On Ignorance & Insult (& yes, there’s even a lesson)

Have you ever sat through a presentation that looked like it might be brilliant, only to stare in silence while the presenter displayed his ignorance? Tonight was such a night when two guest speakers at our Board Mtg came to supposedly share with us the magic the found when they visited the National Singapore Library.

In looking over the National Library Board website, it’s easy to see that our speakers were not the greatest press agents… for from my perspective the really innovative stuff that the Lee Kong Chain Reference Library offered completely sailed right over them. At one point I almost rose from my seat and walked to the door when this moronic staged dialog was exchanged:

Presenter 1 to Presenter 2 (John): “John, if you had a reference question about such-n-such, what would you do?”
John: “Well I'd probably look at the library's databases, or Google it or if I was in the library, I’d ask a librarian.”
Presenter 1: “That’s great. But did you know that at the Singapore Library you can email your question to a librarian and they’ll answer it within 24 hours???

Yup, ignorance (and in this case insult too) about existing library services is something that all libraries face. But clearly this individual was way out of his element.

Needless to say, I took very little away from the whole presentation. Even the photos they selected (stacks of books and a large display unit with small digital screens) to show provided little in the way of inspiration.

In contrary, as I look around the website -- see this animated image I found ---->>>, I see much more to inspire. Its too bad the messengers were so ill-informed, for I do think there is much we could have learned.

The only saving grace in the 20 minute dearth was this one diagram (I found it again within the "NLB 2010 presentation) they shared from the National Library Board 2010 vision. (this actually looks like a good report that I'll have to read later)

I totally love this three element vision of libraries as collaborative, individual and social learning spaces. Unfortunately our speakers couldn’t even articulate this well. But even so, I was happy to see it because it was the only thing that made the whole painful presentation worth it. :)

On a final note, I’m sure the presenters had the greatest of intentions, but unfortunately they blundered badly because they did not do their homework.

So you may wonder what is the lesson here that I eluded to in my title… it’s this. If these members of our public felt that this message they delivered tonight was earth-shattering, inspirational and innovative, then we as a library system have a long way to go ... not in delivering new services, but just in making them aware of the ones we already do so well!!

Nuff said – study the diagram. It’s brilliant!!! I just wish I could have jumped up there and explained it, because obviously the speakers didn’t have any depth of knowledge about libraries to put the bigger picture together.

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