For me this shift is analogous to the management vs. leadership question that I have been talking about with several staff members. And in looking at library services I think you can transform the question several different ways…
- Are our services designed control? Or to empower the user with options?
- Are our services designed to manage processes? Or provide our users with a rewarding experience?
- Are our facilities built to contain the user’s use of areas? Or provide users with flexibility and options to collaborate and multitask?
- Are our collections built on a formula to fill shelf space? Or designed to keep our shelves empty and ideas and thoughts circulating within our communities?
The bottom to all these questions seems to come down to the distinction between the foundations of management and leadership. Management for the most part is based upon the principle of control (managing people, managing processes, etc). Leadership on the other hand is based upon the principle of “guidance” and empowering others.
It’s hard to select one over the other for you need both management (control of well managed processes) and leadership (guidance and the means to empower) to build and provide excellent library services. Therefore it's not a choice that needs to made, it's a balancing act. And as libraries continue to transform and evolve, the goal should not be to weight the scales evenly, but rather to ensure that we favor the side that empowers the user as much as we can - without falling over. :)
PS: Thanks Michael Stephens for your excellent reply to my thoughts last week. You Rock! I hope this post sheds some more light on my thoughts about control vs. empowerment. and, if you’re thinking at all that I can be a semantics freak, you’re right! Just ask anyone from PLCMC’s management team that was involved in developing our library's mission statement and they'll tell you I was among the adamant supporters for having the verb be in the active tense (empowering vs. empowers). :)
PS: I bet you can guess which is my favorite “e” in our mission statement? :)