January 19, 2010

Start the New Year Refreshed

Church librarians pride ourselves at being organized but things often seem to get a little out of control for us over the holidays. Now that the new year has arrived, have you found yourself in the middle of a major housecleaning or re-organizing project? For many of us, freshening up the spaces around us is a revitalizing ritual we go through every year at this time.

It’s easy to immerse yourself in a mid-winter library cleaning project and get drawn off course. You may start out simply intending to dust the books and shelves or redo a book display or two. But as you get going, you start noticing mis-shelved books. As you re-shelve the wayward books, you start thinking about how tight shelf space is getting in a few sections of the collection. Soon the lure of re-shelving those few errant titles has drawn you in to a major reorganization of your collection.

Stopping in the middle of one project and taking up a new one ultimately wastes time and can exhaust the energy we have to finish the project we originally intended. To make the most of your time, it’s best to come up with a plan before you begin.

Start out by taking a visual scan of the space. Leave the room and re-enter with new eyes. What do you see? How does it make you feel? What do you like or dislike? Make a checklist—either written or mental—of what you want to accomplish.

Eliminating clutter may be the first thing on your list. Messy brochures and magazines are easy targets. Does anyone really use them? If not, get rid of them. Outdated wall art, faded props, kitschy knick knacks and out of fashion decorating schemes can make spaces seem small, tired and uninviting. Adopting a more modern, minimalist approach will create breathing room and open up precious library real estate.

The remaining items on your checklist should be the steps or goals to complete the project you have identified. Is an overall cleaning needed? Is it time to brighten up the space with a fresh coat of paint? Could the room be more inviting by rearranging the furnishings? Would new signage make the space more welcoming? Is there a storage closet or workspace that needs organizing? Having a goal, and a plan in mind to accomplish it, will increase your chances that your project will be successfully completed.

Think through the project from start to finish. Gather supplies, set aside time on your calendar and coordinate dates with volunteers if needed. Have a notebook handy to jot down those side projects you identify along the way and resist the temptation to start any of them now.

The benefits of freshening up your library spaces are many. You’ll have completed a project that you and others can enjoy. You’ll have created a new reason to promote the library. And maybe best of all, you will have given yourself a much needed mental vacation, freeing your mind so you are ready to get back into normal routines.