Text of Pam's Closing Remarks
Pam Sandlian Smith delivered R-Squared's closing remarks on the afternoon of September 11th, 2012.
In many ways this conference has been larger than life and I would like to introduce my larger than life dog, Buddy Einstein Doodle. In some ways he is a mythological creature, a hero of sorts. When we are walking, sometimes people ask, “Is that a dog or a polar bear?” I secretly like the idea of having my own polar bear. He displays a sense of quiet courage and when we are taking walks to the park, other dogs feel threatened by him, but he calmly walks by with his eye on the path ahead. As we return home, we may experience some of those yappy dogs, but we must remember to keep our eye on the path, we can’t be distracted from our goal.
I am Pam Sandlian Smith, Library Director of Anythink and it is my pleasure to bring these two days to a close. I would like to thank all of you for being part of this experience. I’d like to thank our speakers and our sponsors for supporting R-Squared. You all have become risk takers as part of this conference. Recently, I was flying to Seattle and I had a conversation with a gentleman who worked for the Bureau of Land Management. He is in charge of the fleet of planes that manages wild fires. Previously, he was a smokejumper for twenty years. He said, “Smoke jumping is a very risky business, but if you practice, if you know what you are doing and take calculated risks, it isn’t really risky. It is easy to be successful. Smoke jumping is risky, but it is safe if you have a plan. I loved those years as a smoke jumper.” When he was ready to depart, he retrieved his back-pack where he had a fly fishing pole he was planning to use on his trip. I looked at him and said, “Risk and reward, pointing to the fishing pole.”
Over the last days, you have taken many risks and challenges. That is what this conference is about, practicing risk and honing our creative skills. As we learn how to take calculated risks, just like the smokejumper, we can gain the courage necessary to be successful. The challenges that we have encountered at R-Squared will feel minimal compared to the challenges that we face when we return to our workplaces. We are gathered here with a network of friends and risk-takers, but we may feel isolated when we get back home. My favorite vitamin up until now is vitamin C, but I think we now have a new vitamin, R2. When you need a dose of inspiration and courage, remember this experience and have a dose of R2 for inspiration.
A number of years ago, I had the privilege of listening to John Creighton, one of the speakers in the Abundant Community track. John talked about research conducted in the 90’s by the Pew Trust for the American Society of Newspaper Editors. One revealing piece of research from this study projected that the printed page would no longer be the preferred method of gathering news. People wanted more interactive and social networking capabilities connected with their news. The newspaper editors discounted these findings, noting that people would always prefer the printed page as their primary source of news.
Now we all know that libraries are in a similar situation with the transition to digital media. And we know that we have to adapt, to make changes to get ahead of this curve. We have to take some big risks to combat that sense of becoming irrelevant or redundant. Libraries are too important to a democratic society to let them go the way of dinosaurs, to fail like so many newspapers. It is up to us to lead this charge. Josh Linkner talked about creativity being a critical skill. Libraries can be places of ideas, thinking and innovation. The American character has always been creative, innovative and entrepreneurial. Somehow we have gone astray, but wouldn’t it be great for libraries to be the leaders in encouraging creativity and innovation in our community.
In many ways this conference has referenced Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces. You all are hero’s and risk takers in your own way. The hero starts the journey in the ordinary world. He receives a call to enter an unusual world, a call to adventure. You all have answered the call that brought you to R-Squared. You have faced the tasks and challenges, some you have faced alone and you have been assisted by others as you faced some challenges. You have survived this challenge and discovered a piece of important self-discovery.
Now we must return to the ordinary world, facing even greater challenges. You have earned a gift that can be used to improve our world, our libraries as you return to your work. It is our responsibility to take the risks to insure the success of our libraries.
I would like to call all of the members of the organizing team to the stage. On your table everyone has a stack of small cards, a manifesto. This is our parting gift to you, another piece of inspiration to take home to give you a sense of comfort and inspiration when you need a boost. I would like everyone to stand and read this together:
You are not
just an employee,
volunteer or board member.
You do not merely catalog books,
organize periodicals and manage resources.
You are the gateway into the mind of
the idea people who come to our
facilities to find or fuel a spark.
It is your calling to trespass into the unknown
and come back with a concrete piece someone can hold
onto, turn over, and use to fuel their mind and soul.