.  I hate that I’m often inclined to agree.
  3. Spring is finally here.  One of the weirdest signs?  Pace’s school bus is actually arriving on time in the morning as it can maneuver, make turns, and accelerate a lot better now that the streets aren’t giant skating rinks.
  4. Pace took his first steps at nine months and was walking quite well by age one.  Looks like Sasha’s not going to make it – she can stand for extended periods, crouch and then stand up and even stand from a sitting position without pulling herself up by anything.  But a week to the day to his first birthday and unless we drill her like an Olympic athlete, she likely won’t be walking at her first birthday party.  I recently read a good article that said many infant milestones are based on 50th percentile stuff which is ridiculous since that means 50% of parents could conceivably think their child is “behind schedule”.  It’d be much better to use milestones based on the 10th percentile so 90% of parents are less likely to worry and the 10% who are really far behind on milestones that are really warning signs of potential developmental delays could be better identified.
  5. Current TV Show: “Orange in the New Black” on NetFlix (and continuing to debate cutting the cord completely though haven’t made the leap yet.)
  6. Current Book: Just finished one so time to pick a new one – one of the best feelings in the world!
  7. Current Movie: Finally watched “Frozen” which was actually quite good
  8. Current Music: Nothing I’ve got on constant replay right now. Rdio makes it *so* easy to flip around from country to Eastern European folk music to kid’s songs to chart toppers to whatever strikes my fancy.
  9. Coming out of Wrestlemania XXX, seeing the elevation of Daniel Bryan and a huge number of young talents being brought in, it feels like pro wrestling’s poised for another boom period.  One theory is that the wrestling business is cyclical and each boom period corresponds to the development of a new technology that wrestling capitalizes on – going back to Gorgeous George and television in the 1950′s, Hulk Hogan and pay per view in the 1980′s,  Stone Cold Steve Austin and a broadening cable landscape in the 1990′s and now with Daniel Bryan and the Netflix-like WWE Network which uses the Internet to cut out the middle man (cable provider or whoever) so WWE deals directly with its fans.
  10. Sasha’s birthday theme is going to be The Very Hungry Caterpillar so we’ve bought Regina out of its supplies of butterflies and butterfly-related accessories!

Why UPS Drivers Won’t Turn Left

I’m not so strident as to never do left turns or try to avoid them at all costs.

But I’m not a fan of them generally and, if given the choice, will often do three right turns or go somewhat out of my way to avoid one left turn.

I’m glad to hear UPS agrees.