At R-Squared — The Risk & Reward Conference, learn to take smart risks
to move libraries forward.

R-Squared resources

As I sign off tonight and head back home tomorrow, I realize that of all the amazing things I've learned during this conference the most powerful of all is this: I am not alone. Today at the close of the conference I sat in a room filled with people who are committed to keeping librarianship relevant and revitalized. That is what inspires me most, to know that so many people are looking into the future and are leaving this conference ready to try to new things and change the world. I feel like we are in it together. Go forth and conquer, and best of luck! It was an honor to take the risk with you! 

Day 2 - and the final day of R-Squared - I am stunned to see it end, but energized to take it all back to Pueblo!  The day began with a rousing and provocative session on creativity - and using it in a thoughtful and structured way to bring ideas out that will benefit customers and libraries.  Customer Curiosity gave us a planning format to explore a specific idea - how to plan Banned Books Week - and then a short amount of time to accomplish it.  The ideas that came out were incredibly "outside-the-box" and completely do-able.  Shut down Wi-Fi...allow customers to ban books for a week...arrest teachers...etc.  Though these ideas sound like a crazy way for a library to create awareness about an important issue...the fact is they would do just that - create awareness - and begin a conversation with a customer.  An astounding amount of work came out of that session...and I think we all left with ideas rolling around in our brains - and the inspiration to work with our staff to do more!

Our afternoon Idea Jam was fun and fabulous.  More great tools to engage staff in creative planning and outside-the-box thinking.  Some libraries are already doing thinking outside the box and their knowledge and experience will create models for other libraries.  Passwords instead of library card #s for access?  Letting customers take iPads home?  Shifting budgets away from material security and into resources?  Unthinkable!  Yet - it's being done and is only the tip of the iceburg.

Then we leave with the message of I AM - Tom Shadyac's film.  The idea that humanity and society is all interconnected with nature and the world around us in so many ways.  We are not solitary...and in fact thrive in community.  Our communities thrive when we invest (time, money, energy, creativity, compassion, etc) in constant improvement - and we all benefit from that result.   All of these ideas speak to our personal and professional missions. 

This conference has been transformational for me personally and professionally - and I know I'm not the only one.  I know that planning this conference has used so many resources - but I am so grateful for the opportunity to explore these ideas.  Thank you!

Wordle: R-Squared2 I thought it would be fun to put together a Wordle image based on my copious notes and conversations I overhead throughout the conference. What words would you add?

Sources of inspiration and presenters from outside the profession.  Patrick Sweeney is Branch Manager of the East Palo Alto Library in California.


Thank you all so much for attending R-Squared - The Risk and Reward Conference 2012.

Today isn't the end. It's the beginning of new conversations and a new community that will continue to connect and share.

R-Squared was developed by people just like you, who came together and started a conversation. As attendees, your ideas, your participation, and your feedback are part of this conversation.

We'd like to learn a few things about what you've discovered here at R-Squared, so please  take the conference evalutation survey: We'd love to hear what you think, both the good and the bad, to learn from our own risks we took here.

We've had a lot of fun. Thank you again for your enthusiasm and participation that made this conference a great reward for all involved.

So I was heading for a quiet spot to type up my blog post, when I was wonderfully waylayed by the amazing Andrea Davis to check out the Itinerant Poetry Library (TIPL, Sara Wingate Grey (@librarian), The Librarian, was skyping with R2 folk from the UK on a couch right outside the bathrooms.

To quote their site, TIPL "The Itinerant Poetry Librarian has been traveling the world with a free public library, installing the library & librarian and archiving the sounds! poems & poetry of the cities, peoples and countries she meets."

I thought I was headed to write a blog post about my morning session on the Customer Curiosity track, but I knew it was time for me to sit down on the couch and skype with The Librarian. After all, this conference isn't about doing what you're supposed to do, it's about doing the unexpected, increasing connection, being curious. 

The Librarian reflected on her travels across North America, sharing poetry with all who would listen. She  said she often had to rely on faith to make it happen, but a place to stay or a ride always came through when she needed it. 

I asked The Librarian to share a story from her travels when she experienced transformation or metamorphosis. The Librarian shared two stories:

A 12 year-old boy came into a San Francisco coffee shop with his older sister where TIPL was in action. He got a TIPL library card and checked out a book of British sound poetry (look it up if you're curious! It's really cool!) A little while later, the boy started reading the poetry aloud with his sister, and the sound-full poetry became an instantaneous performance for the whole room.  

