Gavia Libraria

Framing incremental gains

Imagine progress. (It’s easy if you try.) Specifically, imagine a library or academic institution making a step forward with respect to open access. A local mandate, or (perhaps more likely) a public statement that draws a line somewhere in the shifting sands.

Imagine further, that the progress isn’t all it could be—perhaps not even all it should be. It’s a set of incremental gains, not a finished utopia.

Now imagine two responses.

  • Response one: “How utterly lame and pathetic. Obviously that place isn’t serious, because if they were, they’d have done things this other way. Poseurs.”
  • Response two: “Hey, check that out! That’s a lot of progress there! I bet for their next round, they’ll add a few more notches to their already-impressive record, such as…”

Which response do you think is more likely to generate further progress?

The Loon isn’t innocent of the former response, goodness knows. Impatience and frustration build over time, eventually erupting—but that is an explanation, not an excuse. Now and then, particularly in cases of obvious hypocrisy, scorn is warranted and may even be salubrious. In all honesty, though, the Loon regrets several occasions when she’s let her irascible loonish nature loose, and she hereby vows to continue her efforts to check it.

Those who spit venom at every sign of progress should introspect about the damage they’re doing their own cause.

2 thoughts on “Framing incremental gains

  1. walt crawford

    Excellent post, and I suspect I’ve been guilty of the former as well.

    In a somewhat different environment, brings to mind my reaction when studying social network efforts by smaller libraries and advice on What You Must Do to be on a social network: The smaller ones generally failed the WYMD, but were clearly steps forward for their communities–thus being successes by the latter standard. (Which is how I described them–I’m *learning* to take the second approach.)

  2. Jenica

    brava. I’m more than a little tired of people who scornfully denounce small steps as Not Good Enough, when anyone on the ground knows that small steps are what it takes to get anywhere — sometimes you can take a big leap forward, but those moments are rare.