file2781242214133One of my biggest complaints about being a cataloger was that because I am a “big picture” person I was not well suited to the detail-oriented nature of cataloging. While that’s partially true, it’s also partly a load of crap.

It is impossible to focus solely on the big picture of anything because if you do, then dozens of little-picture details will fall through the cracks. Even the biggest, big-picture person has to tie up loose ends every day. Without thoughtful attention to bolstering productivity through tying up those loose ends and making sure the little stuff gets done then the big picture will probably fall off the wall and hit you on the head.

A big picture is made up of thousands of pixels. When a digital image is pixelated, it is not easily recognizable. It would certainly be fun to sit back, prop one’s feet up on the desk, and dream of what may be or could be or should be. But nothing will happen to realize that vision without first putting all of the pixels together. Each pixel must be put into place in order to bring the whole image into focus.

If I had never been a cataloger, I’m not certain that I would notice the details quite so much or appreciate their importance. It almost drove me insane to focus on details such as copyright dates versus publication dates; periods versus brackets; capital letters versus lower case and all of the other minutia that goes into creating an acceptable catalog record. But having done that has given me a healthy perspective on the importance of the little picture. I always say that the devil is not in the details; details are the devil. But I’m glad I had a job that taught me how to concentrate on what’s in front of me because now I have a job where what’s in front of me differs from hour to hour and day to day. If I focus only on the big picture then nothing will get accomplished.

Some people are task-oriented and prefer to focus only on what’s in front of them. Employees like that are valuable and necessary to any organization. Others, like me, prefer to look through a wider lens that allows them to make connections and find commonalities that can bring people or organizations together for the greater good. Employees like that are necessary, too. However, that second group of people can’t rely solely on the first group to cross all the Ts and dot all the Is. The dreamers have to show up and contribute in a tangible way. For me, it’s always been the intangibles that make life interesting. But it’s the nitty gritty that makes things happen.

And then there’s this: Having spent the better part of the last seven weeks visiting about 20 different libraries and talking to many directors, managers, and staff it’s easy to see that the little picture for one library is the big picture for another. With the disparity that exists in resources, staffing, and facilities for libraries everywhere, there could be as many as ten people or as few as just one even looking at the picture at all whether that picture be big or small or somewhere in between. It’s hard to work on creating a makerspace in your library if you’re having trouble staffing the desk.

Just because someone knows where they’re going doesn’t mean they know how to get there. Most likely they will get there one detail at a time. If you need help sorting out the details, just ask the nearest cataloger for help. They’ll show you how to see the trees despite the forest.

You get the picture.