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

R-Squared resources
The new EveryLibrary PAC, come along with, #makeithappen and step up to the mic tonight. John Chrastka is founder & executive director of EveryLibrary and partner in AssociaDirect, a Chicago-based consultancy.


Photos by Melissa Plantz

Before breakfast on day one, R2 was already the best conference I'd ever been to. I have never been in a group so excited about the speakers and presentations on the conference schedule. But, I've also never been to a conference that valued participants' creativity and ideas and created a collaborative culture between presenters and participants.

As a member of the culture experience (Team Aquabutts for LIFE!) I knew I would be challenged to climb, jump, roll around, and get my hands dirty. I did not realize that I would actually get my hands dirty by sticking them into a tank full of worms (so gross). Today our team took calculated risks. We all did things that scared us. We did things we didn't think we could do, and we cheered and supported each other the whole time.

This evening, after the challenges were done, dinner was consumed, and the first two rounds of happy hour were well past us, a few of my teammates and I were talking about our amazing experience. It included the highlights you've probably heard by now. Yes, we held snakes. Yes, we ran through an inflatible obstacle course. And yes, we were the reason there was duct tape on the patio. Those are the easy stories to tell. Those are the things you don't expect at a library conference, but on the way back to the gondola after the after party, a new friend channelled the boy who saw the emporer wasn't wearing any clothes and asked me what it all meant. How does this relate to real life in our home libraries, and THERE is our real challenge. We thought that moving a marble through a maze or getting those darn discs to go through the chains were the challenge, but really it's up to us to take home the lessons, not just the anecdotes, and make positive change in our libraries. Our seemingly silly tasks forced us to learn new ways of communication, required us to blindly follow the directions of a near-stranger, and beat down our bodies, but not our hearts. We can and will take the strength and confidence we gained from this experience, we know that successful collaborations are possible because we were part of an extremely powerful one, and we know that we can do what we didn't think we could. This is what we learned while holding snakes, and this is how we'll change the world.

I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Risk and Reward: Amazing Race Style!

Being part of the Culture Experience was the choice I made - accepting challenges was the name of the game! I must say, this experience was all it was hyped to be and more. I knew it would call on some pretty new skills but most of my anxiety was built around the physically demanding aspect of this challenge. I found the real task of this experience fell into the ability if nine strangers to build a brand, develope an identity, and be true to the core values we chose to live by during our adventure...and own it.

As we rolled through our eight challenges, the values we had agreed to be the most important, slowly began to reveal themselves. One by one, we accepted our tasks and our newly created team pushed aside their fears.  Trust, support, encouragement, collaboration, and empowerment became a common theme. We used our curiosity, passion, and courage both indivdually and as a team, to be repeatedly successful. It had little to do with "I" and everything to do with "We".

I was part of a great team. I couldn't be more proud of the accomplishment we achieved together. I look forward to seeing them tomorrow morning an doing it all over again.

And to be honest, I hope Miss Zoey can make it too.

Today was unlike any other day at a conference I have ever had!  I was part of the 'Culture Experience'.  As the Experience started, we were placed randomly in one of 8 groups.  My group, the Flaming Banditos, had eleven folks in it.  We were told it was going to be an Amazing Race like experience.  Kind of an Amazing Race mixed with Fear Factor in my opinion.  Great group.  Awesome folks.  

We did a lot of activities - things some of us had never done before, things a few of us were afraid of.  There were snakes and spiders.  Donovan touched a snake. He was scared. There were physical obstacle courses, climbing walls, minefields and mental puzzles. I climbed a rock wall... somewhat successfully (I was totally afraid I wouldn't be able to do it). Certainly there was something challenging for almost everyone.  

We were also part of a group.  Working together through these involved communication, courage and creativity.  Between every other activity we had time to reflect, to talk with each other about what had just happened and how it related to libraries. For me this was part of the reward aspect.  Eleven folks, talking about what it is to take risks in libraries, with staff and coworkers.  

It got me thinking about what really is a risk.  Is it Donovan touching the snake? My rock wall? Is it knowing our profession will become irrelevant if we don't touch our own version of snakes?

