Future orientation, Sarah Palin (what?) and big orgs thinking like small orgs. Pam Nissler is executive director of Jefferson County Public Library in Colorado.
During the terrific R2 pre-conference party last night, I had the opportunity to talk to the young woman on the horse pictured above. My colleague, Jenny Levine, and I asked her how she liked Telluride and her job in general. "How could I not love it?" she asked back, gesturing to the horse she rode. "This is my office."
What she said struck me first as sweet, and suddenly as relevant to our R2 experience. "That's your first blog post," Jenny joked. Yeah, she was totally right.
Here's the thing: How many people you know have the opportunity to do a job they really believe in? How many people have the opportunity to take a time honored public tradition like a library, and make it relevant and vital for a new world? When things get tough or frustrating for libraries, it is easy to internalize the pain of slashed budgets and grumble about negative detractors. It is harder to remember that we are at the forefront of a real movement - we have the ability to make ourselves necessary in totally new and exciting ways. Being surrounded by library change agents as we learn from those outside our industry, this is what the R-Squared experience is all about.
Everywhere I turn at this conference, someone is challenging my assumptions, or inspiring me with her passion about a new idea and how it could work in her community. I am only four hours in to R-Squared, and I know that I will return to the place that I work ready to enact change and support innovation. I am a librarian because I love being a librarian. I believe what I am doing matters to my community. I will fight to make it better, stronger, and tougher.
I am going to make my whole community my office. And I am going to love doing it.
Only 2% of seniors graduating high school today feel as though they are creative. Unfortunately, I see this everyday and it doesn't need to be that way! Every student in my high school is creative! I see it I the way they interact with each other the fun ideas they come up with for homecoming or to ask each other to dances! Each one of them has an amazing amount of potential...they just don't know it! Why? Are they too afraid of giving a wrong answer or doing an assignment wrong? Is it just easier to do things the way that they have always been done? Maybe they aren't encouraged to explore their creativity enough; to practice and become more comfortable with it. Today's schools seem specifically designed to stifle creativity and for me, I took this morning's session as a personal challenge. How can the school library, my school library, become instrumental in promoting creativity in the classroom and beyond?
This morning I was inspired and impressed with all the creative juices flowing around me. A room full of people who have been waiting for permission to play! Willing to brainstorm, roleplay, debate and discuss. Sharing ideas is a risk and everyone was willing to take it! The question behind most library conferences is "What will the future bring?" But this conference is asking us something slightly different. This conference asks us instead "What will we bring to the future?" One is passive, one is active. Proactive even! One puts us in the victim role and the other sets us free! Masters of our own destiny, to imagine things not as they are now, but as they could be. Why is this important? Because it helps us to know where we want to go and hopefully we will walk out of here with tools and techniques to make it happen. I love that my favorite thing out of this conference so far was not an answer but a series of questions. Why? Why not? What if? Foster your curiosity and use these questions to dig deeper into problems and solutions. It can keep you from making assumptions, stop you from limiting yourself. Imaginary boundaries can hold you back as effectively as real ones. Asking these questions can help break those boundaries down. So give it a try! Why not?
Here are the final tallies from Karen Perry's live audience polling during her introductory session this morning. Anything surpising to you? Tell us in the comments...
|Where are you from?|
|West of the Mississippi||73||30.40%|
|East of the Mississippi||73||30.40%|
|Outside of the US||3||1.30%|
|Will we see more reading on paper or pixels?|
|Paper - books||51||20.20%|
|Pixels - screens||201||79.80%|
|Will we see more desktop or more mobile devices?|
|Will we see more requests for job information or for health information?|
|Will we be most needed to help people consumer consumer or create content?|
|Will our greatest value be our physical presence or our virtual presence?|
|What one thing can we do to accelerate learning and transformation in our libraries?|
Kicked off the conference with a hike up to and above Bridal Veil Falls with the incomparable Matt Hamilton.
