The mindful librarian

Mindfulness can enhance creativity and innovation which is why Matt Benzing thinks librarians should add the technique to their toolbox.

Stop. Right now. What is going on in your mind? Fearing the future? Regretting the past? Thinking about what you’ll do this afternoon?  Wondering if the cast of Seinfeld is still sitting in that cell? Cursing that song that you can’t get out of your head, the one that plays on an endless loop?

Mindfulness meditation is an ancient art designed to tame that mischievous gremlin running rampant between your ears. We all have so many things going on at once in our heads, and a fair number of the voices shouting are not conducive to creative work. Mindfulness is a technique for silencing those voices, quieting the cacophony that so often renders us useless.

Mindfulness meditation was developed by Buddhists, but it is not dependent on any certain belief system or world view. Mindfulness meditation is not a relaxation technique, it is not a stress reduction tool. Rather, it is a means to achieving clarity…stilling the waters so that the detritus may settle and the clear light of reality may show through. If you are old enough to remember broadcast television, I think of it as learning to tweak that UHF dial until the snow disappears and you get a crystal clear image.

This is useful in many fields. How many of us find ourselves transfixed, like a deer in headlights, by the onslaught of duties and concerns that swamp us every day? Mindfulness gives us the tools to prioritise, to evaluate, to put aside distractions and focus on the task at hand.

So what does this have to do with libraries? Quite a bit. One of the advantages provided by the clarity gained in mindfulness is the ability to look upon things with a “beginner’s mind”. Despite their best efforts, librarians are often trapped by views of the world, views about how data should be distributed, and views of their own roles that are frozen in the amber of an earlier era.

Mindfulness gives the librarian the tools to break out of those outdated moulds, to see the world how it is, to find new ways of relating to patrons.

Matt Benzing is Computing and Engineering Librarian at Miami University, USA.  He's a member of the Internet Librarian International Conference Advisory Board and will be leading a mindfulness exercise at the conference on Tuesday 17th October.