Small Group Reflection – Designing a Grocery Store

We had a good time designing our grocery store once we were able to negotiate a vocabulary. I noticed something interesting that happened during the process that has made me think hard about best practices in the library. During the exercise, each of us was pretty adamant about the veracity of our mental models of what a grocery store should be like. In the end, although we all agreed on certain fundamental aspects of the store…like the milk should be refrigerated and you couldn’t keep meat in a vending machine…the final product was more a reflection of things we thought were so ridiculous as to not challenge what we REALLY thought a grocery store should be like. In the same way, I think as forward thinking librarians, we should be very careful about trying to uproot our patron base from mental models with which they’re comfortable. Change is hard. That’s not a new idea…but it’s a true one. When we begin to circumvent traditional ways of doing things, we cause upset in the environment. Maybe we’re trying to upset the status quo, but often…that’s a very good way to make the people question if we’re worth their support. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a furniture rearranger and a wall painter. I’ve even been known to write on the walls. But even then, there is a sense of upheaval until other stakeholders buy in to the idea that this is a good change. In the library, maybe there is more room somewhere else for that collection, but patrons may wonder why, all of a sudden, everything is being moved around. Maybe a self checkout kiosk is cost effective, but some people might get pretty pissed off because they want to deal with a real person rather than a computer. We like to be in charge of our own mental models and internal categorization. When someone else says, “no..a circulation clerk is no longer a person. It’s not a computer” without our permission, it’s irritating. We, the professionals, need to recognize this in ourselves and in the communities we serve. Then we can work to mediate between our patrons and the environment, providing a sense of stability and continuity even as we work to innovate new ways for the community to access information.


One thought on “Small Group Reflection – Designing a Grocery Store

  1. Josh says:

    Good extension to the library world.

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