Having perused through the Library Journal’s article on the best library architecture of 2011, I was doing a bit of pondering about how the space and environment that we sit within shapes our thought processes and self-application to tasks.
This may seem obvious, after all, anyone whose GCSE poetry anthology covered Seamus Heaney’s “Digging” will surely know that Ireland influenced his decision to write poems about potatoes (perhaps if he were from Somerset it would have been entitled “scrumping” and provided the opportunity for cider drinking to get into his frame of mind; sadly it was nothing but jacket spuds for me whilst revising). The same principle therefore applies for blogging, writing articles and generally applying oneself to tasks and projects. If you work in an academic library, chances are you will ponder things about academic libraries, and maybe after a while start to think like an academic librarian. I work in a law library, and whilst I don’t quite think like a lawyer, I have started to capitalise the occasional word for no good Grammatical Reason.
With this in mind, we will therefore always be shaped by our past experiences and current work environments, be this good or bad. For the most part, it is fine; our experiences provide us with a basic set of skills from which we can build upon and use to grow. When a change in environment occurs (be it job related, or personal), this process is usually accelerated, lending a set of new experiences to shape and develop ourselves; not too dissimilar in how a plant enjoys getting a new pot to fill every once in a while. Much like the plant though, our roots (read thoughts) quickly grow to fit the pot, and come into line with its shape. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, ideas and growth need support and parameters against which they can be measured, however this can mean that the new ideas that were generated are scaled back to fit the confines of the (terracotta?) walls of the new workplace or study environment, just as quickly as the old ways can be forgotten.
I’m not saying this always occurs, but it can do, and it is an easy trap to fall into. So, how to ensure that our mindsets can continue to grow uninhibited? If I continue to work with the plant theme, then maybe what we need is the human equivalent of Baby Bio to give our professional selves a bit of a kick?
Firstly, awareness always helps. You are reading this aren’t you? Hopefully, some of my nonsensical wording and attempts at imagery will make enough sense that some self reflection can occur off the back of it.
Secondly, don’t worry, it doesn’t really matter. If your frame of mind works for you, then that’s great. This post is 110% speculative. I’m not saying here that you need to change your way of thinking, merely that you need to make the most of it, and realise the benefits that your circumstances have given you. However… if you can be aware of how you think, then you are better placed to self-critique, therefore better questioning your current way of working, and helping yourself to continually improve.
Thirdly, networking and conversing with those outside your regular workplace can be a great way to understand your current thought processes. This can be achieved even better by looking across sectors, either by reading their professional and practitioner literature or interacting with real people (gasp!). It doesn’t matter if those you meet have a similar way of thinking, because if you have realised that they do, then that also means you have become aware of how you, yourself, think! Plus, seeing your personal traits in another sometimes makes it easier to critique them. I’m not saying insult yourself, merely be aware of way in which characteristics and patterns could be built upon, creases smoothed, and the mental thinking process eased out.
Hopefully all of this will provide additional confidence in a way of thinking, leading to new ideas, enthusiasm and a feeling like you are an esteemed psychology professor. Don’t go adding PhD after your name though, that’s just lying (unless you actually have a PhD, in which case it’s fine).
So to round this post off in neat-ish summary, Heaney was aware of his potato based past, subsequently reflected on it in a poem and ended up in the GCSE anthology. Who knows what he would have achieved if his past was based in a library?
*Disclaimer – whilst I enjoy poetry, my ability to analyse it is rather poor. I am however aware that Digging by Heaney is no doubt about more than just Potatoes, peat and hard labour.*