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The seven deadly sins of librarianship



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Presentation by Jo Webb at ARLG 2016 Conference

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The seven deadly sins of librarianship

  1. 1. The seven deadly sins of librarianship Jo Webb By Pieter Brueghel ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
  2. 2. 1. Lust • The pleasures of the flesh, including: – A desire for money and power. – Living only in the present • A focus on meeting our own needs and wants, not those of our users. • Lack of planning By The original uploader was Grammaticus VII at English Wikipedia (Original text: Anonymous) (13th century manuscript) [Public domain], via WikimediaCommons
  3. 3. 2. Gluttony • Over-indulgence and over-consumption to the point of waste. • In LIS: – too much information – no prioritising • In policy and in teaching Sebastian Brant [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
  4. 4. 3. Avarice • Rapacious desire for and pursuit of material possessions • For librarianship: – Our sense of value and status – Doing everything – Collections without access – Refusal to collaborate
  5. 5. 4. Sloth • Spiritual or emotional apathy, wasting due to lack of use – Lack of action – Lack of expertise • Failure to learn and develop • Failure to act Hieronymus Wierix [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
  6. 6. 5. Wrath • Love of justice perverted to revenge and spite • Excessive adherence to rules • Inflexibility • No tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty By Peter Paul Rubens ([1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
  7. 7. 6. Envy • ‘A sad or resentful covetousness towards the traits or possessions of someone else.’ • Jealousy of other professions and their perceived status Giotto [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
  8. 8. 7. Pride • Being better or more important than others • False professionalism • ‘I can do anything’
  9. 9. 1. ‘Castitas’ and plan for the future • ‘Purity, knowledge and wisdom’ • Learn and question your practice • Focus on values • Build your evidence base • Big-picture and strategic thinking • Avoid faddishness Giotto [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
  10. 10. 2. ‘Temperance’ – set priorities • Link plans to priorities • Be aware of your environment • Manage the present • Consider the needs of your stakeholders • Take action Piero del Pollaiolo [Publicdomain], via Wikimedia Commons
  11. 11. 3. ‘Caritas’ - service • Ranganathan: 1. Books are for use. 2. Every reader his / her book. 3. Every book its reader. 4. Save the time of the reader. 5. The library is a growing organism. • What is your mission? And vision? And do you follow this? • Understand your organization and how it operates: • What and where are costs? • Do we create barriers to meeting our purpose? What are they? Lucas Cranach the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
  12. 12. 4. Countering sloth through diligence • ‘Persistence, fortitude, effort and ethics’ • Challenge yourself, your practice and your organization • CPD learning and change • Reflective/reflexive practice • Engage with academic literature • Professional engagement By Jan Saenredam after Hendrik Goltzius (British Museum) [Public domain], <a href="">viaWikimedia Commons</a>
  13. 13. 5. Patience • ‘Showing forgiveness and being merciful’ • Focus on laws/principles rather than rules • Question • Understand user experience • Recognizing ambiguity and uncertainty • Flexibility to create positive outcomes and constructive relationships Andreas F. Borchert [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (, CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
  14. 14. 6. Combat envy with kindness • Michael Gorman, Our enduring values: – Stewardship – Service – Intellectual Freedom – Privacy – Rationalism – Commitment to literacy and learning – Equity of access – Democracy Public Domain,
  15. 15. 7. The end of false pride • What is a profession? • Celebrate our distinctiveness and our strengths • Collaborate • Boundaries can limit but also define in a positive way. By Kathleen de la Peña McCook [CC BY 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
  16. 16. Jo Webb FCLIP FRSA FHEA National Teaching Fellow Visiting Fellow, University of East London @jwebbery Domenico di Michelino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Editor's Notes

  • Conferences are a time for reflection and review; an opportunity to remove oneself from the interruptions of daily life, the crises so often focused on the behaviours of individuals or technology, and find a time to step back to review and reflect.
    We do this in what are often convivial surroundings, in a culture of openness and sharing, and thus seek clarity and enlightenment
    Sometimes though I fear conferences serve as opportunities to reinforce what we know and believe, or perhaps what we desire to be true. We hear and accept fewer discordant voices in our profession, and although we are more accepting of difference and diversity, all too often we fear to disagree. I am not making any particulalry radical claims in this talk, but I hope it provides some food for thought, by exploring some issues in a slightly different ways.

    But first of all some background. I come from a Roman Catholic background, and went to a RC primary schools, where I learnt the catechism: to enumerate the seven deadly sins and the blessings of the Holy Spirit, [more examples] I then studied rather a lot of medieval history, and was especially interested in the C12th renaissance, heresy and scholasticism, and I did a special paper on Dante and Petrarch.

    The middle ages formed our idea of universities, of a collegiate community of scholars, seeking knowledge and sharing learning. It also formed our understanding of a profession. Initially this meant a declaration to holy orders,and of course, universities existed for the education of those in holy orders. In time, profession developed other meanings, and emerged into the definition relevant for us today of an occupation defined by the application of a shared body of knowledge and shared values, possessing barriers to entry and practice and some regulation. So, I would suggest, our notion of a profession is derived from the clerical obligations of university study.

    I might also add, without wishing to sound pompous that there should be an element of altruism in our commitment to service as librarians, that suits various definitions of profession.

    Sins are specific acts of commission or omission
  • The clumiest of my analalogies. Rather than referring to sex in the stacks or other inappropriate behaviour, I will define lust for librarians as
  • Doing everything
    Collections without access
    Refusal to collaborate
  • ×