Power Trips

Here’s some nightmare fuel for you from Finn Hoenke (age 10)

Over the weekend my family and I went to a local theater to see a musical. The show, the production, and our time together as a family were great. It’s nice to have such a great thing in our community. During our time there, we ran into two instances that my partner Haley said would turn into a great post about power trips. You know what I’m talking about when I say power trips, right? Here’s my definition: power trips are any moment in time where someone uses their position (in work, in life) to put some kind of power over another person. These power trips are usually small moments in time and grow out of a very human desire to have control.

We all crave some kind of control in our lives. Power trips happen and it’s ok…we are all guilty of these from time to time. What I am trying to get out of this post is to talk about power trips and to hopefully inspire you to recognize these power trips and push them aside in favor of instead putting something else into the world, something that is great and beautiful. I think if we can all recognize when we are power tripping we can take a step back, fix the moment, and instead use that energy for something good. This is our training!

In the case of our trip to the local theater, we had two examples of power trips. The first was at the intermission concession stand where in the 15 minute intermission most of the audience gathered to buy some candy. There was a long line and a time limit, and under those stressful constraints the workers at the concession stand workers barked at customers to hurry up so the line could move. The second was the person at the theater door, guarding the seating area to make sure that none of that intermission candy made it into the seating area. She dismissed everyone who didn’t try to sneak their candy in, informing them that they’d have to scarf it down before Act 2 began. In both cases, the employees/volunteers were rude and did not add to the experience in a positive way. Both were on power trips, determined to control their own little section of the universe for that moment in time without giving thought to the much larger picture. What should have happened was this: the concession stand workers should have been managed to practice patience and the seating area attendant should take a lax approach towards candy in the seating area during Act 2.

I bring all of this up because these interactions left me not wanting to come back to this theater despite it being a great local resource. I shouldn’t feel this way. I should support this great community resource, but instead because of two small power trips I am left not wanting to return. I think about how this applies to libraries….my library, your library, and every library out there…and I wonder how to cut back on power trips in libraries. We are all going through them. Heck, as you read this post you may be dealing with something like this in your library right now!

We need to focus more of our training on kindness and conduct ourselves day to day in a way that is positive, kind, and aware of the much larger picture. Power trips capture us in the moment and leave those involved in the power trip with a bad feeling. This is not a good thing, especially if you want people coming back to your library. How can we push the idea to the forefront of our brains that the most important thing to remember is the big picture, the fact that we want our libraries to be the centers of our community, and push away the need to have momentary power trips? I think there’s a much larger collective conscious shift that needs to happen, and this post is here to urge you to take a step back, recognize the larger goal, and to make that first step towards a collective conscious shift towards positivity. Librarians of the world, we can do this!


  1. “the seating area attendant should take a lax approach towards candy in the seating area during Act 2.”

    Maybe they’ve had extensive problems with noise/mess that harms others’ enjoyment of the theater. Those power trips might be for someone else’s sake. You can’t please everyone.

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