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I learned something of real value during the keynote address from John Cleese at Content Marketing World which I want to share with you. It’s a concept which profoundly changed me,  the way I view my work, and the way I live my life.

The man who co-founded the comedy troupe that produced the Monty Python films stood in front of 3500 content marketers–people who live for deadlines, who churn out content, who dream about metrics and measurement–and told us we need to spend more time in quiet reflection.

The idea of setting aside time to think–to consider what is to be done, how it will done, how it can be done more creatively–is an entirely foreign concept to me. I’m a former journalist. Journalists are trained to move fast. We type fast. We talk fast. We eat fast. When I worked in a newsroom, we never got a day to just be creative, to sit and think about story ideas and topics. There is no rest. So when I jumped into the library world, it was like I’d been in a race car for 20 years and then suddenly, someone slammed on the brakes.

But many librarians feels like they’ve been caught in the rat race too. The demand for quick service from customers means a job at the library reference desk is a demanding loop of answering calls, texts, and emails, manning the drive-thru and the holds desk. It’s non-stop. And at many libraries, the marketing department is made up of librarians who also have other duties. It can feel like there’s never any time to breathe.

John Cleese addresses Content Marketing World
John Cleese addresses Content Marketing World

But John Cleese says true creativity–the kind that adds value to your workplace and your life– is something that needs to be treasured and cultivated. Creative people play more and take longer to make up their minds about things–which is a good thing! If you want your library to succeed, you need to schedule time to be creative. The biggest threats to your library’s content marketing are…

Doing too much.

Not thinking enough.

Forgetting to be creative.

Cleese has two specific pieces of advice for those of us who have a hard time slowing down and being creative.

  1. Schedule time to get away from your work and create a physical space where you can go to think without being bothered.
  2. Write down every idea you get, no matter where you are or how weird the idea. You never know when an idea is going to come to fruition. Keep your mind open.  20 years down the road, the creative idea you come up with today might suddenly become practical and applicable. There are no bad ideas… only ideas whose time hasn’t come yet.

If you need to convince your boss of the value of creativity in the library, show him or her this blog post. I’ll be happy to make the argument for you.


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