Life Lessons from the Library: Always Have a Back-up Plan

One of the nice things about working in a modern library is the amount of technology that is available. We can go into any classroom and show students the databases of articles, books, films, etc. It’s almost like having the library wherever you are. Except when it isn’t working.

No one likes to mention this very often, but sometimes technology fails us. Once I was giving an in-service for faculty and was about to show our online films. I clicked the “go to” link and nothing happened. It turned out that the computers in that room didn’t have a specific add-on necessary for showing online video. Other times, a specific database has been down. And once, the entire network was down. And, let’s not even get into user error!

The point is that we always need to be prepared to do something else in case our first plan becomes inoperable. This is also something I learned as an English professor. What do you do when no one has read the assignment or completed the rough draft? The one thing you don’t do is let the class out early, therefore, reinforcing unproductive behavior. You have a back-up plan.

The back-up plan is one of the most useful ideas I can think of. It keeps you from being completely stymied by other people’s and/or the universe’s inability or unwillingness to go along with your plans. By having a Plan B, you don’t feel so angry and powerless; you know there is something that can be done, and you will be do it. It is worth the amount of time it takes to make sure that there’s an alternate path if necessary.

Sometimes, the plan is simple: If database A isn’t working, I’ll show the students database B. Sometimes, it’s more involved: If the students haven’t read the assignment, I’ll lecture on some background information needed to help them better understand the story. I also do it in my personal life: I’ll get my black dress dry-cleaned in case I can’t find a new one for the event. If I don’t have the money for the trip, I’ll plan some things around town so that I’m not just sitting home and moping.

Once I started thinking in terms of Plan B, I was much more content. Try it. I think you’ll find it worth the time and effort.

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