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.
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!
It’s been a whirlwind of discussion, dreaming and doing these past couple of days at CIL. Helene & I lead off the Innovation Track this morning with our presentation ‘Innovation Starts with “I”.’ Great turn out, input and questions from the group. We’ll get the presentation up along with the streaming vid soon. We were followed by Michael Stephens & Michael Casey who talked about creating truly transparent, honest and open libraries. Good stuff. Some key take-aways:
Be willing to talk
Work toward truth, not perfection
“It’s not a age issue, it’s an effort issue.”