Monday, June 17, 2013

"That's So MPOW!" (My Place of Work)

See this?

It's a fence. Not a large one. And it's blocking sprouting grass that used to be a path that connects a parking lot to one of our largest, busiest buildings. There was a folk theorem at play here. People created that path because they didn't like the alternative, because creating that path was more convenient. And my place of work's response was to plant some grass and throw up a fence. How's that for user experience? For dismissing local knowledge, metis?

I checked with our facilities department just to make sure, and they say this project is done. There's maybe fifteen feet of fence. It's not terribly attractive, but it's one way to solve a problem. It's not the way I would have done it. It's a cheap way to impose rationality. And it makes me wonder if I, as a librarian, am doing anything like this in the library. Or on the library website. Metaphors!

I hope this is not the first in a series of related posts, but it's also not the first time I've noticed the administration ignoring something that's potentially relevant, and it won't be the last.
Both the Director and the Provost are concerned that a patron would go into staff space for a chair, move it, and not replace it. I share this concern, but I have a different take. I think the patron just voted, just told us that our furniture, which does tend to move about at times (and is usually replaced), is not up to snuff. That someone would take a staff chair through three rooms, over 80 feet... that, to me, is a data point. It says something.


  1. My college was built in the early 70's. They didn't put any paths in to start with. They allowed the paths to grow organically and came back once they were established to pave them into permanence. There is a term for this theory in engineering, but I don't remember it.

    Your PoW seems to have it all backwards. The public has said, "We need a path here." They respond with, "No. No walking allowed here."

    This is the most democratic process in society. No one has to count the votes or even identify the voters. The actions are obvious. Reminds me of a 'Today Show' story on the proper way to wash hands in a bathroom. The guy opened the door with his hand drying paper towel and then threw the paper towel down just inside the door. When questioned he said, "There should be a trash can there. Do that often enough and there will be one there." I'm guessing your PoW would remove the paper towels dispenser to solve the problem.

    1. "I'm guessing your PoW would remove the paper towels dispenser to solve the problem."
      Oddly, that works in Japan. There are few public trashcans. There are few pieces of litter on streets and sidewalks.
      But yes, actions are votes.

  2. That happened a few places on my undergraduate campus and instead of putting up a sign or a fence, the school just threw some mulch down and embraced it. Even as a teenager I was really impressed by that and appreciated the attitude that it indicated. That's the kind of goodwill that libraries (and all service institutions) should strive to engender. Most of the time it's incredibly difficult to discover what is truly needed and desired by the populations we serve, so it seems silly to throw away such a clear cut opportunity should it occur.