Wisdom Snacks

picture of lollies“Wisdom snacks” is what I call those little bits of information which appear suddenly in front of us, and lead to spontaneous insight or knowledge creation. They sometimes take us by surprise, they always pack a punch, and they inevitably add something to us.

These are not simply FYIs, updates, instructions, ads or alerts. They are triggers, arguments, propositions, thoughts and creative expressions. They ‘dig deep’ and enhance us in some way. They expand or refine our perspectives. They take us somewhere and help us grow.

A tweet can be a wisdom snack. So too can those brief quotes people sometimes add beneath their email signatures. A friend of mine used to write a single poetic sentence on several small cards, and wedge them individually into the inside grooves of various bus and train windows. On the back of the card he wrote “you’ve been poeted!”. This, is a sublime example of a wisdom snack.

Wisdom snacks are perfect tools for librarians who, like me, feel a personal responsibility to engage with the collective insight and existential qualities of their patron community. I did not enter the library profession simply to ‘do a day job’. I actually want to make a difference! Wisdom snacks provide a direct means of:

  • Strengthening outreach efforts;
  • Reader development;
  • Edu-tainment;
  • Enriching social culture;
  • Advocating and publicising ideas that benefit individuals;
  • Communicating in a personal way;
  • Making contact in a non-forceful, obligation-free way;
  • Broadcasting the furtherest reaches of the library’s resources.

Many more dot points could be included here, but you get the idea.

Suggested Wisdom Snacks

Some examples that come to mind for libraries:

  • Post-it note reviews stuck on novels (by staff).
  • Inspirational quotes chalked onto a blackboard wall (by patrons)
  • Insightful facts, such as a note near a computer: “In 2000, only 37% of Australian households accessed the Internet at home. In 2013 the figure rose to 83%. What must it be now, in 2015?”.
  • Notice board with newspaper cut-outs of political cartoons.
  • Tweets!
  • Insightful comments on the homepage
  • Artistic posters which illustrate a point of view or a life foreign to most people in your community.

Digital wisdom snacks

The beauty of the electronic format is, of course, its multidimensional capacity. You have scope for animations, links, downloads and so on.
Physical formats can be made to include digital content through the use of QR tags and augmented reality.

Turning a smartphone off at the end of a busy day can, at times, be a very deliberate choice! Nevertheless, copious research suggests we do seem to like the intrusion of interesting little tid bits from time to time.

Social media and email is a great platform through which wisdom snacks may be dished out, so long as you:
– Don’t over-do it;
– Don’t contact people if they have not agreed to receive such communications (e.g. a tickbox in your library membership form);
– Always offer an ‘opt out’ option (at the end of each message) for communications that are not ‘business-as-usual’.


Image source: “Old Fashioned British Sweets From Your Childhood” by Paul Townsend, used under Creative Commons 2.0Original image resized. View original image here: https://flic.kr/p/8MCUGP