In the late 1970s I was primarily guiding on the Stanislaus River — the famous “Camp Nine” stretch. This was nine miles of some of the best Class III whitewater in the state, if not the nation. At one point it winds past a nearly 1,000 foot cliff of gray-green limestone rock. Oak and madrone trees dot the river bank amidst dry grass, manzanita and poison oak. Sandy beaches and great campsites were plentiful, and a creek three miles down from put-in provided an excellent swimming and lunch location.
This was all before it was dammed and flooded by a reservoir, which is another story. Read this book if you’re interested.
When you learn to be a river guide you learn that the two biggest things to avoid are flipping the boat (turning it upside and dumping everyone in the water) and “wrapping” the boat. In a “wrap”, the boat literally wraps itself around a rock and is trapped there by the downstream water pressure.
On this stretch is a rapid called WidowMaker. The entrance to the rapid sends you directly toward a huge boulder that you must miss. You can always go left of this rock, but at the right water level there is a really sweet little channel to the right. If you hit this right, the boat slides between the boulder and a rock wall on shore and it really impresses the passengers. However, there must be enough water or else you could get lodged there.
The problem is that you can’t get a good look at the channel until you drop into the rapid, which means you must decide right away whether you are going to take the channel to the right or not. As an inexperienced guide in my first season I made the mistake of hesitating. The result was that the boat came up sideways against the rock and was wrapped (see photo).
That day I learned the important lesson that doing nothing can be a decision. Also that sometimes it really doesn’t matter what you decide so long as you decide and act.
So let’s bring this around to libraries. Although most of our decisions are not of the variety I describe above, it is still possible to delay a decision until it is too late to matter. Also, if you’re agonizing over a choice between two decent alternatives, perhaps you shouldn’t be agonizing at all. The important thing might be to just get on with it. For some decisions at least, forging ahead can be a lot more effective than wasting time considering trivial differences between paths.