With All Due Respect, I Fail And So Do You

StrikethroughHeader-1By: Dustin Fife, Outreach and Patron Services Librarian for Utah Valley University Library and Utah Library Association President

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy

February 19, 2016 will be all about failure, and that is a good thing. We are going to talk about failure, we are going to look inwards and outwards, and we are going to work on individually and institutionally accepting risk as part of the process. Over the next few weeks, several of the organizers of Strikethrough will be sharing their thoughts about failure and why you should attend this upcoming ULA workshop. Strikethrough will feature Maureen Sullivan as the keynote speaker, along with many other compelling voices to help everyone evaluate the way they incorporate failure and risk into their lives and institutions. You can learn more about the workshop and register here.

There are many reasons that this topic is important to me and many reasons I want you to attend the workshop. But let’s start at the beginning, something I think everyone can understand, personal insecurity!

I’m helping organize the event. We’ve all set a date before, planned every last detail, prepared all that we can, and still woken in the middle of the night afraid that no one will attend an upcoming event. Usually this is not life or death, but regardless, you still want people to attend because by trying something you have exposed yourself. You have made yourself vulnerable. I have personally invested in this project. ULA and The City Library are spending money, bringing in speakers, and using many volunteer hours to make this happen. It is always scary to plan an event. I am always scared that no one is going to show up, whether it is for storytime or a lecture.

Earlier this year, with my amazing friends and colleagues Jessica Breiman and Rebekah Cummings, I helped organize a Wikipedia-edit-a-thon. We put a significant amount of energy into this event, and sadly, very few people came. You know why no one came? Because I forgot to check an events calendar. The edit-a-thon coincided with a nationally-televised football game. There was no parking, the campus was basically shutdown, and no one wanted to stick around to learn about Wikipedia. Huge oversight on my part. But that is how it goes when you are planning events, you cannot catch everything, but you should definitely check relevant events calendars.

More importantly though, this is truly an important topic. I love the quote at the beginning of this article. If you do nothing, it is unlikely that something good will happen. Some people believe that if you do nothing, nothing bad can happen either, but that just is not true. No matter what you do personally or institutionally, life moves on. Talking about failure is not an exercise in commiseration, but an opportunity to shape movement. As individuals and libraries, we have to move forward. Sometimes we move two steps forward and ten steps backwards, but that effort of will, of risk, of making ourselves vulnerable is important. That is when we learn the most. That is when we grow the most. C.S. Lewis says it well, “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.”

I care about libraries and library employees. If you know me, you know I love libraries. I love the principles of librarianship, I love the traditional goals of librarianship, and I love the many different ways we have attempted to engender those principles and accomplish those goals. Libraries are important. Library employees serve an essential societal role. This is  important to me because there is so much more that libraries can do. It will take leadership from the top and bottom to keep libraries moving forward, and this is one of the most important conversations for making sure we are always on the move. The joy is in the journey.

Come to Strikethrough, join this important conversation, which I’m sure many of you are already having, and take it back to your libraries and lives.

“When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.” – Ellen DeGeneres

For many other great quotes about failure look here.