Well, it's finally happened. I had to pack up my stuff and leave a meeting so that I did not completely lose it. I want to get something straight: I am passionate but I don't just make my decisions with a knee jerk reaction. I study. I have more spreadsheets than I'd want to admit to. I read case studies and obscure research reports. I do all of that, not because it is my genre of choice, but because it is my passion. If nothing else, I want to leave this library better than it was before I took the job.
So, back to my temper tantrum. Actually, it wasn't a temper tantrum. I just packed up my stuff and quietly left. By the time I got to my car I could feel the throbbing of the veins in my forehead. By the time I got onto the highway, I had tears of frustration running down my cheeks. Then I immediately called my Board President to apologize for leaving. His response: "I'm honestly surprised you don't leave every one of those meetings." OK. At least I'm not fired.
But that's really not the point. The saying goes that you can't see the forest through the trees. But what if you don't even know there's a forest out there? What if you think the trees are all there is? That, in a nutshell, is where I - and maybe others - realize there is no end to this nonsense if we remain with the System we have.
For a long time, we always break it down by saying it's all about the money. Recently, though, I'm starting to think it's more about philosophy than money. If some magical unicorn donor dropped out of the sky and gave us all the money we ever needed, we would celebrate and buy books and make a real difference. Yes, that is true. However, after we'd become a little more accustomed to being able to pay the bills, there would still be a large philosophical split. If we don't recognize this now, it'll only get larger.
The question begs to be answered: who makes the decision on the short and long terms goals of a library community? Should it be board members, none of whom have ever been or are librarians, who are appointed by the County Commissioners? Should it be a System, isolated from the front lines, with an agenda for its independent well-being? Should it be the local Boards of Directors for all the member libraries? These people give of their time in a remarkable way, but many of them have never stood behind the circulation desk with a line of 20 people. Should it be the library directors, none of whom have anything in their job description that instructs them to put the best interests of the System over that of their library? See the problem?
So, after having one of those "aha" moments last Friday, I simply leaned over to my neighbor and said I was leaving, packed up my stuff and left. There's been quite a bit of hand-wringing since then, mostly spent creating spreadsheets and charts and narratives to help my board, library employees and our community about what is surely going to transpire.
This is not why I became a librarian. I became a librarian because I believe in these institutions more than I believe in almost anything else. My board members want me to be the kind of librarian that lives by the mission. I ask the staff to live by the mission. I throw that mission statement around to anyone who will listen for a minute. And here's the thing...the mission is awesome. It is innovative and looks at the big picture. Nowhere in that mission does much to further my mission. But it does put up roadblocks.