CIL11: In Pursuit of Library Elegance

This afternoon’s talk was taking the book ‘In Pursuit of Elegance‘ by Matthew May and how we can implement the theories in the book in libraries. Erica Reynolds started by talking to about a familiar topic – ‘less is more.’ In libraries we seem to always want to add more – more signs, more images, more everything and to be elegant you actually need to do more with less. Erica says that design if done well goes unnoticed!

By subtracting we actually create more value and impact when we take away. How can we take things away in our libraries to add value to our patrons. There was an example in the book of an intersection where they took away all of the signs and lights and identifying marks and what happened was that the flow of traffic actually became much better and fatalities at that intersection dropped exponentially. In libraries we have so many signs telling people everything and people never get to use their brains – what can we remove so people can actually use their brains – not all people are stupid.

The path to elegance then is to:

  • Resist the urge to act or add
  • Observe
  • Ensure a diversity of opinions and expertise
  • Carve out time to think and time to not think
  • Get away from your devices (lots of great ideas came to people when they didn’t have a computer in front of them)
  • Get some sleep
  • Get outside

Next up John Blyberg who read the book because Erica told him to. John focused on the networks in library – not all computer networks, but community networks, networks with people and with vendors. Nice little aside here from John – we have to work with our vendors and as long as they give us free and open access to what is rightfully ours – our data – we can work with them just fine (and get rid of the ones who don’t give us what’s ours).

John continued on talking to us about elegant technologies – where Erica was pointing out that we need to step away from these techs – John brings up the ones that we need to be aware of to make things more elegant in our libraries. A system to deliver books to the front of the library from the back efficiently, mobile systems, RFID, self check out systems, etc. All these things will let us be more efficient and by extension more elegant.

We also need to provide space for discovery and self-expression, down time for reflection – all those things that Erica mentioned we needed to be elegant.

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