OED: Odd, Eccentric & Dynamic


As an undergraduate I was introduced to the magic of the Oxford English Dictionary. Some may question the use of the word “magic” to describe this tome, but for a class full of eager English majors, cracking the spine (well, spines–there are several volumes) of the OED and diving into the deep waters of word meanings and derivations was nothing short of a magical moment. Who knew that finding the first time the word “marshmallow” was ever printed in the English language could hold such fascination?

The OED quickly stepped into the arena of classic reference material soon after its first edition was finally printed in the 1920’s. Classics speak of tradition. And often tradition speaks of the formal or perhaps less-than-daring. What seldom peeks out from behind the covers of such a thing as the OED is the very intense, sometimes unbelievable, story of how it came to be in the first place.  In Charlotte Brewer’s book Treasure-House of the Language: The Living OED  the idea of what a mammoth undertaking it was to even consider compiling the OED in the first place comes to life . The product as well as the process molded many lives and created somewhat of a subculture along the way.

What drives the creation of such a thing as the OED–or any such large, almost unbelievable notion?  What occured to me is that such a project or product often really is driven by, well, another take on the O-E-D: the Odd, Eccentric and the Dynamic.  Think about it: how many of the incredible, deep and useful products or projects that change our lives had their early stirrings in odd moments? How many were driven by eccentric, passionate individuals who simply knew it would work and stood behind the idea? How about the dynamics that arise from deep conversations or shared actions? Yes, we’re talking innovation-in-action here.  (And so, proving that The Oxford English Dictionary has many types of magic).

Here is a small string of  O-E-D (Odd, Eccentric, Dynamic) products, programs and personalities off the top of my mind. File these under “inspiration” and/or “find out more”:

Cerritos LibraryMartha Graham, Playing For Others, Anythink Libraries, Gustafer Yellowgold, Timothy Ferris, Indievision, The Fun Theory

What’s on your OED list?


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!

When to say No Vacancy…

Some thoughts that have occurred to me in the past few weeks as far as when to hang out the sign (or “when to say No Way!)…

No Vacancy–when it comes to making declarations, decisions or policies simply because it’s what they want to hear

No Vacancy–for taking the Easy-in-the-Short-Run and Deal-with-it-Later leadership

No Vacancy–for putting off questions, discussions and decisions that are crying for attention.

Here’s the deal with hanging out No Vacancy signs–everyone, well most everyone, knows that the No Vacancy sign really means “don’t bother me,” “don’t rock the boat,” or “I don’t want to deal with this now (ever).”

So, let’s flip it around. Let’s take down the No Vanancy Signs…and try “Welcome” or “Newly Envisioned” or “Ask Me” signs instead.

Easier to find, easier to serve

In the past couple of days, Boulder Public Library has migrated to a new web address. This is both small news and great big news–all at the same time. What we know is that things that are easy to remember are easy to find. Locations with actual street addresses, companies with memorable and sharp names (Target!) and web locations that don’t require googling each time to find them will receive more traffic. It’s that simple. I am happy to say that Boulder Public Library can now be found at  That’s pretty easy to remember. Pretty easy to find. BPL’s former web address ( will also still work by redirecting you to the new URL, so no worries there. Here’s to making ourselves easier to find and ultimately more ready to serve.

Boulder Public Library has several more good and useful creative and efficient innovations coming down the pike…keep your eyes peeled (notice the new mission tagline?) . Here’s to a great city, a great library, and useful-and-quick movement (real life innovation!).

Thanks, Ray, for nabbing this URL in anticipation years ago!

Live from Computers in Libraries–D.C.

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

Talk honestly

Work toward truth, not perfection

“It’s not a age issue, it’s an effort issue.”

On the edge of wonder


Innovation is often more about taking what you have and adding a new ingredient than starting from scratch to create something new. What is a good ingredient to add to a standard program or service? Try “wonder.” What can we do to add an element of pure wonder into what we do each day–both for our users and our staff? My colleague Emily recently ventured into an arena of the common-gone-wonderful when she created and offered an unapologetic Noisy Storytime. Yes, a program that was consciously crafted to allow kids who want (and need) to make noise have their kind of experience. Working off an idea found in SLJ, she put it into action. We have the opportunity each day to inject our programs, services and tools with the element of wonder (you may call it delight, energy, newness) into what we do. It’s not always the easiest thing to do when we’re balancing the many plates of our day-to-day–yet possible.  Take a look at Emily’s post on the Library in Action blog for inspiration. Need some other ways to stir the wonder into what you do? Try these to start:

1. Bring something strikingly beautiful into your space (office, workroom, lobby) and let it speak for itself.

2.  Ask yourself: what would my program look like if I allowed “the audience” to run the show? Let at least some of it happen.

3. Allow a kid to teach you something. Even something you know how to do already.

What give you a feeling of “Wonder?” Move with that.