Everything about R-Squared has been exciting to me.  My first library conference, the opportunity to attend, the location, and the fact that since I booked my room late I get to travel between the conference and the lodge via gondola!  Pre-conference, I found the website to be quite the teaser.  There was just enough information to interest me...but not give me a real good idea of what exactly I would be doing.  Leading up to this conference I would check in to see what I could learn - but it seemed that attending would be the only way for me to really know.  It made me curious - so appropriate that I am in the Customer Curiosity experience. 

I enjoyed everything about the morning session and workshop.  Josh Linkner really astounded me with the fact that we lose our perception of our own creativity as we become adults.  And then, that 85% of our creativity is learned!  Wow!  This idea further impacted me as I was "playing" at the lego table in the Experience zones.  Ok - I was trying to build a really practical garage to house all of the vehicles scattered on the table - nothing to outrageous like someone's mobile-office-on-wheels :-).  Another attendee started talking to him about his son's lego collection and their explorations at the lego store...and we began discussing how toys eliminate the need for creativity.  Back in "the good ole' days" lego kits were simple and facilitated many kits are very specific, expensive, usually representing a recent movie, elaborate, difficult to build, and require nothing more than the ability to follow instructions.  Creativity NOT required.  Legos are not the only toys that do this.  You can buy a child a toy cell phone that has ring tones and a "touch screen"...but when I was a child I played that my mom's bottle of jergen's was a telephone.

So now I wonder if we have a creativity crisis.  We are no longer fostering it in our children, no wonder they become adults and feel that that isn't who they are!  Now what?  Linkner gave us three activities to unleash creativity.  I think the whole idea was to use the library-land questions he presented and use his tools to find creative tools.  I feel that some of us might still have been stuck - where creativity wasn't considered and even welcome.  In my group I heard answers reflective of a very traditional library approach - which it seemed that this activity was trying to shake up.  We even had librarians argue over whether an answer was valid or not - and whether we were following the rules or not.  Instead of letting our imaginations run away with us...we were concerned about the details of the very open-ended activity.  In the abundance of information exchanged, I hope a few of the valuable sparks ignite.  I hope to use Linkner's suggestions to ask 5-WHYS about our traditional way of thinking, and get some creative sparks igniting into full ideas in my library. 

Now off to bed - a full day tomorrow!

Ok all you customer curiosity people...what if the gondola had night vision capabilities so you could see the wildlife that is surely out there at night. Also, what if there was a way to communicate with the people behind you to tell them if something cool is coming up that they should keep an eye out for....I'm wondering if I will ever stop thinking of crazy ways to improve things...

Culture is core, repelling and the mindset of staff. Gretchen Caserotti is assistant director for public services at Darien Library in Connecticut.

Dennis Humphries explains the power of parti at The Peaks

Today's Creative Spaces track took us through architecture school in just four short hours. Not only did we get a crash course in Architecture 101, we also got lots of hands on training building arches, designing libraries made of apples, and making a full building out of enormous pieces of foam core board.

The day's discussion was led by Dennis Humphries and Ozi Friedrich of Humphries Poli Architects. The architects were pleasant and patient, clearly enjoying explaining how they approach library design. We were all given a really great workbook clearly explaining each design element and giving us more to fuel our creativity on the ride back home. The magnificent view on the outdoor balcony didn't hurt to illustrate the inspirational images members of the team had brought from home to show off.

Creative Spaces track participants also got real hands on experience looking at concepts of lighting design and framing views, using giant pieces of foam core to block the light streaming in to the Peaks resort. We built huge rows of shelving, experimenting with horizontal, vertical, and diagonal views of the space. Playing with giant framing devices definitely helped me to visualize the potential of the spaces we worked in - and it was fun to play with design in such a hands on way.

I learned a lot about library design that I've never encountered in library school or a traditional conference setting. R2 keeps surprising me!

Is it wrong that I left the customer curiosity experience with more questions than answers? I feel like this particular experience, combined with the session from this morning is going to guide the things that I try to do in my library this year. As a school librarian I am limited, mostly by scheduling, in what I can do to engage the students. However, I now feel that with a little creativity I can start to ask the right questions to engage the students, and perhaps even the teachers. I would love to transform the library from someplace that the students come because they have to into a place that they come because they want to interact (intelligently) with other students and staff. The next step is to figure out exactly how to do this and what questions I need to ask to ensure that I am giving both students and teachers what they want. It's a daunting task....but an exciting one!!


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