ASSOCIATES (vol. 7 no. 2, November 2000) -

View From The Backroom

SURVIVORS, the Library Games



Carol Borzyskowski
Library Associate II
Winona Public Library
Winona, MN 55987


I am sure we wouldn't draw the audience that the summer "Survivor" series did, but on the other hand, there are quite a group of us library people that should be interested in who wins. No, I am not talking about Team "Many Letters After Names" vs., Team "We Do Much Work For Little Recognition", but a real war being waged in the library--WHERE ARE WE GOING???? The troops are entrenched, the flags are flying, and as usual, dissembled information is the greatest foe.

I am talking about the essence of "Library" and what we take it to mean, and what the people we serve take it to mean. I can't be the only one who has noticed new names and new buildings that don't fit the entrenched mold of a "library." New school "Media Centers" with few books, new college libraries, with NO books? Whose vision are these following? Theirs, ours, or the populace they serve?

We recently went through our own SURVIVOR series here at our library, and the upshot being we all are going through team building with an honest to goodness mediator who is guiding us into our future. First of all we all had to take the HERMANN BRAIN DOMINANCE TEST INSTRUMENT ( which is designed to show us our thinking style. This, of course, was greeted with grumbles and groans, but the results were actually quite interesting.

I have always wanted to be "right-brained." I just thought it would be so cool to be creative. Boy, I hoped I was. Worried about it. But I was as honest as I could possibly be in answering the questions. In fact I turned out to have the highest right-brained score in the building. In point of fact, I ended up high in cerebral right-brained thinking (D Quadrant), so far out, that I am out there with the true nuts. Please don't take offense with "nuts", but I am talking the "off the wall future thinkers", who are flighty but brilliant and drive everyone else crazy. That turned out to be me.

I do have to dispute that though, I am sure I am logical, rational, and sane. After all I do work in a library, right? In fact, I can work well in all four quadrants of the brain, the rational, the logical, the emotional, but what I LOVE, what I prefer, is in the intuitive area. I am the one of those people who makes weird connections, leaps to ideas and says DO IT! Totally annoying to the people who like lists, steps, and facts? Facts??? HA!!! I go on instinct! Here is the really great thing about the testing. Our library "TEAM" (don't you just love those sports metaphors?) turned out to be perfectly balanced. For every dreamer/leaper like me, there was the nuts/bolts/facts person (the cataloger for instance). We had a perfect balance, I kid you not. Plus two staff members who were so perfectly balanced that they can act as "interpreters" between staff.

We then went on to learn how to talk to people who have different thinking styles from yours. For instance, A people (the Analytical Thinkers) need facts, details, measurements, costs, any logical reason you can give them to back up your idea. B people ( Implementational thinkers) want the facts laid out in sequence, like to plan before they act, and lots of details but in nice bullet points. C people (The Social Thinkers) want lots of detail about the human side, who does it affect, who will do it, and please ask them about their kids/husband/cats before you dump the facts on them, plus they tend to want to touch you or something, they are real people people.

To get a D person (Future Thinkers, me!) to do something, don't be dry. We like metaphors, color, how things are going to fit together, how you "feel" about the idea, the big picture. Man, I don't want all those details...just what the overall idea is, then let me go.

Armed with this new understanding of how to work together better, and get all of us thinking about the future of our library, we went right into strategic planning. Now, that was scary. It was dull, too, I mean all those facts and figures. I noticed the A & B people lapping it up, though. But what I did learn really shook me up. For future directions in our library, we have talked e-books, more Internet access, e-mail kiosks, more ethnic material and classes, longer hours, and more training in technology. But what I found startling were the demographics for our area. It turns out that for the next projected 25 years (and I will be retired, thank-you) our population will be 35% elderly, with a very small increase in the 15-25 year olds, and only 2-3% increase in any ethnic population.

What this means is that we need to see what our older citizens want and what they need. That sounds simple doesn't it? But implementing it and making it fit with our vision of the LIBRARY, well! But it is going to be their taxes that will be funding us, and they might want more large print, books on tapes and magazines as opposed to DVD's, CD's and email kiosks.
We just do not know. I mean lots of the older citizens we serve now, do NOT want all the technology. They still complain about the loss of the card catalog.

Not to say we aren't going to keep up with technology, but we need to talk to the 35-50 year olds and access their needs, because that is going to be our population, not the middle-schoolers who are so computer literate. What we have learned is that it just isn't OUR vision of the future we need to consider, and now that we have some concrete facts about the population we will be serving, we need to blend our vision and the populations wants and needs. Granted, this should be the primary concern of a viable library, but sometimes we lose sight of WHO we serve in the flurry to follow our vision of who WE want to be serving.

So, we are contemplating yet another library survey, and yes, if you have any ideas or help to offer on setting this up, contact me. Just make it interesting, okay, and, not too long, and oh yeah, if you have graphics....

Next column: How to get ahead without stepping on someone's back
The FANTASTIC Minnesota Library Certification Program!

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