Today’s Morning Buzz is brought to you by Erin Krause Riley, Adult Services Coordinator for the Scottsdale Public Library System.
What I’m Reading: Your Creative Workspace by Desha Peacock– it’s a book about how to set up a space to do any kind of creative work with lots of pictures of creative spaces people have made for themselves. I’m on the waiting list for several books at the library, of course–especially looking forward to This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub
What I’m Watching: Binging the Tell Me More series with Kelly Corrigan. Kelly is really engaging and the show is like an invitation to listen in on some really deep, yet sparkling conversations. I’m also randomly dipping in to episodes of the Gilmore Girls and Bob’s Burgers. If you know, you know.
What I’m Listening To: Whatever pops up on my waaaaay too comprehensive, strangely eclectic Spotify playlist.
As we wind up our fiscal year here in Scottsdale, I’m scrambling a bit to balance my ledgers, complete performance evaluations, and assess the progress of 2021-22. It was a period that started off slowly, but gained speed throughout the winter and spring, finally hurtling to a conclusion this month. My teams have come up with a lot of new ideas and some fresh ways to do traditional things, so I’m happy with where we are, but I’m not a sentimental person, not given to looking back nostalgically, even over the past year, so wrapping the year up in a statistical bow and balancing its books makes me a little itchy.
I’m a planner, a prognosticator, a beginner, so my sights are already set on fiscal 2022-23. I like a blank slate, but then, I need something to write on the slate to get me started and move me through the year, To that end, I’ve pulled three familiar quotes to provide some inspiration for the budget year ahead and kick off FY22-23:
Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.
This expression is credited to Arthur Ashe, the tennis champ. To me, this is the reminder to just jump in and run with the ideas, talent, and materials you have right in front of you. When we wait for just the right moment, just the right conditions, we can miss a lot of opportunities. And I’ve found, when managing projects, that the hardest part for most people are the first steps. Once we’re up and running, good ideas for how to improve what we’re doing will arise organically, but in many cases, we won’t even know what we need to be thinking about until we venture out and take those steps. This is as applicable to new library programs as it is to new technology. And the idea of using what we have is really a matter of facing reality. It’s the beginning of a new budget year, maybe you didn’t get all of your decision packages approved, but once you assess what your resources are, put them into action. You may be surprised at how much you can accomplish. Creativity really kicks in when we work within constraints, without the burden of too many choices, which can cause procrastination if not downright paralysis. Which brings me to another idea:
The perfect is the enemy of the good
This is a saying usually attributed to Voltaire, from the 1770’s, and it has a special place in my heart because it gives us grace to try. This is the reminder that we can’t let the need to have everything be perfect stop us from having anything at all. Wanting to have everything just so– perfect, in other words– is an occupational hazard for librarians which can lead to paralysis at times. I will own that seven days a week, because, for the most part, it is based on the wish to be absolutely certain that we are giving people the best information, completely current and factually accurate, because they depend on us to get these things right. But when we get into the other areas of our jobs, like programs and displays and customer service, we need to allow ourselves to accept what is good and not always hold out for perfection. Library services, like so many city services, go so far beyond our work product because we are also in the business of engaging with our community. If we get caught up in perfectionism, we aren’t engaging.
I’m a big believer in pilot projects that can be tweaked and then scaled once feedback has been gathered and evaluated to work out some of the kinks. To me, this is the way to strike the balance between the perfect and the good, between the quest for perfection and the need for completion. As we work with our colleagues and with residents, we can let go of the need to be perfect and focus on enjoying our progress and thinking about how we can make things better next time… if we need to. Sometimes, I’ve found that the good is just fine. But when you do want to take good to the next level, or if you are really struggling with how to begin without perfect conditions, remember this:
When you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
This is a version of something called ‘the law of the instrument” which speaks to the bias we have to solve problems the way we have always solved them. It was identified by psychologist Abraham Maslow, and it’s a reminder that we have to guard against thinking there is a one-size-fits-all solution for all of the problems we encounter. I realize this may seem to exactly contradict the ideas I just trotted out about starting where you are, using what you have, and not having to make sure the perfect conditions are in place, but it’s really the next step for your projects.
Not to rain on anyone’s fiscal new year parade, but once we’ve gotten our projects up and running, there is no doubt that we will encounter difficulty. Even if the difficulty is part of a positive step– figuring out how to scale our projects and expand our wins– we will benefit from choosing the best tools in our toolbox, not just the one we know we can use to pound our problems into submission.
This reminder to step out of our comfort zones in order to think expansively about solving our problems is the logical extension of starting where we are and avoiding the paralysis of perfectionism. It is the rejection of doing things the way we have always done them.
It’s a new fiscal year– kick it off in style by starting today, giving yourself the grace to make mistakes, and using the best tool to course correct as needed. Get out there and seize the day.