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The Stories We Tell Ourselves

 I’ve been reading through Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future in preparation for a webinar later this week. This books triggers a general (and vast)  interest I have in storytelling in its many forms. Pink includes a whole section on “story” and refers to a movement called “organizational storytelling” that is really quite fascinating. He briefly profiles the work that Steve Denning helped pioneer in this area.

Denning discovered that he learned more from trading stories in the cafeteria than he did from reading the bank’s official documents and reports. An organization’s knowledge, he realized, is contained in its stories.

 Stories have an incredible amount of power! Power to move people, ideas and organizations forward. This same power can keep us in the dark, living in flux or simply the past.  Some of the big players are getting this concept and moving it forward into the fiber of their organizations. Pink mentions 3M, NASA and Xerox. Recently I attended a performance by Laurie Anderson and learned that only a few years ago NASA made her their artist in residence. What an incredible match!

How do we use these stories that float aroud us but perhaps never make the annual report? We know they play a big part in who we are.  Are these the stories that tell the deeper truth of who we are as organizations? I’m curious about how anecdotes turn into story and expand into the minds and behaviors of staff and leaders. What are the stories we tell ourselves–about ourselves? A great work is to harness the power of the stories that make us–libraries, nonprofits, businesses, families–who we are, or who we think we are. How do we broaden the story? When is it time for a plot change (when anecdote starts ruling decision-making, perhaps)? There are endless ways to celebrate our stories.  Now, what about those stories that simply need an ending?

The Alchemy of Business & Dreams, Part 2

Today I heard someone say “I hope we’re not playing with fire” in regard to making budget reduction proposals. I’m not even sure the complete context of what they were saying, but hearing this phrase in the scope of what is going on in our economic forecast gave me reason to pause. It does feel a bit like playing with fire. There seems to be something dangerous and somewhat precarious about the state we are in. I do believe that fire can purify and transform, at least symbolically. This is a way that I think about what we are going through right now. When I read Helene Blowers’ post about new beginnings I felt a like mind chiming in. I think that many of our current practices or approaches may have to burn up in the proverbial fire that has been cast. Sincere vision and dreams will be burnished, but not destroyed.

The Alchemy of Business & Dreams

In this past week I’ve become very aware of the fine line that we often draw between what it means to be business-minded and vision-minded. As the economy continues to plan a trip south and we find out what the reality of this means in our local worlds, I think that it can easily be open season on dreamers. Now is not the time for dreams to die. Now is not the time to sell our vision out to fear. This can feel like a tall order, I know. Business and dreams seem to clash in the air. Where is the mix between the two? What becomes our guide? Do we cash in our vision to projections of hard(er) times. Vision that is grounded continues to lead if we allow it to do so. Has the world shifted in the past several months? Yes. Do we know where this is leading? No. Do we need to be really smart right now? Yes. Do we have to forget our dreams in order to be fiscally-minded? No. Business and dreams can exist together. Yes.

I offer up some thoughts to help dreamers make it through the day, into the board room and away from the cliff:

1. Fill in blanks where you can by telling what you know.

2. Create some method to get creative ideas into action (faster than usual).

3. Re-think before you re-write you reasons for being (don’t throw the vision out with the bath water).

4.  Keep stirring the dreams in the mix. Stir a little harder before watching the evening news.

Lunch Money Loves Libraries

If Buddha took up guitar and decided to sing music that blurred the lines between age groups, he’d likely be doing back-up for the South Carolina band Lunch Money. There are so many reasons to love this band. And they recently released one more reason to love them–because they love libraries…and they put it in song on their latest release DIZZY!  Read the lyrics, go listen to the track then repeat.  It’ll make you feel good…

I Love My Library

I’m going to the library…to see my librarian…who’ll send me home with 60 things…as if I could carry them (I’ll bring my red wagon)…Passing out the picture books like my granny hands out food…”Leggi, leggi, take all of these…And you might like this one too”…and my brain’s getting fat on stories and facts…and it feels like love…All the librarians…they say come follow me…They’re looking straight at me….They take me seriously….and all the things that I’d never have picked….become my new favorites…I show them to my friends at school…and they get addicted too (to Nancy Drew)…I feel so understood when a story’s this good…Oh, it feels like love…All the things that I could ever wonder about are waiting here for me…All the places I could ever wander to…I have a ticket for free…and guess who tossed me the keys?…Books about boys and girls and magic worlds…Heroic dogs, a toad, a frog…Sleuthing teens and big machines…Hippo friends and astronauts…Freight trains and snowy days…Wind-up mice and caps for sale…Lightning and wild things…I love my library.

Why are you not blogging?

