thinking on your feet

Today’s Most Valuable Player in the librarian toolkit seems to be “thinking on your feet”, or, as I’m sitting in a very nice ergonomic office chair, “thinking on wheels”.  But.  You get the idea.

In the half hour that I’ve been in my office (having started my workday at 9 by having coffee with a faculty member), I’ve made a quick assessment of how important a workflow change is to me in light of a possible added workload to another department, I’ve made a snap decision about which data we want Serials Solutions to download for us, I’ve offered feedback on three job candidates in another office on campus based on about ten minutes of thought on the three meetings, gave an answer to a vendor cold-calling with a sales offer, and decided what tone and tactic to take in replying to a faculty email.  Each of those decisions matters, in its own way.  Each will define the direction in which future communications, data gathering, workflow, and project management progress.  Each one received from thirty seconds to ten minutes of my time.  That’s not much.

But it’s the way it is.  My world operates at the speed of sound.  I don’t often have the luxury to sit and ponder and roll ideas around and really parse them out and think them through.  Sometimes I do have that luxury, but it’s usually because I’ve demanded it, declared it vital, and worked hard to create it.  Mostly, colleagues send me email, call me, or show up in my doorway needing answers, and I provide them to the best of my ability.

It wouldn’t work if I couldn’t confidently think on my feet.  Like so many other things, it’s not a skill you can teach in a graduate program, but one that I hope we’re fostering in all of our interns, graduate assistants, volunteers, and students.  We need to be able to think critically, and to make thoughtful decisions, but we also need to be nimble.

Wheels help.

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