Confession 1: I like trivial pursuit, but I didn’t become a librarian to be a fount of trivia. That’s what Google is for. Or Duck Duck Go.
Confession 2: Beyond my own personal reading, I don’t really care about the future of the book. I mean, I care, but it is not what gets me out of bed and into the office in the morning.
Confession 3: I am REALLY REALLY bad with details. I may be obsessively neat and good at collecting statistics (at work), but I was horrendous at cataloging. Horrendous. Me talking with a cataloger is like a Croatian trying to understand a Macedonian. They can pick up a few words here and there but most of it just sounds like Greek.
Confession 4: I became a librarian because I like talking with people. I found the research life demoralizing and isolating. I tried talking to my cubicle, but you can imagine how that ended up. When I found out that some librarians spent much of their time yacking I knew it was the life for me. And they teach?! And maybe even teach kids like this?! Oh glory be I’ve come home!
So, why the confessions? Because a few of us (me, Lauren, and Jenny Dale) have recently become obsessed (a bit) with this idea of core competencies. Jenny and I read about it in the book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam, and she borrowed it from the business literature. Coming from the idea of comparative advantage, you have opportunity costs for every task to which you decide to devote your time. Opportunity costs are the things you give up to do something else. The tasks with the lowest opportunity costs are your core competencies. Vanderkam argues that we should spend our time on our core competencies and avoid or delegate whatever is not core to someone with those core competencies. To give an example: in my house I am much better at cleaning things while DM is much better at fixing things (detail oriented to a fault). If we are following our core competencies, we would split our tasks appropriately. It would take me much more time to fix a cabinet than to wait for DM to do it. From a time management perspective it is more efficient and increases motivation because you enjoy doing things you do well.
The question we’ve had is how to apply this to the library setting. Jenny and I will flesh this out on a micro-level in an upcoming project, but what if we applied this to the macro-level? What if this is how the library organized itself? How would a library that is divided into the core competencies look? What core competencies would it need for it to function?
This then led into a discussion of the major personas in a library: the grand strategy thinker, the patron-centered talker, the instruction-based performer, and the detailed-oriented producer. If we approach library functions from the angle of core competencies and fit, can we manufacture a library where people are more motivated because they are doing the functions they find most fulfilling? Lauren for example is the grand strategy thinker extraordinaire. She is not only able to see the big picture for the library future, she cares about it more. It is what motivators her to get up and go, to present, to talk with others, to put in those 8 hours every day. How much more effective would the library (or any organization) be if it approached motivation based on core competencies?
Granted we are mirroring the current roles, but if we try to think bigger than what exists, what roles do we see? What core competencies would be represented in your library of the future?