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Finding Courage to Take Risks in Life and Library

by on December 2, 2015

In late October, I had the pleasure of hearing Beck Tench present a program at the Illinois Library Association annual conference. The title of her talk was “Librarians In Space: How To Make Space, Find Courage and Take Risks in Your Life and Library.”

Tench gave a great talk, offering insights creating a culture of risk taking on both personal and professional levels.  I left with several take-aways.

  1. When it comes to taking risks, we can be our own worst enemies. This is not a new concept but Tench has an illuminating perspective.
  2. Small choices can lead to big things.
  3. Failure is learning.
  4. Courage and fear are companions.

The most fascinating part of Tench’s talk for me involved the vision I had for my library. For some time, I have been trying to explain to my staff what a culture of change looks like and how to be nimble on an organizational level. I have not yet been successful with conveying an intangible ideal as a vision. And here was Beck Tench, encapsulating what I am looking for at our library: failure! (Failure is learning!)

I was inspired to share her talk with my staff. So during my next monthly staff meeting, I showed a video of a version of the talk that she had posted online. I shared an example of a program that two staff members had tried for a year, recently deciding that it wasn’t working and to end it. We all applauded their beautiful failure. I encouraged everyone to bring ideas to their co-workers, department heads or me and we could discuss running with them.

One of my favorite things that Beck said was that fear is a companion to creativity. Imagine what could happen if we strive to embrace that on an organization level.


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