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yes, and…

from Flickr user michelle

from Flickr user (michelle)

At our best, librarians are often an… overly enthusiastic bunch. We’ve all kept looking for sources long after our patron has left the building/phone call/chat session. We’ve all turned a simple question into a booklist/handout/webpage for our members. And because we’re interested in quality over quanitity, we have a lot of “yes, but” conversations.

“I’m looking for a book about [insert recent issue that isn't well-covered by books just yet]”

“Well, you might find there’s more information in articles. Let me show you our online resources for articles.”

“I was hoping for a book.”

“Yes, but you’ll likely find better information in articles.”

“Yes, but” has its place. It’s great for metadata – “this book is about x.” “Yes, but it’s also about y.” – but it usually sounds like a door closing. Delivered as nicely as possible, it says “I hear you, but you’re wrong.” More often than that, it can be plain dismissive.

I’d like to think we use it with the best intentions.

“Oh, you have free wireless?”

“Yes, but it’s an open network/Yes, but you need your library card to authenticate/Yes, but it’s spotty by the window over there.”

We’re trying to give more information, the best information, the most accurate picture of our services and collections. But “but” is often just a nicer version of “no.”

What about “yes, and” when we’re tempted to qualify an answer?

“Oh you have free wireless?”

“Yes, and those comfy chairs over there get a great signal.”

“I’m looking for a book about [insert recent issue that isn't well-covered by books just yet]”

“Yes, and our online resources will have articles that cover the most current developments…”

“Yes, and” is (I am told),  technique used in improv comedy to move the story forward. Although I’ve never done improv comedy, it seems like it could be a good way to put another performer on the spot. We should be putting ourselves on the spot to promote another service, collection or feature of our libraries. It’s instant PR for your databases, comfy chairs, express books renewal policy, cafe, new collection, or whatever else you can think of to add onto that “Yes.”

Libraries have so much to offer, but only if we keep moving the story forward.

Discussion

10 comments for “yes, and…”

  1. I know someone who does improv, and I asked him once to explain the fact that he was going to improv “practice”. He said that it was to practice techniques for improv, such as that you never say “no” to anything someone else suggests. Otherwise, it stops everything!

    Posted by ccr in MA | January 12, 2010, 7:22 pm
  2. I think this is a grat point. It’s so easy to downplay or minimize stuff with the “yes but…” approach and you can convey the same information, often, by adding data and being helpful, not giving people the “why not” approach. Thanks for a thoughtful piece.

    Posted by jessamyn | January 12, 2010, 7:38 pm
  3. The “Yes, but” technique is something they teach you in law school when arguing before the appellate. You don't want to correct a judge or justice, but you always want to steer them to your point. It's an acknowledgment with a finely tuned caveat at the end of it. =)

    Posted by Andy Woodworth | January 19, 2010, 12:15 pm
  4. Your friend is just confirming Gretchen Caserotti's theory that people with performance backgrounds make good librarians! Keeping things moving is crucial. Thanks for the improv insight!

    Posted by kate | January 19, 2010, 7:26 pm
  5. Thanks, Jessamyn! Lovely to see you, however briefly, in Boston.

    Posted by kate | January 19, 2010, 7:28 pm
  6. Heh. It's a great lawyering technique! Do you think librarians secretly want to be lawyers? :)

    Posted by kate | January 19, 2010, 7:30 pm
  7. After attending one year of law school, you might as well have something to show for it!

    Posted by andywoodworth | January 19, 2010, 10:54 pm
  8. [...] yes, and… (Source: sharon370) See also: think in other categories [...]

    Posted by Rowland Institute Library Blog » Library News & Notes 1/22/10 | January 22, 2010, 11:34 am
  9. [...] yes, and… (Source: sharon370) See also: think in other categories [...]

    Posted by Library News & Notes 1/22/10 - NEW SCHOOL PORTAL – NEW SCHOOL PORTAL | October 18, 2011, 10:11 am
  10. [...] yes, and… (Source: sharon370) See also: think in other categories [...]

    Posted by Library News & Notes 1/22/10 - SCHOOL GUIDE 2011 – SCHOOL GUIDE 2011 | October 18, 2011, 1:55 pm

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