Well, as usual, I find that I get so busy at work that I have little time or motivation to keep up this blog. A whole bunch of stuff has kept me busy, but one thing has kept me busy more than others: Library programming.
Programming is the joy and bane of many a librarian, and I am no different. Going above and beyond to offer that next level of service for our patrons is important, but the stress of planning a program can be overwhelming. How will I decide what will draw a crowd? How do I get a speaker to share their knowledge, hopefully for free? Will anyone show up? Will someone complain to the director that my program sucked and they plan to never come to the library again because of it? (I’ve had an actual nightmare about that one!)
And yet, when a program is successful, it feels amazing. And really, as long as one person gets one thing out of a program, it’s a success? Right? There are many ways to rate a program, so many in fact that the topic warrants its own blog post (or many). Thinking about how to define “failure” in terms of programs can be problematic, but worse is refusing to have a program because you are afraid of the many ways a program can be deemed a failure.
According to a chapter in the Library Innovation Toolkit: Ideas, Strategies, and Programs that aims to incorporate Zen teaching into library program planning:
“Nonattachment helps us to try out new ideas even if we may fail, to freely share and collaborate, and to move on when necessary.” p. 9
If you don’t define your identity by your ideas for a program, then it isn’t a huge hit if your program isn’t a success. Why is this important? For me, I find planning programs to be a bit paralyzing. I immediately become a hundred percent committed to and excited about each program idea, often causing me to think of all the possible ways it can (or in my mind, will) fail. I don’t want to see something like that fail, so I sometimes just give up and don’t plan the program at all, choosing instead to stay in the safety net of the tried and true programs that previous colleagues have found successful here.
But this sort of thinking severely limits innovation. Our lives are built around the idea that through failure, we learn. So programming is all about learning to face the fear and being okay with failing. With that in mind, I’ve planned two programs, one in August and one in October. One features local authors and one educates patrons about the importance of bat populations (Get it? Halloween? Bats? Never mind). One or both may fail, but the important thing is to try. Strike that. The important thing is to do: