Posts tagged ‘rules’

Beginner’s Mind

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.

February 1, 2011 at 1:30 am 1 comment

Too many rules?

One of the blogs I read as time allows is Jay Shepherd’s “Gruntled Employees.” Shepherd is an employment lawyer who focuses on protecting and defending employers. Interestingly, his blog is focused on treating employees humanely, with dignity, and respecting them as adults. Not every post applies to my line of work, but I’ve gotten several good insights from Shepherd. I especially love his minimalist take on policies and rules.

A couple of weeks ago he mentioned a profile of Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, whose philosophy is:

I want there to be an atmosphere where they want to show up every day and do the right thing. We can have rules out the [expletive], but if they want to do the right thing, we’ll be a better team. It’s about consistency.

I love this! Too often we are tempted to create rules for every situation. A new problem crops up? Make a rule to deal with it! In libraries we do this both with staff and with customers. Shepherd, on the other hand, recommends policies that are as brief as possible. He likes a two-word policy manual for staff (“respect others”) and a two-word corporate blogging policy (“be professional”). How great is that? It might seem impossible for most organizations to attain such extreme brevity in their policies, but I think it’s really good to set simplicity and clarity as a goal. Don’t create an environment where people have to try to remember tiny nuances of accumulated years’ worth of policies. Much better if they just want to “show up every day and do the right thing.”

I find that the more specific our staff policies are, the more questions I get about loopholes and possible exceptions – it’s like we are teaching people to follow the letter of the law instead of the spirit. The Use Policy that we have for customers is far from perfect, but we do have one piece that I love: we prohibit “Interfering with other customers’ use of library facilities or staff’s ability to perform their duties.” This is sort-of our catchall, and to be honest it could just about cover all the other items we list. I used to think it was too vague, but now it’s  my go-to policy. It’s the “respect others” of our use policy. Rather than try to detail every possible violation, this item basically just says “use the library in a way that respects other people and their right to use the library, too.” The wording may not be perfect, but it works pretty well. I’d love to come up with a staff policy that’s so succinct!

Oh, and “rules out the [expletive]” is my new favorite phrase. 🙂

June 17, 2010 at 2:05 pm 3 comments


"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong." - Pearce

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