Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hope and Professional Conferences

I didn't go to the Virginia Library Association conference this year. I looked at the list of sessions, and I only saw one or two that applied to my work, so I decided not to go. But I have to say I regret it - not because I missed my chance to "Program like the Beatles," but because I missed my chance to step back from the day-to-day details and be inspired.

It's important to spend some time thinking about possibilities rather than restrictions. We work for the government, so there are a LOT of restrictions, and it's easy to let the environment get you down. Indeed, some of my coworkers come back from conferences feeling depressed: "We'll never be able to do that," they say. "We'd never be allowed." But other people come back energized, and full of ideas about what the library could be. Even though we can't necessarily carry out every idea right now, they're ready to work on intermediate steps, and to work towards their ideal library.

This is a difficult mindset to maintain, but I think it's incredibly important to try. The library will always have to work within the constraints of being a large organization, and part of the county government - that's just the reality. Does that mean we should give up on every making changes and improvements? Of course not. And an important step in making change is setting goals.

It's incredibly worthwhile to brainstorm and daydream, to think about what we could do if we could do anything. Unless we know where we are trying to go, how will we know which direction to start walking? Change may be slow but it is possible, and when someone says "What would you change?" it's important to have an answer.

So let's go to the VLA conference, let's get excited about what other libraries are doing, let's talk about the possibilities. It's the only way we'll ever make progress.

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