January 7th, 2014

A Special Library Service

In my last blog, I wrote about libraries and the concept of a “service” as it is used in IT service management.

A few days ago, I chatted with the manager of the Ferndale Library and introduced myself as a new library trustee. The Ferndale Library is only a few miles from our house and I hang out there often. I mentioned that I am in the Ferndale Library often. My reputation as the new library trustee had preceded me. The manager said she had heard that the new trustee used the Ferndale Library WiFi for writing a book.

I was flattered that I have a reputation, but there was also something in this chat that I tie to service management. The truth is I don’t visit the library for the WiFi. The Internet is so much a part of my life that I have set up a network in our house that provides excellent Internet service, possibly better than the library.

If I don’t come for the WiFi, what do I come for? What service does the library offer that brings me to my favorite seat by the window?

It is a different service entirely, but a real service.

I wrote a good share my book, Cloud Standards, sitting at a table in the library. Sitting in a library helps me focus on writing. When I appear in the library, it is a sign that I have been procrastinating in my office at home and have come to the library to get some work done. I promised myself this summer that in 2013 I would complete a draft of the novel I am working on. Being the person that I am, I had to concentrate on fiction all of December to meet my self-imposed deadline. Consequently, I am a few chapters behind on my current technical book, Cloud Service Management, so the library will be seeing a lot of me this January.

The mission-critical service I get from the library is, for lack of a better word, the atmosphere. I have never seen this service provided anywhere but in a library. The service is complex. It involves the shelves of books, newspapers, and magazines. It grows from the murmur of earnest conversation. I am convinced that lady sitting across from me concentrating on her laptop, the fellow a few feet away studying the newspaper, the folks wandering through the shelves browsing for entertainment or practical information and advice, the varied band of users of the Internet terminals, the students hurrying to finish tomorrow’s homework, the librarians and pages tending the patrons and the collection, all these contribute to something I think Durkheim and later Jung called a “collective consciousness.” I struggled with Durkheim when I was an undergraduate and I’ve never been able to understand Jung, let alone explain him, but I believe the collective consciousness in a library helps me get my chapters written.

All libraries have it. I’ve been to London on business several times. I always skip the sights and find time to go to the reading room of the British Museum. My wife thinks I’m crazy, and she’s more than likely right, but some of the most profound and important concepts and words on this planet have been conceived and written in that space. I love to sit under the gilt and sky blue dome, reading and writing for as long as I can, occasionally pinching myself to check if I am really sitting in the room of intellectual titans.

The amazing thing is that the Ferndale Library, all the other libraries in the WCLS, and libraries everywhere deliver the same service. Can the service be enhanced, increased in value? Most services can, but I confess, I have only one thought on improving the mystery of the library: the atmosphere is collective, the more folks who know and use this service, the stronger it becomes. I’m looking forward to the new Ferndale library building, but even more, the new patrons I hope it will bring in.

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