Sunday, February 24, 2019
The helpful note
Working in common with a lot of different people at a public library sometimes the only feasible way to communicate is through a post it note. Sending out an email to dozens of people about "computer number 14, the one to the far right at the front desk" will likely be forgotten by the time any of its readers encounter "computer number 14, the one to the far right at the front desk". Whereas a post it note stuck on the keyboard of that computer that says "The Caps Lock on this keyboard is broken. A work order has been submitted" Is completely informative exactly where and when it needs to be informative.
Well, not completely. But even then it provides a relevant context for discussion. If further information is required one can turn to one's co-worker and say "Hasn't this note been on here for, like, two years?"
To which your co-worker will reply "At least!" because our technical services department has been profoundly dysfunctional for over a decade now.
But this brings up an important issue regarding these notes: Always date them! When one writes a note the date does not seem particularly important as one thinks it will be clear to everyone that the time referred to on the note is "now". But time is weird, and by some device that even the greatest geniuses of the World have been unable to fathom, "now" irresistibly becomes an element of history, the past. We can see this trick of the universe in play by looking at a post it note attached to a chunk of plastic that looks as if it were chewed over lovingly by a medium sized dog, maybe a terrier of some kind. And on it is a post it note reading "Louise Finkelstein will pick up." With no date on this Louise Finkelstein will always be in to pick it up. Louise Finkelstein will be imminently arriving for eternity. With a date on it the march of time will reveal the mendacity of Louise Finkelstein, and allow for the throwing in the garbage of said disgusting object, relieving the library of a terrible burden. In the first scenario all are perpetual losers. In the second scenario, in the end, only a Bull Terrier in Mahtomedi is a loser, and he was doomed in either case.
But even more important than the inclusion of a date on any note is the inclusion of the note author's initials. Including one's initials is taking responsibility for what one writes on the note. If one is uncomfortable taking responsibility for the content of one's note, that is probably an indicator that the note is neither useful nor wise. Including one's initials indicates humbleness and wisdom. It allows for the possibility that something on the note may be unclear despite one's greatest efforts. I regularly extract information and make use of information on the unsigned notes I come across, but I don't respect them and throw them away at the slightest provocation. A post it note stuck to a safe with the combination written on it that has no date or initials on it is clearly the work of an incompetent lunatic imperiling our entire workplace. A post it note stuck to a safe with the combination written on it that also has the date and the note author's initials is a work of daring usefulness that indicates that nothing valuable is kept in that safe, but that we nevertheless, for some ridiculous reason, keep stuff in there that we all need to get to.
This morning there was a note by the phones announcing some barely valuable item that a patron lost and was looking for. It included the patron's name and number. It was unsigned. If we were to find this item, which is extraordinarily unlikely, we would not look for a note to match it up to. Which brings us to my final bits of note advice:
Just because somebody asked for it doesn't mean you have to write it down, and, just because it was written down doesn't mean it is worth keeping.
And so to my co-workers I would just like to add: If you are looking for that note about the lost wireless mouse, I threw it away.