When thinking about your collections, what does an ugly collection look like for you?
Is your ugly the same as your colleagues? Is your ugly the same as your customers?
What if … we focused on the negative, the ugliness, the not-so-loveliness to determine what we don’t want for our collections?
Then flip your thinking to re-imagine what beautiful looks like. By talking about what ugly is, it spells out that you don’t want that for your community. It also allows you to discuss what is “good enough”. Are there any parts of ugly that you can accept for the time being until your find a way to change something (e.g. change a policy, re-negotiate a contract)?
What if … you asked your colleagues “when do you re-cover or substantially mend a book?”.
Is it when the cover is actually falling apart or substantially ripped, or is it simply when the cover is faded? Do only items over a certain $$ amount get re-covered? If your team is not all following the same guidelines for beauty, then some colleagues might be time-wasting titivating a “good enough” collection, and others not actually caring enough to look after the collection.
What if … we asked our customers what an ugly collection means to them?
Do they think a collection should only be physically beautiful and seamlessly easy-to-use, or would they accept collection even if it was a little ugly and a little clunky to use as long as it is deep & rich in content?
I’m not saying only new & physically things constitute beautiful, but in creating clear answers to “what is a beautiful collection?” so that your current & future customers know what to expect from your library. By giving them beautiful collections, then it also demonstrates what condition we expect the collection to be returned in. If you let ugly books out the door, then don’t complain when those ugly books come back again even uglier. A colleague once said “If I wouldn’t take that item home to read in bed, because it was [ugly/dirty/grubby/falling apart], then why would I expect my customers to do the same?”
Seek out the ugly, so that you can find the beautiful.