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Dangerous Ideas: “What if…”

[Cross posted]

The recent Public Library Association Conference featured a session titled, “The Dangerous Ideas”. The idea behind the session was to stimulate a conversation about adaptation and change by posing the question, “What if…?”

The presenters began by introducing Ten Dangerous Ideas:

1. What if we stopped cataloging?
2. What if we participated fully with the FBI in all criminal investigations that involved the use of library resources?
3. What if librarians individually and as a profession promoted, used and helped to develop Wikipedia?
4. What if we accepted open source software as a way of being more in control of the customer experience?
5. What if we embraced our iner geek and created immersive games that prompted cults of library junkies?
6. What if we required all library staff to have expertise using technology?
7. What if mistakes were expected and embraced and all librarians became mistake masters?
8. What if we didn’t make decisions based on fear or scarcity?
9. What if we stopped being passive/aggressive?
10. What if we didn’t make our customers work so hard?

I did not attend this session, but have been following the aftermath on the Transforming Texas Libraries Blog and the Web Junction Blog. Some of the provocative questions raised and documented on the Web Junction Blog are:

What if librarians would promote and participate in the development of Wikipedia?
What if we made decisions that are not based on scarcity?
What if libraries large and small invest together to adopt open source solutions?
What if teens in the library were our partners instead of our problem?
What if we learned to advertise the allure of libraries as successfully as soft drinks and junk food?

This discussion is continuing on “whatiflibs” wiki posted on wetpaint, a very easy to use wiki.

The question, “What if?” calls upon us to use our imagination and to push our thinking into uncomfortable territory.

Recognizing this, the presenters had follow-up questions for the workshop participants:

  • Why does this thought make me uncomfortable?
  • What are the opportunities in this idea?
  • What actions can be taken to pursue the opportunities?

I teach Change Management and Civic Entrepreneurship to graduate library students. I thrive on uncomfortable thoughts because that is where opportunities hide. Too many people retreat when confronted with uncomfortable thoughts. We don’t like ambiguity. We may feel threatened. We may feel insecure about what change will demand from us. But all of these are just the flip side of opportunity.

I’m sorry I missed this workshop. I would love to see this thinking brought into the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation Conference taking place in Austin, TX October 3-5, 2008. The conversation starter could be a “What if…” related to the D&D community or democracy itself and how D&D impacts democracy.

How about it D&D-ers? Are we ready for some Dangerous Ideas?

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