Thursday, January 28, 2010

Is Using the Library Like Cleaning the Bathroom?

Driveway, after Monday's storm

I was thinking the other day about what a lazy person I am. Now, anyone who took a peek at my calendar and various to-do lists would probably not characterize me as lazy, but here's what I mean: I'm lazy when it comes to doing things I don't feel like doing. In fact, unless I enjoy doing something, I'll procrastinate until the last minute and then rush through it, even when I know it's important.

Usually I would keep this psychological insight to myself, but I think it has implications for providing services at the library:

(1) This probably sounds trite, but motivation and attitude can change everything. Once something seems interesting, the amount of time and energy invested doesn't seem as big a chore -- Suddenly there is no need to avoid it.

(2) I care about words and sound in general, and so I find myself concerned about preserving books and audio. If the task before me was "Read X" or "Listen to X," and I did not care about words or sound, would I care about books or audio files? Probably not. I'm short on numerical data, but I venture to guess that this is the case for many of our students.

(3) When I do not want to do something and finally talk myself into it, I move from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. This is labor in the fullest sense of the word. Again I don't have the numbers to back myself up, but I wonder if this is where the bulk of our students find themselves when they use the library. It is also why the library needs to make its processes as convenient as possible: We can and should always dangle out the possibility of further exploration for when a student comes to agree that Literature Is Fun, but we cannot depend on this happening, and this assumption cannot be the library's bread and butter.

(On a side note, reading the discussion of book piracy at Mad Woman in the Forest makes me wonder: Does anyone pirate books due to the convenience & immediacy, and not only because they're free? I think libraries are mostly successful at replicating the convenience & immediacy of file sharing servers as they foray into collecting digital content, so it'll be nice when people don't have that excuse.)

To return to the title of this post, it's very easy for librarians and regular users to forget that many students turn away from the library because they perceive using it to be a chore. This is worth keeping in mind when we try to win them over.

1 comment:

  1. But you have such a nice building!

    There are certainly students who come to the library to study and hang out, and I think libraries who work hard to make their library an appealing, inviting place for students to be get it right. I wish my library would do more in that direction. And I think that inertia is a major factor in that people who are working on something don't like to interrupt themselves get up and go somewhere, even if it is essential to what they are working on. So that's part of it.

    The "cleaning the bathroom" aspect of this for many students probably isn't the library itself (although libraries do tend to throw a lot of barriers in users' way that can create that feeling) but school and studying in general--it's not so much that they don't want to go to the library so they can do the research to write that paper as that they'd rather not write the paper at all.

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