They who must not be named

Just a guess: at some point during the past couple of weeks, has anyone at your workplace encouraged you to “think outside the box”?  That phrase could become tedious if it weren’t such excellent advice. 

It’s not just about inventing entirely new concepts.  Sometimes, time-tested solutions arise from unexpected sources. 

The library world hasn’t always been quick to identify with the corporate world.  After all, don’t we borrow and lend for free, while they market and sell?   We re-use and re-circulate; they urge buyers to upgrade and follow trends.  Now, the best corporations actively promote life-enhancing activities, and we acknowledge the importance of benchmarking, integrating technology, and cultivating leadership.

Some of our library staffers have profited from Jim Collins’ Good to Great and Paco Underhill’s Why We Buy and The Call of the Mall, not to mention other non-library-oriented books and articles. 

Our love of borrowing pays off in terms of fresh ideas and adapted principles.  And yet I admit that none of my reading from the business world has solved the Reference Desk Branding Issue. 

Only this morning, I was bemoaning this problem with Kate, our new librarian in charge of programming and outreach.  We agreed that “reference” has all the cachet of that other traditionally unhelpful library tag:  “nonfiction”.  In both cases, the label signifies less about what’s in it for you and more about what isn’t included (i.e., in reference work, we don’t do in-depth research).

We love working with the folks who’ve already learned that we look up all manner of things and generally stand ready to assist with answers: what’s good to read, which sources work better, and what’s new in information.  For the other customers who understandably haven’t deciphered “reference” yet, we’re auditioning other descriptors.

Geeta’s recommendation–adult services–is probably the way to go.  My suggestion (borrowed from current cinema because the corporate world couldn’t deliver this time) is based on the belief that, instead of being slightly vague and mysterious, we might as well go whole hog.  Why not simply model ourselves after a highly profitable and beloved movie series and become “They Who Must Not Be Named”?

Then, the most frequent question we’ll get is “Where can I buy a hat like that?”

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