Also in San Francisco, The Librarian found herself walking down Mission Street late one night. A scary man approached. A lady drug dealer across the street recognized The Librarian from a street poetry event the night before. She alerted the scary dude that The Librarian was cool, and saved her hide. 

I am grateful I sat down and didn't let myself get in a rush. The couch experience epitomized my morning more than a recap of the notes I took. Here's my train of thought, based on what I learned from the good folks from Ricochet Ideas on the Customer Curiosity experience, as well as The Librarian and the R2 folks gathered around that couch and laptop: Be disruptive. Create something memorable, be it good or bad (but not forgettable). Share. Don't shut down creativity, let it flow and morph and see what happens. Be responsive to the moment. Be brave. Take a leap of faith. Smile and enjoy the fabulous people you find all around you. Choose love over fear. 

Lots of love,


Conquering fear of heights, student evaluation & get out of jail free cards. Jill Hurst-Wahl is associate professor of practice & director of the LIS program at the Syracuse University iSchool.

Today our focus was marketing and designing services/programs that disrupt conventions. After a crash course in advertising and marketing each group was split up to create their own unique plan for banned books week...keeping in mind that we are disrupting conventions and maxing out our creative abilities and the results were amazing! There were groups talking about banning books for a week, setting up a masked robbery where teenagers would rob the library of certain objectionable materials and hold them ransom, or having kids draw a picture of a book cover and then burning it so they would know how it felt to have something they created destroyed! It was an inspiring morning and I am leaving this customer curiosity experience not only with a lot of amazing, creative ideas, but also with the understanding of how to sell it to the 98%.
What would you change about this ski hill?

Today's Creative Spaces team moved in a new direction, this time focusing on the importance of public spaces. The Project for Public Spaces' Vice President Cynthia Nikitin offered plenty of perspective on great community centered design, stressing the importance of sociability, access, comfort, and activity. The group also assessed places around Mountain Village to assess experience and offer ideas for improvement. Want to read more about Nikitin's great questions for assessment? Read more after the jump.

Each group went to a new area around Mountain Village, with the ski hill pictured above assigned to our group. Our group was able to rate the space using the questions provided:

  • What kinds of things would you like to be able to do here?
  • How would you like to get to and from here?
  • How would this place be related to adjacent places?
  • What kind of amenities/features would you like to see here that would add to the character of this place and make it more comfortable for you?
  • What kind of opportunities are there for social interactions?

Once we looked over the space and shared our ideas, we were offered further cues for more intensive evaluation.

  • What temporary/experimental/start-up activities would you like to see here?
  • What activites should be accomodated in the space in the long term?
  • Ask someone who is in the "place" what they like about it and what they would do to improve it. Their answer:
  • What local partnerships or local talent can you identify that could help implement some of your proposed improvements? Please be as specific as possible.

Using these tools, our group started along a healthy brainstorming track. We came up with creative plans for the space that we thought would improve it. Our most valuable moment came in the interview of a local merchant, who explained more about the history and natural development of the space, along with issues that we had never thought of before talking to him. This drove home to me just how important it is to bring in stakeholders in to a building project while it is still in the early design phase. Without the input from this community member, we might have thought it best to move ahead in a whole new direction.

Today's Creative Spaces session focused on place making for communities. It went beyond how to build a building or where to put the shelves and walls, effectively building on what we learned yesterday. Today we answered these questions: How do you create a vision for a building? How do you ensure that your spaces solve the problems of the community? What can you do to activate your space? I walked away with tons of favorite ideas spinning around in my head. Here are a few:

Start the Conversation: it is critical to include the community in the visioning process. Don't wait to get them involved when you need their approval for a solution! Instead let them help define the problems and brainstorm solutions with you. You can avoid push back later if you listen to them early on. 

Activate the space: The space needs to be used! The space needs to be alive with people; it needs to be a destination. If it is laying dormant think about how you can change that. What will bring the people? How do they want to use the space? What could you change to increase the ways the space could serve the community?

The power of 10: each building should have 10 places, each of those spaces should allow you to do 10 things in it. Why would that matter? I have a teen area that lets you do 3 things: browse books, sit and read, or use a computer (maybe). If you aren't doing one of those 2 things, you have to go somewhere else. So planning for 10 uses of each space you are investing time and resources in will enable you to make sure that the space is well used and truly activated. 

These are just a few of the ideas on public space making. For more check out the website on the project for public spaces:

We explored, we learned, and I bet we all made some plans. A great day! 


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