Life Lessons from R-Squared - Dream Big
Tuesday night, a group of us went to dinner to celebrate the success of R-Squared. We took some time to talk about what we learned and how the conference changed us.
One of the most profound things that I learned was the power of what a small, passionate group of people can accomplish. All of the R-Squared organizers have full-time jobs. Everyone has regular lives and are people just like you. We all feel so passionately about our vision for bringing innovative library professionals together that we knew this was something we had to do. To be straight - this group kicks ass.
Throughout the planning process - 19 months of day-long meetings, countless scribbles on white boards, cocktails and more spreadsheets than you can imagine - we weren't striving for perfection. We tried to focus on the content that we believed was most pertinent to where libraries need to be, and create a voice/brand that inspired people to join a revolution. The conference wasn't perfect. There were a few blips and some expectations weren't met. But that's okay. That's what taking big risks is all about. If you change one person's life, if you give at least one person the courage and hope to go back and take risks, think differently and inspire change, any imperfections or missed marks are irrelevant. We'll learn and grow from those too.
Another lesson for me personally was the importance of practicing what you preach. It was a huge risk for us to launch a national library conference. None of us had ever done anything like this before. And who knew? Would people come all the way to Telluride? Would the ideas we have translate? Would we pull it off? Would people just scoff and laugh?
In the same vein of practicing what you preach, I took a risk in bringing together a new team, some of whom I was meeting in person for the first time. Some of you may have met Meghan Rutigliano, regional network manager for Burningman. We met over the phone just a few months ago, and I asked her to come to R-Squared and be my right hand to see what we could learn from each other. She runs a leadership summit of Burningman organizers from all over the world, so I knew we could both learn a lot. But it was a risk bringing in someone from another industry, especially one as iconic as Burningman, that I had never met before to fill such a huge role. The risk was completely worth it - she worked hard, provided great insight and moral support, and I now have an amazing new friend and colleague. It was a risk bringing in a video crew all the way from New York, led by one of my oldest friends. Anyone who interacted with the team could tell they were committed to capturing the spirit of this conference. It was a risk going to Carl Wiedemann, web developer for Anythink, and ask him to work on the R-Squared website - in exchange for in-kind sponsorship - and come along on this journey with us. He fully committed and designed a beautiful website, and together with Chris Evjy, web manager at Jefferson County Public Library, created a dynamic, real-time experience for online visitors during the conference.
So, how did this conference change me?
I'm sure I'll go back to Anythink next week, back to my little apartment and my cat and my neighborhood in Denver and fall back into normal life again. I'll tackle the projects that have backed up over the past few months, the emails that I haven't yet gotten to, and the phone calls I need to return. I'll still be the goofy gal I've always been. But R-Squared has changed me. I know now more than ever that anything is possible. That I can push myself farther than I ever imagined. That you can affect change on a large scale with just a small group of passionate folks. That being open - not controlling every detail and letting things happen organically - allows magic to happen. That trusting other people and working as a team allows everyone to shine and rise to the occasion.
I think I can say with confidence we all have our own lessons learned from R-Squared. Some of us it may have been a turning point, some of us not. What we do know is that we're all in this together. We have a support system of risk takers now that believe in the power of libraries and the importance of taking risks to remain relevant. We have a group of creative people that are ready and willing to inspire creativity in our staff, our organizations, our communities. We have a group ready to take on the challenge of reinventing library services and shifting perceptions of libraries in our communities. Now the hard work begins, but we're not in it alone.
I encourage you to keep in touch with the friends you've made, reach out to one another for support as we embark on the next chapter of our journey to revolutionize libraries and change the world.