Once again, California libraries are facing tremendous budget cuts. The current state budget removes all funding for libraries, which is bad enough, but cutting state funding also jeopardizes federal funds for libraries – a double whammy. Please take the time to send a letter to the Budget Subcommittees expressing your support for libraries and the need to restore state funding for libraries in this year’s budget.
To make it really easy for you, I’ve put together a sample letter that you are free to use. This PDF document includes letters addressed to each of the Senate and Assembly Budget Subcommittee members, ready to print, sign and send. If you prefer, you can feel free to adapt this as you see fit, or write your own letter. Please send via fax or snail mail (this still carries more weight with our legislators than email) to the addresses and fax numbers on the letters. The Senate Budget Subcommittee meets Thursday, April 19th, so make sure to get your letters in by then!
About 20 years ago, a T.A. in one of my college classes said something to me that affected me deeply and profoundly for years afterward. I often wished that I could tell her thanks, but I never saw her again. Over the years I’d think about her periodically, and once even attempted to find her online but was unsuccessful (probably would have helped if I had spelled her name correctly).
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted a TEDTalk on his Facebook page. The speaker’s name rang a bell, and when I watched it, sure enough it was my former T.A. I looked up her bio, found out where she worked, and sent her a “you will probably think I’m crazy, but I just had to thank you for something you said to me 20 years ago” email. Being able to say thanks after so many years was truly a gift, and to top it off, she responded very thoughtfully and graciously.
I was awed at the amazing connective power of the Internet. I know there are plenty of people out there who say that Internet connections are shallow and meaningless and actually serve to distance us from each other, but in my opinion the chances of me running into Johanna and having the chance to say thanks in a non-Internet world were pretty much nil. For a couple of weeks I was floating on a cloud of Internet love.
I’m trying really hard to remember that feeling right now.
A couple of days ago a local reporter wrote a story about one potential service model that’s been discussed for one of our smaller branches. The original article gave, at best, a very incomplete picture of the multiple proposals being considered, but it got picked up by a larger news outlet and the rest is Internet history. The news is getting reused and re-edited and two days later major websites and national news organizations are reporting that the Newport Beach Public Library is getting rid of all its books.
You can read the City’s official response if you’re interested. I was struck once again by how the Internet has made it so easy to connect and spread information. And yet, that amazing power has this really dark side. Does anyone think the City’s press release is going to go viral? Me neither. The damage has been done. Ironically, the misinformation quickly spread nationwide through the Internet, but the cleanup is going to be labor-intensive, local and personal.
Believe me, I’m not trying to argue that the Internet is evil. It’s a tool. It’s all in how we use it. So please don’t believe everything you read. Make sure your B.S. detector is properly calibrated. Check sources. I know it’s a pain, but do it. And be careful what you write. The Internet has put incredible power into the hands of ordinary citizens, which is awesome. But as we all learned from Spider-Man, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Read. Think critically. Dig deeper. Share thoughtfully. Use the power of the Internet for good.
You get paid to go to work and do something of value. But your job is also a platform for generosity, for expression, for art. – Seth Godin
I read Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin about a year ago. I meant to review it right away, but perhaps it’s better that I didn’t because now I’ve had some time to chew on it and digest it. I love the basic concept – the idea that people (regardless of their position) need to commit to being indispensable linchpins rather than mere cogs in the machinery of their organizations.
I read a few articles and things that Godin wrote about this book, and he seemed to think the chapter on Resistance might be the most powerful. It is powerful. But the idea that resonated most strongly with me was his discussion of emotional labor. Being a linchpin is about more than just completing a list of tasks. You have to put in the emotional effort to turn your work into art, into a gift. It’s how you add the value that only you can add, and what makes you indispensable. And he’s right – it’s a big investment to make, but the emotional labor pays tremendous dividends for your organization and the people you encounter in your work, not to mention yourself.
Emotional labor is hard. Really hard. But I find that the more emotional labor I exert, the more energy I seem to have. When I start phoning it in and just doing the job, I’m exhausted at the end of the day even though I haven’t worked as hard. It seems like a great paradox, but it’s not that hard to figure out – one path feeds your soul and the other doesn’t.
I also love what Godin says about optimism:
Optimism is the most important human trait, because it allows us to evolve our ideas, to improve our situation, and to hope for a better tomorrow. And all artists have this optimism, because artists can honestly say that they are working to make things better.
This is why organizations under pressure often crack. All parties can see that their current system isn’t working, but they’re unable to embrace a new one because they’re certain that it won’t turn out perfectly, that it can’t be as good as what they have now. Organizations under pressure are stuck because their pain makes it hard for them to believe in the future.
I know a lot of people and organizations experience this. We fall into the trap of waiting for the “perfect” solution. Our inability to tolerate failure or even uncertainty holds us back. Godin again:
What does it take to lead?
The key distinction is the ability to forge your own path, to discover a route from one place to another that hasn’t been paved, measured, and quantified. So many times we want someone to tell us exactly what to do, and so many times that’s exactly the wrong approach.
The higher the stakes, the harder it is to take that risk, to go off the map. I found this book was a good reminder of how I want to approach my life and work on a day to day basis. It’s not a perfect book. The chapters are broken down into short chunks and stories that don’t always gel into a cohesive narrative. But you could turn that weakness into an advantage; read a chunk or two at a time for inspiration – your daily kick in the butt.
I was given an extra copy of this book, and I’d like to give it to someone who’d really like to read it. If you’re interested in a free copy of Linchpin, leave a comment on this post by noon on Monday, February 14th (Pacific Time). I’ll do a random drawing on Monday to determine the winner.
My friend Paul posted a link on Facebook to an interesting little article about the advantage of being a newbie and not knowing the rules – you don’t realize that something’s “not possible” and you’re not confined to an established set of constraints. I haven’t been in my profession all that long, but it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day operations and I find it harder and harder to see things with new eyes – I want to keep seeing the potential in things the way I did when I started, but it’s not easy. How do you maintain that “beginner’s mind” state?
The more experience I have, the more I need to interact with a group and bounce ideas around with others to start seeing things in a different way. A group of passionate, intelligent people always revives me and helps me see the possibilities again.