Why are you not blogging? This is a question I’ve been asking myself since mid-December. I’m  constantly crafting posts–posts that simply aren’t going live (at least not outside of the sandbox). I’ve even asked myself the sharp question: am I a blogger anymore? Do I want to be a blogger anymore? Is YestoKnow still where I need to be channeling my voice, ideas and observations? I’ve thought about this much. So, here are 3 big reasons I’ve come up with to answer my question about why I’ve not been blogging much lately:

  • Blogging is about communicating your ideas. I am doing this in a myriad of ways almost every waking minute of my day. Since taking on my new role in Boulder, I am crafting and recrafting communications each day–from focusing on taking Boulder Library’s primary print publication to be more of a newsletter, story-related format to crafting vision and goal communications. So, I’ve been feeling communicated-out a bit lately.
  • Hiring a key leadership position is intense. Early on in my new role, I worked to re-focus and re-brand the Library’s Information Technolology Department to focus on a broader range of technologies and innovative applications. What resulted from this is a Library Innovation & Technology Department. Knowing that it would take a very dynamic individual to help lead this effort, crafting a job fitting description, getting it posted and finding the right manager for this effort was real work. I’m happy to say that we found a great LIT Manager who’ll be starting on Monday. Yeah and whew!
  • Moving across the country in two chunks–before and after selling a house in Charlotte–in a 5 month span is utterly life shaking. There are so many facets to any move, especially a cross-country move. I recently read an article that discussed the difficulties many libraries are having with finding new directors, not because of the pool of qualified candidates but because of all the implications of making large moves.

Finding words for this has been a good little practice in looking back on the past few months of my life through the lens of blog-action.  Wheesh, there is a lot going on. 2008 was an intense, life-changing, growth-filled year. Now that can really keep you blogging–or not.

So, why are you not blogging?

Creatively Breaking the Rules

As we prepare for Boulder Library’s Learn-And-Play Staff Day coming up on Friday, you can imagine my delight when I read this headline in the local paper this morning: Boulder school’s art class encourages students to ‘break the rules’ .  On Friday, we’ll be learning more about taking risks to create incredible experiences both for our community and our staff. I thrill at seeing the acknowledgement that there are many more ways to learn and grow beyond the “classroom model.” Here’s to taking risks, learning, daring together!

Off The Shelves!

When a media format has seen its glory days and we’re ready to send it on it’s way, sentimentality can set in (ie, remember the first time you saw The Breakfast Club on that rented VCR?). But, alas, it doen’t rule our desire to have a collection that is used and useful. I’m thrilled to say that as Boulder Public Library says goodbye to the VHS format, we’ve received great response. There have been a few “oh, really?” moments (sentimentalizing or worst-case scenario-ing) , but otherwise staff and our community are ready to make room for more DVDs and CDs that we can actually feature more prominently (and then begin looking to the future for new formats). To make this collection decision even more special, we’re having a first ever “Off the Shelf” Sale. That’s right, we’re selling the remaining VHS tapes right off the library shelves where they currently reside. This is one of those efficiency innovations that will save the time of staff who would have to de-catalog them, marking through the barcodes, schlepping them to a holding space  (you get it). What a positive stir this has caused in the community after  the story ran in Boulder’s Daily Camera!  Yes, we received calls asking if library user’s could make “pre-sales.” (The answer on this one is “no pre-sales, but feel free to stake out your faves and be ready to move come December 8th ).  Thank you to the staff member(s) who formulated this off-the-shelf idea and are ready for this big innovative move on the week of December 8!

Play to Learn…Learn to Play

In the past several weeks, as I’ve worked with staff to plan Boulder Public Library’s first-ever Staff Learn-and-Play Day, I have to say I’ve learned a lot myself.  I have learned that often, as adults, we seek permission to play–even when the play will result in new learning, creating stronger teams or more innovative results. I am a real believer that we all learn in different ways at different times in our lives. I have come to the idea that perhaps the best way to “make space” for many learning styles is approaching it through the portal of play. I’ve often said that play takes the pressure off and allows us to explore possibilities. Play can also manifest itself in more Zen-like ways: allowing ourselves to sit and absorb new thoughts that challenge the norms or allowing ourselves the chance to scratch our heads and reflect before heading into decision making mode. I think that allowing ourselves the freedom to play with ideas and different ways of expression and learning allows us to ultimately know more about ourselves. And how important and powerful is that? I was recently rather seriously questioned on why I wanted to include the word “play” in Boulder Public Library’s Staff “Learn & Play Day.” I have to admit that I have run in circles-of-like-understanding on this matter for so long that I had to shake myself slightly to understand why this question would surface. Then I realized that the good word is not completely on the street. Play perhaps still connotes “goofing off.” I forgot some people still think that way, honestly. We adults are still being encouraged to show up with agendas in hand, ready for the worst case scenarios.  This is not my approach nor do I want it to be. The word play has a sense of freedom and independence to it. Freedom and independence lead to discovery. Discovery to learning.   And so this is how my planning and envisioning for Learn-and-Play Day 2008 is evolving. I’m happy to say that Helene Blowers, library innovator and play-supporter, will be joining us to offer her spin on the importance and meaningfulness of play. We’ve also planned for a few surprises and delights on this day. Let the play–and learning–begin!