Learning creative thinking on the road

26 Dec

I once went on a course to learn how to be a creative thinker. A scenario was produced. There is a library in a small town in the US. Suddenly these “latch key” kids start using the library as an informal after school club. They make lots of noise. They throw things around. They don’t want to sit quietly and read books. They create hayhem in the library. This annoys the older users of the library who were used to a peaceful, calm environment where they could sit and use the library facilities for quiet reading. The librarian does not know what to do.

Her first reaction is to ask the kids to leave after all this is a library not a free child minding service. That was the approach I thought appropriate. Why should a few kids whose parents don’t want to pay for child minding ruin the whole atmosphere of the library? The lecturer went around the room. Some folk came up with interesting ideas like creating a space for the kids with computers and stuff so they could use the library but not annoy the older users. Someone even said to sack the librarian as she was not embracing this “change” in her library.

The whole “creative thinking” came down to looking at the mission of the library and the “right” answer was that the library was a place for everyone to learn not necessarily by reading books. So, that said, the librarian should create a space for the kids and embrace them within the learning space of the library. Of course, this seemed to me ridiculous. Have the library ruined by a bunch of kids…I just wasn’t a creative thinker…

But then I started travelling and arrived in Pahiha, New Zealand. Now in New Zealand the libraries offer free internet and free wifi for all which is very attractive to travellers in a country where the internet is extremely expensive, extremely limited and not seen as a human right as it is in other parts of the world.

The library in Pahiha is no exception to this.

But the librarian is not quite there in embracing this.

She doesn’t want all these smelly, strange sounding, dreadlocked travellers in her library. So, she tries to rid the place of them by imposing ridiculous rules like no more than one computer on a table (the tables could hold at least two), no charging a computer unless it’s on a table (meaning travellers use one of the desk computers rather than their own if the battery is running low), signing in every half hour (explaining that internet is a privilege not a right).

She even tries to send the travellers outside where they can’t see their screens in the blinding sunlight and get burned while wifing and skyping their mates. Use of skype in the library is much frowned upon. If these guys want to chat to their families they can surely stay at home so they can do that in person? All of this is, of course, annoying to the older users of the library who want a place of quiet contemplation and reading.

One of these horrid, smelly travellers even asked her to borrow a pen one day. She happily explained that there was a shop nearby where a pen could be purchased and would thus be available for the traveller to use at all times.

But why doesn’t she think of creating a space for these travellers?

A room where they could lounge around wearing strange headsets speaking in their foreign tongues to their long lost families. You could even introduce a coffee machine and a book exchange so they could learn while on their journey. You could leave a few lonely planets lying around for them to peruse while they are updating their facebook statuses. You could put this room away from the main space of the library so it’s not so disruptive for the older users of the library who want to come and relax, read papers and read books. But all of that would involve a creative thinker.  Not someone who just wants to ban the travellers from the library as they’re a bit annoying.  Wait a minute…I came up with those creative ideas for the travellers to use the library.  Hang on..that creative thinker…it’s me!

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One Response to “Learning creative thinking on the road”

  1. Gus and Eileen Paterson January 30, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    Sorry Angie you seem to have had a really bad experience in New Zealand, maybe that is the difference between a visitor and a traveller, we have a preconceived vision of them and a traveller is trouble while a visitor is welcome, it is the same here, if we see a ‘traveller’ we…..no we don’t we make them feel welcome and help them as much as we can, so you are correct about New Zealand. It is a pity you never got a chance to visit Christine, I am sure you would have enjoyed your time with her, but then you do want to see the places you visit rather than sit in a house and fall in to what ever these people are doing, that is what travelling is all about, if you wanted to stay in a house all day you would have stayed at home!!
    We understand you are now in Melbourne, we only visited the airport there on three separate occasions so we can hardly say we have been there. We stayed in Adelaide for 14 day’s = Eileen’s sister Joyce stay’s there you could visi…………no we won’t go there again.
    You take care Angie, lots of love from Eileen and Gus xx

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