Guerrilla librarians, on most occasions, will not sit by quietly and wait for things to happen. We MAKE them happen. If the responsible party is taking too long, I'll do it myself, often (in my opinion) better than what they would have done anyway. It may sound conceited, but it's not. I'll tell you why. Too many people take too much time to do too little. And then we all just accept mediocrity. Sometimes, we accept it because we don't even know it's mediocre. It's just how it's always been done - so that's "good enough."
When I hear the phrase "good enough," I have to breath deeply so I just don't vomit all over the board room. The only acceptable outcome is excellence. If you can't achieve excellence in something, don't even bother. These were my thoughts today, sitting in a meeting with a group that doesn't often agree with me. Sometimes I think they all wish I'd get meningitis every month and miss those meetings. Sometimes I, too, wish for some 24-hour crippling illness so that I didn't have to go.
The drive home from these meetings is one of deep reflection for me. Sometimes I'm angry at them. Sometimes I'm angry at myself. Sometimes I wonder why I bother. Every time I wish I could just keep my mouth shut and my opinions to myself. But I get so bothered - because the bar is set so low. Today, however, a comment bothered me to the point that I had to come home and make a spreadsheet to prove my point. The spreadsheet isn't going to anyone - it's staying neatly tucked away in my documents folder. I just needed to prove the point. The comment was simply that my organization had money to spare. If only they knew.
In my usual tradition, I started thinking about the baggage we carry to these meetings - ones where the "leaders" meet to lead. From my comments above, it's clear that my opinion is that we're not leading at all. And in the other tradition of mine, I decided to make a little reminder to myself that I can refer back to when this stuff happens again. So here I go:
The Guerrilla Librarian's Guide to Excellence
1. Never accept "good enough." Guerrilla librarians are not afraid of hard work. If you lose a night's sleep but come out with a quality product, it's worth it. You can sleep later. But quality is what we strive for.
2. Stop being a victim. It's not like I haven't harped on this before. If anyone thinks for one minute that people just walk into my library and hand me money, they are totally mistaken. I would say on an average day, I solicit funds in one way or another from at least a dozen people. It gets easier if you just admit it. You just say, "Look, we're going to have a discussion about you donating money. I will not stop talking until you agree to give it to me so let's just save ourselves both some time and figure out what's a good number for you." If a donor can honestly only afford $20, then I'll take it. I'll take a dollar. I'll take whatever you've got. But it's your library and you need to fund it.
3. Start being a leader - and continue to do it 24/7 forever. Library directors are entrusted with the knowledge of their community. It is a big picture job with a final result of leaving a legacy. At the end of the day, your drive home should include thoughts of how you've changed lives. Even small things can be large things to others.
4. We are not on the playground. Even in elementary school, there was always that person (kid) whose parents had the biggest house with the coolest TV and their bedrooms were like a showroom at Macy's. We all thought those kids had it all - but their reality was often very different. Just watch one of those news magazine shows about creepy serial killers. They were the kids with the awesome bedrooms. Don't get jealous of those kids - or in the real world, those adults. You don't know the story. You may have it a lot better than you even know. And if you don't, change your circumstances. Everyone can do it. Be creative. Nothing about creativity requires whining.
5. Stop being selfish. For those that know me, that may sound hypocritical. I'm the first one to say that I really don't care about the situations of other libraries. My job description clearly states that my job is to do the best for MY library. That being said, I am always the first person willing to share my time, talents and resources. If I have extra, I give it to others. But that still doesn't stop people from resenting me for being able to raise money. I commit to no longer resenting people for the things they have. I'm more interested in how they got what they have - and then copying their examples.
6. Guerrilla librarians need to say what they think, even when it's the most unpopular thing in the world. This is the toughest one, and I suspect the reason that most people would wish me a good case of meningitis. I'm not afraid to have difficult discussions. Nor am I hesitant to tell anyone that their performance is not excellent. I pass right over acceptable, satisfactory and good. The only option is excellence. Especially if any money that is meant to help me, directly or indirectly, is funding even one dollar of what they are doing. I have complete faith that everyone is capable of excellence. If they make the choice to be content with anything less than that, I will not be happy. And I will tell them regularly. With passion. And very little tact.
All this being said, I have to inform you that my intentions are pure and true and for the good of everyone involved. I am incredibly frustrated right now. I'm tired of consultants and reports and studies and surveys. Nowhere in these things do I see what is really needed. ACTION! I believe that action needs to be preceded with careful thought and a plan. But how long must a plan really take to put together? I guess that is all a matter of opinion, but I only understand my opinion and that opinion is that it should tell less time than it usually takes.
Reflection is a wonderful thing. Admitting regret is encouraged, acknowledging mistakes is admirable and changing your mind is wonderful. However, at some point reflection is just a hamster wheel that keeps you from ever getting out of the cage. Which takes me right back to the action part. If you want to make a difference in this world, action is where it's at. Nobody ever looked back on a person's life and said, "Wow, that person really attended a lot of great meetings and wrote some fantastic action plans." So my goal for the upcoming week is to ACT like a motherf*&)*er and get done what it seems other stumble to do. Watch out, world...I'm moving at the speed of light!! (No sleep for this