Ichigo-ichie: Once-in-a-lifetime Meeting

Whenever I meet with a patron or visitor to the library, I take my time. I focus on imagining I have all the time in the world to meet with this individual. I turn off my computer screen, turn to my visitor, and listen. In reality I don’t have much time. I know that this one person and this one moment are important. To be distracted, to watch the clock, and send them on their way isn’t exactly the best way to build relationships in libraries. So I slow down and give what time and attention I have.

I recently ran across a wonderful term: ichigo-ichie. From the Japanese tea tradition, it means once-in-a-lifetime meeting. To treat every interaction as a special moment–something rare–makes sense. It reminds me of I and Thou by Martin Buber who writes that interacting with others makes it possible for something powerful and even sacred to happen.

At the end of our conversation, I often tell patrons that I wish I had more time–which I do–and that I hope they will let me know how things go with their projects, their library experience, and their lives. I hope that the next time I see this visitor I get to hear about their next chapter and that I can help them with questions or problems.