In libraries and higher education in general we’re constantly adding things. Adding new buildings to campus. Adding new and innovative services for our users. Adding more resources to our collection. Adding to the cost of tuition. But this is not always the most helpful way to think about things.
Perhaps we should start thinking about what we should drop. What should we stop doing? What should we do less of so that what we are doing flourishes. We trim plants that get too large. We pick off sick leaves and remove excess foliage. By doing this the plant flourishes.
In order to think strategically in libraries and best serve our users, we should, from time to time, stop asking “what else we can do” and instead ask “what can we stop doing?” This doesn’t mean we stop trying new things, but we shouldn’t become overly attached to things that we’re doing. We shouldn’t continue things because “that’s the way they’ve always been done.” Perhaps you really love a certain set of reference books, but if no one is using them whose interest are you serving? Yours or your users? It’s important to periodically survey what you’re doing, and drop what doesn’t effectively serve the needs of your community.
A mindset of less, of removal goes against the common wisdom, but often it is the most helpful to growth and moving forward. A great thing about libraries is that they’re small. Much smaller than Google, a company who’s trying to “organize the world’s information.” Libraries can better serve their particular community better than Google because of their small size. They know their patrons, their interests, and what they could care less about. They build relationships with their users. But when we start trying to be all things to all people, we lose this advantage. We’re no longer nimble. We become bloated and a second rate version of Google. It’s necessary for us to stay small and diverse to compete in this information soaked world.
We can’t do it all. We have to strategically choose what to give attention and resources to.
So what can you drop?