Posted by: Steven Harris | March 20, 2010

Provocative Statements

So after writing about the Taiga Forum’s Provocative Statements a couple weeks back, I figured it was time I came up with my own. Ergo:

The most important things in libraries are people: those working there and those visiting.

Library users should hardly know that librarians exist, unless they (users) feel a need to invent the friendliest, most knowledgeable people on earth.

The more we give up control, get out of people’s way, let them do what they want, the more important and significant we become.

Books and everything else in the library are for using. (Shout out to Ranganathan.) Having it wear out from overuse is the highest praise. A pristine book on the shelf is a sad thing indeed. A stolen book is a triumph. We should hand a book to everybody walking out the door. Our servers should feel like they are under a denial of service attack.

Libraries collect experiences. Then we lend them out to different people. The result is more experiences created, like a sourdough bread starter. We should figure out how to collect the experiences of the experiences.

Making people feel is the highest aspiration. Making them feel happy is the highest of the highest.

Format isn’t important. It’s always changing. The best one is whatever people will use.

The library environment is more important than ever, whether of bricks or clicks. The experience people have while finding information is part of the information.



  1. Always love your posts. Great fodder for the “Experience Economy” discussion!

    This feels like one that could be the basis for something much more detailed.

  2. “Format isn’t important. It’s always changing. The best one is whatever people will use.”

    Thank you. I’m so tired of book lovers complaining about the loss of the book. It’s almost like the writing between covers doesn’t mater, or if it does, that it plays second fiddle.

  3. You could definitely flesh this out into something big. A pristine book is a sad thing indeed. Great post

  4. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by srharris19: Blog post “Provocative Statements” –

  5. Nailed it in one, Steve. I love this post.

  6. I like “A stolen book is a triumph.” This is a good way to think about our stuff. People should really want it.

  7. Yes! Absolutely! But the reason they are there -as opposed to down the pub, at the hairdresser’s or even hanging out online – also matters!

  8. I’m pondering that second one. I mean, I kind of love your library philosophy in general. And I do prefer to make the library usable enough and the library website intuitive enough that a librarian’s intervention is unnecessary for most users. And I never asked questions of librarians until my second semester of library school and still kind of avoid it where I can.

    But part of me still thinks “surely, there’s a way to make it more obvious that it’s OKAY to ask questions of the librarian,” and hiding them away doesn’t seem like the most obvious solution, there.

  9. I HEART this post.

    Verily I say to thee, thou art righteous in thine analysis of Ranganathan ideals.

  10. Coming back to this one after a while. I am a little ambivalent about making librarians “disappear,” as Coral notes. We are important to the process. But I still think if should only be necessary for a library user to consult us if they really want to (or need to). Otherwise, self-help should be the norm–because it is already.

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