I’m Emily Clasper from the Suffolk Cooperative Library System in NY. A big part of my job there involves helping 54 area public libraries develop creative ideas for providing services to their patrons and then help them find some way to (as we like to say around here) MAKE IT HAPPEN.
Has anyone here ever had an idea for starting something new and awesome at your library? I sure hope so!And how often are you able to actually make these ideas a reality?I’d be willing to bet that everyone here has had great ideas they’d love to bring our ideas to life in our libraries so that we can make awesome things happen for our communities!And I spend much of my time visiting libraries, speaking and brainstorming with to enthusiastic, creative professionals every day, many of whom are frustrated in their efforts to MAKE IT HAPPEN.
The thing is, I spend a lot of time time visiting libraries, speaking and brainstorming with to enthusiastic, creative professionals every day, many of whom are frustrated in their efforts to MAKE IT HAPPEN. No matter how cool the idea may be, there’s usually something lurking, a stumbling block just waiting to become an insurmountable obstacle. I could tell you some stories… great ideas shot down in their prime by a handful of excuses. And that’s really what they are. Excuses. And they kill innovation.
So I’m here today to address some of the most common excuses I hear when I work with libraries Because it’s high time that we look these excuses in the face and CALL BS. Let me hear you all say it: “I CALL BS.” Louder! “I CALL BS!!!!”
Excuse #1: Great idea, but we don’t have money for that.Budgets are tight and we simply can’t afford it.Let’s postpone it until next year when we have more resources. Yeah, well…
I CALL BS. Because here’s the thing. If the thing you want to do is Important enough to the mission of the organization, there’s money out there for it. You just have to find it.Sometimes it requires reallocation of funds to fit current priorities and reexamining the return on investment of your current expenses.
Still don’t have the money? Well, that either means that maybe your cool idea isn’t as high priority to the mission as you first thought… in which case maybe you rethink it all together. ORIt’s time to get creative. Look for grants, donations, community partnerships, crowd funding… get out there and MAKE IT HAPPEN. True story up there, by the way.
Excuse #2: I’m too busy. I’m to stressed.I’ve already got too much to do.Our employees are already overworked, they can’t handle anything else (we will have a mutiny on our hands if we try this)
Stop right there because I CALL BS.Everyone is “too busy”. We all have deadlines and piles of work we should have already handled.But we’re not there to simply perform tasks. We’re there to do work that furthers the mission of the organization.So we make time for things that are most important for reaching that goal. Priorities again!
And you’re right – we can’t do it all. So we have to be selective in choosing what will fill our time or the time of our staff.What are you doing with your time? I’ve seen first hand many library staff who claim time poverty while performing totally irrelevant duties.Prioritize based on current needs, ROIConstant review of staff duties and workflowBeing accountable for your time
Excuse #3: We’ll never get the administration/staff/union/patrons/board to buy in How am I going to sell this to the staff? The patrons are going to hate that idea.The board will never agree. I’ve heard them all… and in my experience, this is an assumption, not a real fact.
SO I CALL BS. “You can’t just DO that!” You know what, sometimes one can.Depending on the culture of your organization, sometimes the best approach it to just do it. MAKE IT HAPPEN.Ask Forgiveness rather than Permission, as my mama says.Style yourself as a “self starter” and give new ideas a shot without waiting for approval… as far as you can get away with it.
If you must get approval… bring in such a strong case that it is IRRESISTABLE.Do your homework so that absolutely every question that might be raised is answered before it’s asked.Show them how your idea the sexiest, coolest thing they’ve ever heard of. Sell the hell out of your idea and relate it back to the core mission of your organization, the values in your community, and the bottom line. And don’t take no for an answer.If there is still too much resistance, maybe the case really wasn’t there to make in the first place.
Excuse #4: “That won’t work in my community… we are unique and we have unique needs.”“The patrons HERE wouldn’t use that.”And the big one I hear all the time: “OUR patrons HATE changes! Then they’ll have to learn something new!”
Yes, each library service community has its own needs, and not every new, innovative initiative will translate directly from one institution to another.That’s why we have awesome, creative professionals in place – to adapt raw ideas into practical initiatives that will work in their particular situation.
To do this effectively, we need to know our communities intimately and thoroughly… not just the patrons who come in the door to ask for help.I have a library that hates trying new technology initiatives because they insist that their community is mostly made of seniors. Really???? How about we stop hiding behind the unique qualities of the communities we serve, and start celebrating them as opportunities for creating and marketing individual services that are uniquely positioned for effectiveness.
Excuse #5: We’ve already tried that. It will never work/ We don’t need something new.Variations:We once formed a committee for that once but but they couldn’t come up with a solution.We already decided not to do that.I can’t image how we would make that work.My favorite: That’s OK in theory but I have been doing this for __ years and it won’t work in reality.
One little failure and you’re going to put the kibosh on new ideas in the future? Please. What do I have to say to that?BS. When we fail at a new initiative, we need to look closely at the reasons why it was not a success and try to apply what we have learned to our next big idea.Failure is your friend if you have the right attitude towards it.
Something I’ve found working with libraries is that the “Fear of Failure” that seems to keep people from trying new things is actually a Fear of SUCCESS.What if the new online program signups cause our programs to fill up too quickly?What if too many patrons want to use this new service?What will we do if they want something similar from another department?And the answer to these questions is: CELEBRATE!
The point is… If we’re going to innovate and grow, we need to face up to these kinds of excuses because we can do better than that. We’re part of a vibrant profession where we have the unique opportunity to do things that will make a difference in the lives of others… if we keep challenging the naysayers and excuse makers. The next time you have an awesome idea and all you hear is “no,” I challenge you to step up and CALL BS.
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Emily Clasper -- Suffolk Cooperative Library System, NY