This is the conclusion of my project to explore different examples of multiple intelligence that I’ve encountered and how these incidences affected my approach to everything from customer service to working with colleagues. Read Part One, Part Two, Part Three & Part Four.
So what have all these experiences taught me?
- Keep an open mind.
- Recognize the ways that other people are intelligent – and acknowledge that it may not be the way you’re intelligent. It may not even be a form of intelligence you easily recognize.
- Understand that someone else’s way of seeing things is no less valid than your own.
- Don’t expect anyone to speak to you in your language – it’s your responsibility to do your best to understand theirs.
- Never assume you know what someone means before they’ve finished talking. And always ask questions before responding to make sure you understand them as they intend.
Reading through this list, it occurs to me that I’m pretty much describing a good reference interview.
Or to put it another way: I try and approach much of what I do as an act of translation – I do my best not to impose my assumptions and expectations on other people, and let other people lead me into their sense of things so I can try and find points of connection.
It’s all about respect. It’s about open and unfettered communication.
Working in web and multi-media, these sorts of translation issue come up a lot. Tech-geeks spend so much time working in digital and computer environments that they tend to lose perspective on how non-techie people relate to this technology. (To be fair, this is true of all specialized professions.) Most tech-geeks I’ve worked with over the years tend to assume that certain ways of understanding technology are standard, that everyone has a minimum level of competence in this arena – and they’re almost always wrong in this assumption. They dramatically over-estimate people’s comfort and competence level. I gave an example of how I find ways to explain technology issues to non-techies – but I also frequently find myself trying to explain non-techie perspectives to tech-geeks (which is actually much more difficult!)
To bring this all back to libraries, consider this scene from the movie UHF:
Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE this movie! My friends and I built a shrine to it when it first came out! But this scene illustrates a problem that’s all too common in libraries:
Library users shouldn’t have to know Dewey Decimal (or Library of Congress, or any other such organizational system) in order to use the library. It’s not their responsibility to understand how we do things – it’s our job to figure out what they need on their terms.
It’s our job to make it work.