There are precious few library speakers upon whose every word I hang. Call me difficult to please. But one person who has achieved that status is Prof. David Lankes from the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. The dude rocks. And although he is a frequent speaker, including at the upcoming ALA Midwinter Meeting in Dallas, you don’t have to wait a single minute to hear him talk about some of his most important issues.
Last week I caught up with him virtually via Skype, and recorded him for our ongoing podcast series “What keeps you awake at night?” What resulted was a rollicking 25-minute romp through some fairly important issues for us all. Central to his theme was “raising expectations” — for ourselves, for our institutions, for the clienteles we serve. He also talked about making innovation a core part of what we do. To do this, he asserts, we need to create environments where taking risks and failing is OK, and he cites Seth Godin’s definitions for “mistake” vs. “failure”:
A failure is a project that doesn’t work, an initiative that teaches you something at the same time the outcome doesn’t move you directly closer to your goal.
A mistake is either a failure repeated, doing something for the second time when you should have known better, or a misguided attempt (because of carelessness, selfishness or hubris) that hindsight reminds you is worth avoiding.
Prof. Lankes covers a lot more ground than this, including a segment on “dead wood” in the organization, and much better than I can attempt to parrot back to you. What I’m trying to do, if it hasn’t become obvious by now, is to intrigue you enough that you will listen to the whole thing. It’s only 20 minutes since I sped up the recording by 20%. Yes, we know your time is valuable. After all, you have some expectation raising to do.
Roy Tennant works on projects related to improving the technological infrastructure of libraries, museums, and archives.