One thing I picked up on quite quickly from chatting to the Cambridge University Library systems hackers was the confusing array of vocabularies and user policies across the different Cambridge libraries. So for example,
- one person's non-borrowable book may be another's reference work, etc;
- you can so many books out for so much time in one library, a different number of books for a different amount of time in another, etc.
Some of the differences may well be justifiable, some may reflect a NIH attitude within the different libraries, but whilst I can see that Cambridge thrives on the relative independence of its Colleges and Departments, each with their own ways that might well foster loyalty amongst their members by stressing local differences and customs, it can be confusing for the uninitiated, and a pain to maintain for the essentially centralised systems developers.
Anyway, it struck me that one way of highlighting these differences to Library staff members across the university would be to get them all to shift one Library to the left for a day. That is, rather than turning up for work normally, every librarian should turn up at another of the University libraries. Just for one day.
Despite having a largely centralised OPAC (the Newton online catalogue), the use of which presumably any of the Librarians should be able to support, the differences in policies, terminology, layout and potentially even book classification systems might provide an instructive lesson in which differences make sense, and which do not...
So here's my suggestion (not necessarily just offered in jest...!) - given the library staff are all professionals, and should be capable of working out how to use a library, any library - on one day of the year when mayhem is expected, Comic Relief, say, or Children in Need, every Library staff member should turn up for work at the Library to the Left (which left is, of course, a free choice;-)
If that's a little too radical, how about Library staff from different libraries pairing up, and doing a swap for the day (this would also support an easier way of debriefing and knowledge sharing after the fact).
For anyone who refuses to participate, they could be given the status of 'consciencious objector' and sent on the training course they are most resistant to. Purely for the benefit of their own professional development, that is...
Image: Close to Royalty - From last summer on The Mall.