Celebrating Our Failures

Amanda at blogwithoutalibrary.net writes:

This is from a design/marketing/communications company’s website. I love how they’re not afraid to showcase ideas that didn’t fly:

Think of this as the final resting place for ideas that – for one reason or another – lacked sufficient postage. The road to change is littered with them.

You can’t have innovation without failure, right? I’d love to see libraries celebrating their failures more. If you know of a library that does this, let us know in the comments!

Good stuff. And certainly part of a more open, transparent institution. One commenter ponders that it might not work in  public libraries:

While I think this is a lovely idea in theory, I just don’t see libraries doing it. As much as I would love them to! Public libraries are funded with public money so I’m sure they might see this idea of celebrating “failed ideas” as too close to celebrating “public money wasted”. You know what I mean? I’m not agreeing with that rationale, I’m just putting it out there as one possible reason why were not seeing more libraries do this.

Maybe Academic libraries have more latitude with something like this? I work in a public library and don’t pretend to understand how academics work but perhaps there is less need to be wary of being seen to be wasting money in an academic environment (sorry that was an akward sentence!). Just a thought (but like I said, I don’t know much about academic libs so I could be totally off base).

I think public libraries could certainly do this. Think “Anytown Public Library Innovation Labs” or “Cool County Public Library New Ideas Space” that might spend a bit of time experimenting with new services, new formats and new ways of doing what we do. The program might be prefaced with a statement like this:

Anytown PL’s mission is to promote access to information of all kinds, to anticipate the future needs of our patrons for library services and to give access to ideas in various media. This means we must be looking for new ways to serve our patrons. One way we’ll be doing this is devoting a bit of staff time and library resources to experimenting and trying new things. If you’d like to help, let us know. And we’ll let you know what we’re trying, what hasn’t worked, and what new services we’ll be bringing to you from these explorations.

As a APL patron, I might be very interested to check out the space and see what the staff have cooking. This space might be part of the physical library or part of its virtual presence. 

So, celebrating failures in the public library? I think so. What do you think?

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2 thoughts on “Celebrating Our Failures”

  1. I’ve been trying to encourage librarians to help one another by “celebrating failures” for years–most recently with pieces at PALINET Leadership Network and a “Learning from failures” page at the Library Success Wiki.

    Unfortunately, the tendency to bury failures is very strong, not surprisingly. So far, nothing’s showed up–which is a shame, because we really can frequently learn more from failures than successes.

  2. I do not see libraries intentionally burying failures.
    Librarians working in the trenches have little time to share successes let alone failures.
    Staffing is sparse and demand for services is great from where I sit.

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