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It’s no secret that a lot of librarians and information professionals are keen on getting things done right. As a profession, we tend towards perfectionism. I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing – a lot of what we do is detail-orientated, and needs to be precise. Perfection can be a laudable state to aim for – but not when it interferes with Getting Things Done.
I started thinking about this after reading Lauren’s guest post on Ned’s blog, about how to escape the echo chamber. The theme that runs through everything Lauren says, unstated but hovering just below the surface, is the admonishment to Just Do It. Got a chance to speak to a reporter? Someone in authority? Don’t worry so much about what you’re going to say that you miss the opportunity. It doesn’t need to be perfect. It does need to be done.
This doesn’t just apply to campaigning and advocacy. A RIN report ‘Discovering physical objects: Meeting researchers’ needs‘ had the telling conclusion that:
their most important wish is that online access to museum databases to be provided as quickly as possible, even if the records are imperfect or incomplete
Imperfect or incomplete catalogue records! Did that just send a shudder through you? Get over it. Our job isn’t to pander to our own desire for elegantly and meticulously constructed records. Our job is to provide access to information – and that includes letting people know that it exists.
Remember, incomplete is not the same as inaccurate! There is nothing wrong with making your ‘works in progress’ available – mark them as such, and let people do what they can with the information. Whatever they can do, it’s bound to be more than they could do with no information at all.
So, let go of your librarianly need to control everything. Stop seeing half a job as worse than no job. Start celebrating what we actually can achieve, and stop waiting for the mythical ‘someday’ when you’ll have a chance to get things done right.
Do what you can; improve and build on it when you have chance. And if you don’t have chance? Don’t worry about it. You’ve done something, made a difference to someone. Nothing sitting in a draft folder ever changed even a tiny corner of the world.
Distract your inner perfectionist with some apostrophe abuse, and embrace the perpetual beta.