More About Magic Beans

Coffee, Cup and BeansLast week after my There Are No Magic Beans post one of my favorite librarians, Daniel Cornwall, emailed me with some concerns about the post.  I emailed him back and we had a good discussion.  With his permission* I’m posting a revised edition of our conversation here. I’m sure he is not the only person who had one or all of these thoughts.

… I’m concerned that posts like these are going to have the opposite effect you intend. In concept I’m with you. People have to drop the expectation that they need do nothing after their shift ends (when I finish typing this note, I’ve got homework on digital repositories to do for Best Practices Exchange 2010). We all need to be lifelong learners even if we don’t want to be.

People already say and think those things about me. I don’t think one post is going to sway them one way or another. In fact based on my interactions with people like that nothing I say or do will change them. I can only hope they retire or find a new profession.

I think essentially telling people to grow up, stop whining and get back to work confirms whiny people in their belief that people just don’t understand what their lives are like. That it’s easy for a Bobbi Newman (and, in the world of govdocs, a Daniel Cornwall or James Jacobs) to do librarianship 24/7, but “some of us have lives – blah, blah, blah.”

Can I just say how much it pisses me off when people say something about “having a life” when it implies I don’t (or Daniel doesn’t). I have a life thank-you-very-much. One I’m pretty happy with actually. Granted it doesn’t include parking my butt in front of a tv for hours at an end, but I’m ok with that. I don’t do librarianship 24/7 but I do live my life with purpose aligned to my larger goals.

Nobody said it was going to be easy. Most things worth doing aren’t. I’m not interested in babysitting non-starters. I hope to provide motivation and ideas for people who already have some motivation. But the people who have heard the message and know there is a need and choose to spend their finding reasons not to it, nothing I say or do will change them.

Oddly enough I wrote that post in July and posted it the morning before TEDx Atlanta but I’m only more certain of it. I saw speeches from people who accomplished incredible things, things people told them they couldn’t do or that were impossible. They didn’t waste time trying to persuade the non-believers.

At the risk of suggesting something you might have already tried in the past, it might be more effective to highlight the ways that people make time to learn more or solve their problems. Ask your fan base for how they do it. I’m finding that my time on my stationary bike in the morning is good time for professional reading or networking with Facebook. Although today I watched Stargate Atlantis on my iPhone, but you get the idea.

Other suggestions might be material from WebJunction or any other number of sites that have resources of interest there for the taking. Empower people to make their lives richer and maybe they’ll take you up on it.

I think all of those are great ideas! Go for it! There is value in it and someone needs to be doing it. There was a point when I thought and did a lot of those things. It just isn’t how I’m interested in spending my time anymore.

Or keep whining. But if folks like us won’t stay positive, who will?

I actually see the original post as positive. I  have worked long and hard to get where I am. I didn’t get here by whining that I didn’t have enough time. I found time, I taught myself. I’m a firm believer in hard work and taking responsibility for your own actions. There is so much I love about being a librarian and what I do. I’m tired of allowing a few to drag me down, I see that post as a declaration of that.

*Please note my comment policy states I reserve the right to post emails regarding blog posts.

10 thoughts on “More About Magic Beans

  1. You may well be already familar with it, but Peter Block’s “The Answer to How Is Yes” ( covers the issue of taking personal responsibility in quite an even-handed way, enumerating and expanding on the many ways that a “how” question (read “whining”) represents underlying, much more existential refusals. I think Block gets directly to the truth of “no magic beans.”


  2. On your original Magic Beans post I thought “right on!” But I’ve already drunk the librarian kool-ade and enjoy improving myself, my skills and constantly learning. Daniel has a point that it won’t change the behavior of the people you are talking about.

    I think though, that it was a good affirmation for you and others that we shouldn’t let people like that drag us down or frustrate us too much. You do stay positive, but that is not always an easy thing to do. I know other librarians struggle with this same problem as well.

    There are resources for dealing with difficult patrons. There needs to be a resource for dealing with difficult colleagues…


  3. As I commented on your first post – it’s all about choices and the consequences of those choices. Hell life isn’t anything else is it?

    So to those who think they don’t have time remind them they have the choice to change that (no they can’t get more hours but they can replace one thing for another).

    It’s their choice.


  4. Here’s the thing: it’s absolutely wrongminded/insulting for folks to assume that a librarian who makes (or flat-out has) time to keep up has “no life”–but also, it’s wrongminded/insulting to by default assume that folks who aren’t finding/making this kind of time aren’t doing so because they’re watching TV. Both assertions, I think, get people’s hackles up.

    I do what I can to make time to learn–I get up earlier than the rest of my family (as early as I physically can), and I watch just one hour of TV a week (Dexter or True Blood, whichever’s in season), if that–and I don’t read gossipy magazines/sites which I think were mentioned in your first post. But I do have a 40-hour position, an hour-long commute, and two children who need dinner, help with homework, someone to cheer for them at soccer games, their laundry done, etc., and a partner to try to make time for after we get the munchkins off to bed at 9:30pm (and before we turn back to our computers, all too often privileging them over our relationship–I know I’m guilty of that). That’s what eats up a lot of my time, not TV watching (or similar passive hobbies). I’d most often *rather* be doing library-related learning than some of these other things, to be honest, but the choice to give them up in favor for time to learn is a little more complicated than the choice to give up television. Neither of your posts really rubbed me the wrong way, but I can see how the reiteration of the “give up TV” theme might some folks. Yes, there are people for whom it really would be that simple to create more time to learn–but there are also plenty of non-TV-watching folks for whom it would not.


    1. Emily I think any time one implies that how someone else chooses to spend their time is some how less people get insulted. Including me. There are lots of ways to make time for what is important.

      I should state for the record I watch Dexter, True Blood, Bones, How I Met Your Mother, Castle and a few other I can’t remember cuz Hulu hasn’t told me new episodes are up yet.

      I DO work hard. I don’t always expect others to work as hard as me, but I expect everyone to put forth some effort. There are just too many who put forth none and disparage my work and that of others by saying its all well and good for Bobbi Newman to do that but *I* have a life.


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