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November 6, 2013

Brautigam: Try to say ‘yes’ whenever you can

Save ‘no’ for when you really need it

“Yes” is a powerful word. It confirms a shared value between the one who asks and the one who answers.

One of the wisest pieces of advice I was ever given was, “Say ‘yes’ when you can; save ‘no’ for when you really need it.” As good as this sounds, I don’t think it comes naturally to most of us as individuals. It’s a taller order yet when it becomes an organizational goal, multiplied by the dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of employees who together make up a business or workplace. All the same, one of my goals for the library is for it to gain an organizational reputation for saying, “Yes.”

Since that sounds frighteningly open-ended when written down in black and white, it’s probably wise to clarify what it really means. It definitely isn’t a green light for agreeing unthinkingly to an activity wildly outside of our mission. No matter how much someone wants us to, we aren’t going to run a hamburger stand in our lobby. It also doesn’t mean that we twiddle our thumbs while waiting for other organizations to suggest what we should be doing. It does mean, though, that we are willing to consider the community’s needs and to interpret our mission both broadly and locally. It does mean being flexible when it will make us a better partner to another organization or business. It does mean that we will work very hard to develop user-friendly procedures and that we will spend time with our employees helping them to understand the value of on-the-spot problem-solving in offering alternatives to library users when sticky situations arise.

While being a great partner who works hard to say “yes” is something we are still defining and will be an ongoing process, not an item we can check off a “to do” list, the areas where we have had success are more than gratifying. The best part is that some of those decisions were easy ones that had a minimal cost in both time and money.

For the cost of a few modest tickets, recently a few library staff had the chance to attend a banquet sponsored by the local branch of the NAACP and honoring the work of the Reverend Dr. Robert A. Lee.

We heard inspirational speeches, ate good food, and by our presence commended both Pastor Lee and an organization that does important work.

Another example required an entirely different process. Recently, the Library Board enacted a policy that creates a mechanism for helping to spread the word about select events offered by other local organizations. It demonstrated their understanding of respecting our own budget priorities and limitations and yet finding ways to say “yes”.

A third example, a much larger commitment than the others, has been our decision to join the Downtown’s First Friday initiative and to work hard to offer innovative and intergenerational activities to round out business offerings. Check out some of the highlights of our upcoming First Friday events, including family photos (November), holiday fun (December), and Duck Dynasty night (January) which includes an Ivy Tech Culinary Arts sponsored Banana Puddin’ Cookoff.

I look forward to the continued exploration of ways that the library can say “yes” and to all the partnerships in our future, just waiting to be discovered.

Faith Brautigam is director of the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library.

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