What’s your Tao?

Laozi Pointing

Laozi Pointing- Image from http://www.tao-te-king.org/

This post by Information Tyrannosaur about “The Tao of Librarianship” got me thinking.  It’s sometimes hard to see the philosophical goals of the library when you’re working there every day, filling your days with projects, workshops, technical stuff and question answering.  The “how” of what you do on a daily basis seems more pressing than the “why.”

Tyrannosaur’s blog reminded me of another great blog post I read recently on ACRLog, “The What Versus The Why.”   In this article, StevenB reflects that libraries spend a lot of time explaining what we do, whether in the context of mission statements, budget justifications, or elevator conversations, but we don’t tend to think about WHY we’re doing it.  The why is just as important to a successful library program as the details of getting a working group together, assigning duties, and assessing outcomes.

Whether it’s a project you’re working on alone or in collaboration with colleagues, taking a moment from the list-making and implementation phases to ask yourselves bluntly “Why do this? What’s the purpose of this activity and what do we hope to accomplish by it?”  can really help focus the project and the group.  Running through some of Information Tyrannosaur’s Taoist Librarian guidelines can’t hurt either.

To add to the list, here’s a bit of Taoist philosophy that might apply to weeding and collection development:

If you want to shrink something,
you must first allow it to expand.  (36)

Tao Te Ching free translation from CUNY Brooklyn

Are there any Tao Te Ching axioms– or ideas from other philosophies– that you find particularly apt for working at your library?

Tao Te Ching Scroll

Tao Te Ching Scroll. Image from sinoarts.net

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2 Responses to What’s your Tao?

  1. Darcy says:

    Good example, Yi Hong!

  2. yihongsim says:

    I actually really like the axiom that you pulled out from Info Tyranno’s blog, Darcy, about shrinking/expanding. I feel like it applies really nicely as well to other parts of librarianship, such as library services in general. Expanding services lets you see which of your many services library users gravitate towards, and may allow you to shrink in the future to just the preferred services. We just expanded reference desk hours recently at my library, and I’d be interested to see if our usage stats shift over the course of the year.

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