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In Praise of “Slow”

Posted on May 10, 2021


Today’s Morning Buzz is brought to you by Stephanie Chase, Executive Director of the Libraries of Eastern Oregon and Founding Principal of the Constructive Disruption consultancy. Follow Stephanie on Twitter and LinkedIn.

What I’m Reading: Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell (space opera FTW)

What I’m Listening to: What Would Danbury Do? podcast (a deep dive into the Bridgerton series on Netflix and the books the series is based on)

What I’m Watching: Top Chef Season 18 (of course — it’s located in Portland!)


Recently, the Oregon Library Association held its 2021 (virtual) library conference, and one of the presentations I attended was “Resisting Achievement Culture with Slow Librarianship” by Meredith Farkas, who I happen to know not only from the Oregon library community but also from when we both worked in libraries in Vermont. Like many of you, I’ve been forced to change my pace and style of work over the past year, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to choose a much slower pace than when I was working as a department head and a library director. I would also guess, like many of you who have undergone similar changes, it hasn’t always been the easiest thing to realize, personally, how much I had allowed work to subsume my life. This presentation came at such a crucial time, a year in to the pandemic and at a moment I where I had already been thinking about how to continue to approach work differently.

You may be familiar with the concept of “Slow” from the Slow Food Movement led by Carlo Petrini. The Slow Food Movement describes their philosophy as follows:

Slow Food Movement philosophy

The Slow Food “approach is based on a concept of food that is defined by three interconnected principles: good, clean and fair.” In her presentation, Meredith asks us to apply this approach to our work, to step away from the feeling of needing to achieve, or innovate, or produce, and instead think about what it looks like to be “good, human(e), and thoughtful.” Imagine if all of us in local government applied this thinking, moving away from the way we’ve always done things, falling to the siren’s call of not having enough time or resources, and prioritized “reflective and responsive practices” that benefited not only our customers and our services but our employees?

Meredith proposes that we:

  • focus on equity and are actively anti-racist, leading with values, and “critically evaluat[ing] the assumptions and power structures that undergird… services” (the good);
  • reject “the cult of productivity,” value teamwork, and ensure people can “bring their whole selves to work,” putting people first in the organization and rewarding and celebrating not overwork or achievement, but meaningful contributions (the human[e]);
  • embody a learning culture that values the process and time for reflection, and where “gratitude and recognition are norms” (the thoughtful).

This call transcends libraries. Ask yourself: does this describe where you work? If it describes your team, does it describe your department? Your organization? Does your organization value this kind of reflection? Is it truly a learning organization, where you can take the time to explore new modes? Can you recognize what is working in your organization, and the steps it may be taking to create an environment that resists achievement for achievement’s sake?

While Meredith’s OLA presentation isn’t available beyond attendees, her keynote on the same topic from the North American Virtual Online Reference Conference is, and can be accessed at https://www.navronline.org/slides-and-recordings. There might be no better way to start your week off than by putting aside the email for an hour and listening to the presentation, and taking the time to contemplate the questions she raises so eloquently for yourself, carrying that reflection and learning throughout your day and your workweek.

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