Life Lessons from the Library: Sometimes You’ve Got to Take Inventory

Before classes begin this semester, the library staff is doing an inventory of our collection. This is not as much fun as it sounds. It is not a time to peruse titles or leaf through books we didn’t know we had. No, it’s a time of taking scanners upstairs and scanning as many books as we can. It is, at best, a fairly mind-numbing activity and, at worst, frustrating, when bar codes won’t scan or one book knocks over seven or eight more to the floor.

But it must be done. After our man-made flood this summer, some of our books disappeared, and, anyway, after a decade of use, books and films become lost or misplaced. It’s time to know exactly what we have on hand, so we can serve students better.

And it’s necessary in life as well. At the end of the year, many people spend a little time thinking over what worked and what didn’t over the past 365 days and make plans for a better year. It seems to me that it’s not always so important whether every resolution get fulfilled or broken. It’s the process of taking inventory, of being aware of your strengths and using them and your weaknesses and improving them that is most critical to having a meaningful life.

There is a Catholic tradition where this is done each night,  a spiritual inventory of faults. I modify this practice to make it a nightly list of the good things that have happened each day. It reminds me when I’m feeling down of how truly lucky I am to have this life. And on the days that are truly bad, it’s a reminder of the things I need to do to make things better.

So while inventories may never be on the top ten fun things to do, they are necessary –both in libraries and in life.

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