Future Ready with the Library: On the Value of Risk

This content was originally posted on the YALSA Future Ready with the Library Cohort Community of Practice and written by Hannah Buckland. The Future Ready with the Library project is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

the setup getting ready to hike photoOne of my personal goals is to visit all 50 states before turning 30. After working every single day from January 2 through March 17 (thank you, second job), I took a week off to address this ambition. Off-beat road trips are my favorite–last summer I drove south along the Mississippi River until the road ended; in December, I followed an amazing secondary highway from Sterling, North Dakota down into Nebraska to visit Bailey Yard; this summer, I’ll be in Wyoming, camping in a fire tower–so of course I drove away on March 18 with goals of solo-hiking a very small stretch of the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina (plus a bonus detour to South Carolina). I would be lying by omission if I didn’t say I was nervous: I spent my first mile of trail with pepper spray at-the-ready and came embarrassingly close to incapacitating a squirrel that ran out in front of me. But as this fear subsided, I soon found myself enjoying the risk of walking alone through an unfamiliar place.
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Back to School: Learning How to Fail

Someone asked me recently why it can be hard for libraries to change. She wondered why when her library wanted to try something it required a committee of people and a long process that in many cases meant by the time the something was ready to implement it was too late. I think about this construct a lot and have realized that a part of what is going on is a desire or need to make sure that a program or service is perfect before it launches to the public. When we strive for perfection in libraries we end up creating an environment that isn’t nimble or flexible or responsive to the community. And, as a result, we don’t move forward as quickly as we need.

The conversation where someone asked me about libraries and change led to this Tweet:


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30 Days of Innovation #21: Gaining Support

image courtesy of Flickr user H GruberOver the past couple of weeks as a part of the 30 Days of Innovation series I’ve written about the importance of embracing failure and the need to breed a culture of innovation in libraries. Last week I had some people ask me what happens when you understand the value of failure and innovative culture in the workplace, but your colleagues and administration do not? People wonder how they can feel safe in failure and get the innovative juices going when those around them aren’t supportive. Some ideas:

  • Ask Yourself Why: Why are your colleagues and/or administrators against innovative practices? Is it because they are scared of looking bad to others? Do they not know how to articulate the ideas of innovation so that they are understood by elected officials and other town administrators? Have they never really had a chance to understand what it takes to be innovative? Do they think that innovation means throwing out everything, even what works really well, and starting from scratch? Ask yourself where the barriers to innovation are and then find ways to break through them. For example, If fear is an issue then come up with low-risk innovative opportunities to get things going so that colleagues and administrators can gain a track record of innovative success. Then build from there. Continue reading

Jennifer & Linda Talk About Risk

This is a collaborative blog post written by a protege and mentor in YALSA’s mentoring program. Jennifer is the protege and Linda is the mentor. We’ve been working together over the past several months talking about how to effectively gain support for teen services and how to work with administration to let them know all about the great activities and work being done by teen librarians. This is our second post and the topic is risk in teen services.

Linda Provides a Risky Overview
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Dollars & Sense #30: A Chance to Take Risks

In February I wrote a YALSA blog post about how, during tough economic times, opportunities arise for trying out new ways of providing services to, and connecting with, teens. What if every library took to heart the idea that economic challenges are an opportunity to improve service and take chances? What if teen librarians started to say, “OK, lets start thinking completely differently – or at least a little bit differently – about what we do and how we do it? What if, as we struggle to make ends meet, we don’t just try to maintain but we try to rethink? What if, we don’t think small but actually think big?” It sounds risky, doesn’t it? But, maybe it’s the perfect time to be risky. Take a chance, walk with me on the edge for a few minutes: Continue reading

Banned Books Week: All About Risky Business

Celebrating Banned Books Week is all about risk-taking. By celebrating titles that have been, or might be, banned in a library, those working with teens are saying to the world, “Look, we have controversial books in the library and we are proud of it.” That’s quite a risk and it’s a risk that many teen librarians accept and value.

In this video, Connie Urquhart and Lisa Lindsay (Fresno County Public Library) talk about the risks they’ve taken in collection development and in teen services – Including risks that went really well and risks that weren’t as successful as was hoped.


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Risk in Teen Services – the Transcript

Last night YALSA’s monthly chat was on the topic of risk in teen services. A pdf file of the transcript is now available.

It was quite an invigorating discussion with a variety of risky topics covered including:

  • Risks of librarians friending teens on Facebook and other social networks
  • Differences that exist in risk-taking in school libraries and public libraries
  • Importance of having support in risk-taking in the workplace
  • Importance of being able to talk with others about risky situations, decisions, etc. Continue reading