In the spirit of risk and getting uncomfortable, it was most necessary to delve into the depths of the cave Matt spied up on the mountainside. We didn't meet any wolverines, and it was a hoot and a holler to see just how far back that cavern went. It was a great beginning to an experience I've been looking forward to for a year now. We're here now! Enjoy the R-Squared ride!
Pam Sandlian Smith is director of Anythink Libraries and is a member of the R-Squared Planning Team.
This weekend, library professionals coast to coast will trek to one of the most beautiful locales in the country to talk about innovation in libraries. Telluride, Colo., the location of R-Squared – The Risk & Reward Conference, is not the easiest place to get to. Even for those living in the Denver area, it’s an eight-hour drive. Yet hundreds of people from places as far as New Hampshire, Alabama, Oregon and even Canada are making their way to Telluride, drawn by the promise of connecting with other risk-takers and tackling big ideas with a fresh, creative perspective.
Ann-Louise Larrson has one of the farthest treks. An academic librarian from Linnaeus University Library in Växjö, Sweden, Larrson hopes to find ideas on how to attract new students and “make them feel that our instruction sessions are helpful for them,” she says. Part of what made R-Squared so appealing to her is the fact that the speakers aren’t librarians but hail from industries like retail, marketing, architecture and technology. “As librarians, we definitely need new ideas from other sectors.”
She admits it wasn’t only R-Squared that inspired her trip stateside. Larrson is the first to participate in a two-week staff exchange program between her own Linnaeus University Library and Auraria Library at the University of Colorado at Denver.
Mary Somerville, director of the Auraria Library, taught as a Fulbright Scholar at the Swedish School of Library and Information Science, where Larrson was her student. Somerville has “organizational transformation aspirations,” she says, one thing that she and Linnaeus University Library Director Catta Torhell have in common.
Together they initiated a library staff exchange, “to encourage exposure to new workplace perspectives,” says Somerville.
When Torhell traveled to Denver to discuss the logistics of the staff exchange program, Somerville arranged a meeting with some of the areas “thinkers and do-ers,” including Pam Sandlian Smith, director of Anythink Libraries, and Denver architect Dennis Humphries. Both are involved in the launch of R-Squared and spoke of their plans for the conference. Torhell and Somerville decided to take advantage of this unique experience and schedule Larrson’s trip during R-Squared.
Kiersten Allen, director of Louisburg Public Library in Louisburg, Kan., first heard about R-Squared at this year’s PLA conference in Philadelphia. After attending a “ConverStation” about R-Squared, she and her colleague went back to their hotel to brainstorm ideas.
“We were in a library funk,” says Allen. After a losing bond initiative in 2008, she says they had no idea of the extent of the damage done. Staff was uninspired; everyone seemed satisfied with the status quo.
“Sometimes you hear things when you’re ready to hear them,” she says, and learning about R-Squared was one of those moments. She knew she had to get her team to Telluride any way she could. She also knew sending only one person wouldn’t be enough. “If several people experience the same thing, the validation is there,” she says, and there are more opportunities to make long-lasting change.
When they saw there were scholarship opportunities, “it was like Winnie the Pooh’s black cloud had been lifted.” Her staff immediately started working together on their submission. The atmosphere at the library began to change.
Allen says it had been a long time since they had “the fire, the drive” to explore new ideas, and R-Squared is already inspiring that.
Their enthusiasm has touched their community as well. A library customer heard about the conference, and that staff was driving all the way to Telluride from Louisburg, and made an anonymous donation to cover the funds to fly.
It’s yet to be seen whether R-Squared will live up to Allen’s expectations – and those of the other 350 attendees traveling to Telluride. Allen says she’s not looking for other librarians to commiserate with about the trials and tribulations of the industry.
“And I don’t want to jump into someone else’s boat, nor do I want anyone to jump into mine,” she says. “I want to work together to build a whole new boat.
“Twenty-five years from now, library schools will look back at R-Squared 2012 as a turning point for libraries,” she says.