Wild Library Leavening

Perfectly delightful discovery yesterday at work. I work as a sub in the local community library. I love my hours there because libraries make me happy just by being libraries. But lately there's a new and interesting development. The "collection" (all the stuff the library owns) has begun to "float" (move from library to library by means of getting checked in wherever it lands and staying there).

The old-fashioned way was for each individual library to have and develop its own collection. Then the libraries made districts, and started to share their collections. (This, I imagine, went down with various librarians just about like a suggestion that they all share family members - or blood.) This sharing was done with extreme care and control. Stickers and markers and dates and a "grid" were in use so that everything would proceed in orderly fashion and the librarians would all know where their "own" books were at all times.

But then ..... (dun dun dunnnnnn!) a new computer system came in, and for some unknown and unknowable reason, the grid never worked again. Poof! Someone apparently shot the last living dodo bird, and the species was extinct. Just like that.

And the workers complained, and the librarians fussed, and the collections languished. (Hear laments being played on cellos here. Or the steadily dying beat of a funeral dirge.) It got verrrrry boring with only a few new books to alleviate the samey shelving that went on and on and on.

Then the librarians (who had become accustomed to a constantly self-refreshing collection, and had learned to like it) took matters into their own hands. "Fine," they said. "WE will rotate the stuff. Librarian Jane, I will send you a bunch of audio books, and you will send me a bunch of yours - okay?" said Librarian Joan. And so they did.

This went on for awhile, and then the whole system suddenly woke up. The solution, once completely inconceivable, and predicted by many to produce madness and chaos, was to let the community build the collection. Not by making suggestions, and not by being in on purchasing, and not by any other means than directly. In the district, it was already possible to return a book to any library regardless of its original home, but now the collection "floats" - wherever it gets returned is where it stays. When there's a jam-up of stuff, the librarians clear the drain and send it on to somewhere else; the collection is starting to perk up and look more and more interesting; and all of this was done by means of exerting less control over the specifics.

Apparently, libraries are like really good bread. You put in the flour and water, and you let the random spores leaven the lump. The library is being leavened by wild yeast, and it tastes great!

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