I am writing, writing, writing, reading, researching, writing about kindness and libraries as I finish my candidacy for my PhD.
(and procrastinating by blogging…)
I owe Fiona Bradley a few posts documenting my PhD admin, organising and coping process. She has been so generous documenting what she is doing, and I did say that I would share if she would… but if you want to see that kind of thing, do pop over to her site as she has some smart and useful ideas.
You may also want to check out the last couple of posts from the generous Rowena McGregor , who blogs as metta librarian. (Metta is the Buddhist concept of “loving kindness”, but also present in Hinduism and Jainism). She very nicely recounted there some of the ideas about kindness that she shared when we met in Brisbane at the start of the month, What is Kindness ?
One of my previous procrastination attempts involved creating this image, which is a riff of many similar ones on the web… I registered a domain name and set up a site, but am not 100% sure how public I will make it.
My current idea about kindness is that there are several elements, all of which need to be present for something to be considered “kindness”. Often when people discuss kindness they jump quickly to just one aspect and forget the others, resulting in a discussion of a strawman that is not kindness but a related concept. For example, if one does not know whether one’s action will ACTUALLY benefit the other person does it matter ? Is this still kindness, or merely charity? Is charity a subset of kindness or merely a cousin? And altruism? Compassion? Empathy? Philanthropy? Generousity? And …
Pre-empting any findings, before reading further, my current working definition is that kindness must involve all of the following elements. Dear Reader – am I missing anything?
- There is an identified actor (and beneficiary [at least a class of beneficiary])
- The actor intends benefit to the beneficiary
- Benefit to the actor may happen, but intention to benefit the other must be a larger consideration
- There is a power-relationship between the actor and beneficiary. At the time of action the actor has more power than the beneficiary. In an act of kindness, even the poorest person inviting the richest person to dine would, at the time of eating, be in control of the food resources.
- An act within the actor’s power is involved – either actively doing or withholding something
- The extent tends to be localised, small and personal.
- (How much does the actor need to know about whether the act will be effective? and how much does it ACTUALLY have to be effective?)
Like many PhD students, I discovered, when I looked closer, that what I thought was simple and straightfoward (a definition of kindness) is slippery, complex and seems almost unknowable. My original aim, to look at whether librarians and library students are motivated by kindness, has morphed a bit. I have backed up and will now look a little more at useful concepts, definitions, measurements that we can use in libraries when we discuss kindness. I *think* I am not the only one who finds kindness fuzzy but important, so my aim is to create a pathway to more kindness by removing a little of the fuzziness…
I am knee-deep in Zotero, Scrivener, SnagIt and my university library website. I have been reserving, downloading, searching, and requesting new works via document delivery and, very amused to request titles like Quantum Theory of Advertising and A discourse concerning kindness: Being a sermon preach’d in Boaston, on the Lord’s-Day, Febr. 28th. 1719,20. And now published, with some enlargement, at the impunity of many that heard it. And very, very grateful to work somewhere that has an entire unit of people devoted to making sure people like me can access the arcane and useful.
I have discovered that there is no print or online access for the university community to the full Oxford English Dictionary, and that I can instead get to this through the National Library of Australia’s e-Resources with my membership card. And that someone ( I suspect us as librarians) should be sent to a special circle of the Inferno because we accept and provide discovery layers where book reviews create so much noise that one cannot easily find a known item, even when searching on the exact title and author. (Something illustrated when I ploughed through review after review of the OED because I did not believe that it was not there, and became more and more frustrated at what seemed to be my rotten libraraining. How would a regular student have felt ?).
Dooming others to eternal damnation (maybe in the form of constantly being given a 10 minute deadline to locate a known work in a discovery layer full of book reviews, where the work is actually not stocked) is not a very kind wish, though :).
Anyhow, I only popped in here because I wanted to share this little 2 minute movie from the (rather enigmatic, “become a RAKtivist!”) Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. The rhetoric is rather close to something selling Snake Oil. But this is increasingly well-documented and explored Snake Oil … The Science of Kindness .