Zen Librarian Video Koan #1
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Tags: zenlibrarian koan
Added: 6 years ago
["The Zen Librarian Video Koan 1" appears on screen, then cut to a brick wall as the camera slowly pans across it]
ANNOUNCER: [in voice over] The Zen Librarian searched for nothing on the web, and got four hundred ninety eight million one hundred eighty three thousand seven hundred twenty four hits.
["www dot laughinglibrarian dot com" appears on screen]
["Copyright 2006 Brian Smith, CC license by-nc-sa" appears on screen]
According to Meditating with Koans, by J.C. Cleary (this is a real book; look it up), koans are ancient stories and sayings used in some Zen schools and were "designed to interact with the learner's mind and assist in the unlocking of the inherent human potential for enlightened awareness." Whatever that means, it sounds like these koan thingies could be useful for our professional development, especially if new ones were written to be directly relevant to our work environment. (The application of Zen principles to librarianship isn't a completely new idea; see Terry Ballard's Zen in the Art of Troubleshooting.)
The Librarian of Congress paraphrased, though without proper attribution, one of our koans ("The Zen Librarian searched for nothing on AltaVista and received 27,987,384 hits.") in a speech made to IFLA in 2001. So, we figure we must be onto something:
* A curious visitor asked, "What is the most valuable book in your library?" The Zen Librarian answered, "The urine-stained copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull which is on its way to the Dumpster."
* One morning, just as the library opened, the Zen Librarian sat on the photocopier and ate a burrito.
* A student asked the Zen Librarian for help finding books and articles about the tobacco lobby. The Zen Librarian scribbled a picture of a horn on a Post-It and slapped it onto the student's forehead.
* A patron called the reference desk. "How many ibuprofen tablets do I have in my medicine cabinet?" she asked. The Zen Librarian was humbled and thanked her for her teaching.
* As he walked into the building, the Zen Librarian noticed three skateboarders doing stunts on the library stairs and handrail. "They ought to be catalogers," the Zen Librarian said to himself.
* A young patron approached the Zen Librarian and asked, "What is the formula for the volume of a cylinder?" The Zen Librarian answered, "Please get me a cup of coffee."
* One afternoon, a novice librarian asked the Zen Librarian for advice about preparing a budget. "Have you eaten lunch?" asked the Zen Librarian.
"Yes, I have," answered the novice.
"Have you washed your dishes?" asked the Zen Librarian this time.
The novice was enlightened.
* The Zen Librarian used a Palm stylus to mark the reference desk statistics sheet.
* The Zen Librarian had a habit of pointing a finger at the shelves when directing a patron to a book. One day, a boy walked around the library, mockingly pointing a finger this way and that. Upon seeing this insolent behavior, the Zen Librarian retrieved the PDR from the reference shelves and slammed it shut on the boy's finger. The boy immediately found enlightenment.
* The Zen Librarian meditated for ten years on this question: What is the plot of a self-help book which has no pages or words?
* A patron asked the Zen Librarian to look on MapQuest to see whether a pick-your-own apple orchard was north or south of the interstate. The Zen Librarian answered, "Although people make distinctions between north and south, in buddha-nature and on the Web south and north do not exist."
* A circulation clerk told the Zen Librarian that a patron needed assistance. The Zen Librarian scolded the clerk, saying, "How dare you refer to a client as a patron!"
The next day, the same person entered the library, and the clerk told the Zen Librarian that a client needed assistance. This time, the Zen Librarian rebuked the clerk, "How dare you refer to a patron as a client!"
* The Zen Librarian said, "Reference service is like a man hanging from a rope by his teeth over a cliff, with his hands bound to his sides and feet resting on no ledge, and another person asks him for books about Enrico Fermi for a child's school assignment."
* A patron asked the Zen Librarian, "Without speech, without silence, will you please tell me where I can find books about keeping turtles as pets?" The Zen Librarian continued to scan the reviews in the latest LJ .
* The Zen Librarian asked, "The Web is world-wide, so why do you clap your hands?"
* A high-school student asked the Zen Librarian for the Cliffs Notes to The Scarlet Letter . The Zen Librarian opened a drawer full of eggs and said, "This is where your research begins."
* As a woman checked out some books on her library card, the Zen Librarian asked, "Why doesn't she have a library card?"
* While downloading some MARC records, the Zen Librarian remarked, "It is. It is not."
* While leading a book discussion, the Zen Librarian commented that one of the characters felt trapped as a stereotype in the novel.
"You can't say that," a member of the group said. "You can't see into the character's mind."
"And you are able to see into my mind to know what I can and cannot see?" replied the Zen Librarian.
* The Zen Librarian appeared to be ill. The department head said, "How are you feeling? You don't look well; maybe you should go home." The Zen Librarian answered, "Reading audiobooks."
* When asked, "What is a library?" the Zen Librarian replied, "A shitty toilet brush."
* The Zen Librarian noted, "How the library is like a walnut tree!"
* Two patrons greeted the Zen Librarian. The first asked, "Where are your videos?" The Zen Librarian answered, "Your request does not have the Buddha nature." The second patron asked, "Where are your videos?" The Zen Librarian answered, "Your request has the Buddha nature," and directed the patron to the A-V room.
* A child approached the Zen Librarian. "I need a book about Egyptian mummies," the child said. The Zen Librarian replied, "My dog also has no teeth."
* One morning, the Zen Librarian walked through the reading room and toppled all the chairs backward onto the floor.
* A patron approached the Zen Librarian and asked to reserve the latest Danielle Steel book. The Zen Librarian offered the patron a bowl filled with sand, and the patron walked away, confused. "That patron has just taken the first step on a circular path," the Zen Librarian commented.
* A woman asked the Zen Librarian where to find a book with a certain call number. The Zen Librarian directed her to a shelf where she should look. She returned to the Zen Librarian and said, "There is nothing on that shelf but a pile of stones. Where may I find that book?" The Zen Librarian told her to look on the same shelf as before.
The woman went to the shelf again, and she returned with a large stone, which she dropped on the Zen Librarian's foot. He bowed and retrieved the book for her.
When the book was returned after being checked out, it was a week overdue. The Zen Librarian picked up a stone, dropped it on his foot, and handed the book to a clerk.
* "What is knowledge?" the student intern asked the Zen Librarian. "The photographs which are not in the Wall Street Journal ," answered the Zen Librarian.
* While seeking a book in the stacks, the Zen Librarian discovered a turd on one shelf. "This should be in the vertical file," the Zen Librarian remarked.
* A patron asked the Zen Librarian if the library had any books with maps of stars and constellations. The Zen Librarian picked up Webster's Third , hit the patron in the head with it, and said: "You have your answer. Now you need to find your true question."
* As a student in library school, the future Zen Librarian witnessed an argument between a professor and another student. The other student said that Internet access in public libraries should be filtered, and the professor said that unrestricted access should be provided. "The mind needs to be filtered," the future Zen Librarian said to the other student. "The mind needs to be unrestricted," the future Zen Librarian said to the professor. The professor and student were both amazed.
* The Zen Librarian answered a reference call on the telephone. "When was Herbert Hoover born?" the patron asked. The Zen Librarian looked up the answer in Facts About the Presidents and replied, "A bowl of soup."
* When asked how one finds the true path to the photocopier, the Zen Librarian replied, "A copy of The Bridges of Madison County is overdue."
* The Zen Librarian searched for nothing on AltaVista and received 27,987,384 hits.