Jesus. It’s just tape.
Except it’s never “just” anything, and often it’s not even the thing under discussion.
A bunch of people have done virtual and verbal fist-pumps of triumph and agreement. I suspect “straightforward and unapologetic” are things they see as virtues.
Someone called me snarky; sure, in my own writing. I don’t see it in The Tape Letter itself, though. I’m waiting to be proven wrong, because I’d be unsurprised to know my personality seeped through. But I don’t see it, myself.
Someone else attacked me, implying that I’d spend money on luxuries for staff but not for students, then declaring that I was shutting down anyone who disagreed with me. I don’t believe that’s who I am, but it’s an opinion that has value and reality for some.
I debated about posting the letter. All night. I know that what I see as straightforward and honest, unapologetic and open, is often perceived by others as disagreeable, aggressive, rejeccting criticism, and unkind. I don’t think that conciliation is always appropriate; I do believe we owe our users the best experience we can offer them. I am painfully aware of the restrictions that our budgets place on that experience. I wrestle with it. Maybe that’s not clear here, and I’m sure it’s not clear in The Tape Letter. But it wasn’t supposed to be. I was providing facts in answer to the specific concern voiced by the student who wrote to us.
So I debate. I think, “Someone’s going to tell me I’m an asshole for this,” and, hey, I was right. I also thought “Someone will find value in seeing it, and learn from it, and I bet there’s an interesting conversation.” I was right about that, too.
I’m not a monolithic mind. I’m not an egomaniac. I’m uncertain and struggling and forging forward and fighting strange battles and looking for opportunities and juggling multiple roles and perspectives and doing the best I can with what I have to work with. My personality is part of what I have to work with, and I have capacities and limits just like anything else. One of the things I don’t do well is lie. Small lies, big ones, it doesn’t matter. I don’t like it, I don’t believe in it, and I don’t promote it. That’s my personal version of transparency. I will tell you true things as I know them.
So I told the student who wanted tape true things. About my beliefs, about our budget, about how to schedule an appointment with me.
I posted true things on the internet about my internal debate about writing it. I just now posted more true things about my debate about posting it.
That’s my version of transparency. You want to know what I think? If I’m legally allowed to tell you, I will. Need to know how something works? I’ll tell you, to the best of my ability. Want my advice? I’ll give it, but it’s up to you to decide if it’s any good or not. I’ll do my best not to swear for creative emphasis, and I’ll parse the information through my contextual role in an attempt to balance honesty and appropriate information sharing. But I swear to you it will be true.
And I’ll accept criticism, too. Critique away. It’s the anonymous internet. Have a blast. Unless you’re abusive, I’ll take it, and I’ll listen. Because transparency ought to go both ways. Reflective practice has to include self-evaluation, and community conversation shouldn’t just be a heaping of accolades. We have enough echo chambers, and nuanced discourse is a dying art. Discussion has value. I believe in all of it, good, bad, and difficult.
And I’ve learned that even things like scotch tape for students can be a lightning rod, because even scotch tape can pull at something deeper than office supplies as a library affordance.