I was watching the movie “Moneyball” on Friday night with my family, enjoying a night off to relax and spend some much needed quality time with people I love—work free. And then, half paying attention, I heard this quote.
“I know you are taking it in the teeth, but the first guy through the wall…he always gets bloody….always. This is threatening not just a way of doing business…but in their minds, it’s threatening the game. Really what it’s threatening is their livelihood, their jobs. Its’ threatening the way they do things…and every time that happens, whether it’s the government, a way of doing business, whatever, the people who are holding the reins—they have their hands on the switch—they go batshit crazy.”-Moneyball
I found myself nodding and thinking, “Yes! Yes, John Henry! That’s exactly it!” Cue mind spinning and end of relaxing work-free evening. Billy Beane and John Henry were talking baseball, not libraries; however the truth at the heart of this speech resonates across any field anytime change and innovation threatens to upend ‘the way we’ve always done it’. The very wise Sue Considine, my boss and mentor, has a habit of reminding me that the world isn’t filled with a “bucket of idiots”. These people who, in the words of movie John Henry, go ‘batshit crazy’ are not idiots. They are smart, dedicated people who perhaps don’t understand why things have to change and also that things ARE changing. The rug is being pulled, rather dramatically, out from under them. We have moved, as a profession, from discussion of “Do we have a future? What will we be?” to a growing understanding that we will be many different things. A hackerspace? Sure! A community center? YES! A job search center? Bring it on! This can be frightening and threatening (hence the crazy).
Dr. David Lankes gave an inspiring speech at ALA Midwinter where he challenged those in the audience to expect more: from ourselves, from our colleagues, from our communities. He said that the Grand Challenge in librarianship is solving the problems of our community, it’s asking the right questions and building services and programs that solve, or at least provide the tools to solve, these problems. The Grand Challenge is NOT preserving our way of doing things, it is not ‘doing less with more’, it is not hunkering down and staying under the radar. We need to be bold, brave and not afraid to take it in the teeth and get bloody. It is also not about simply coming up with ideas—it is about taking action. MSNBC has a series of pretty awesome commercials out right now with the message “Lean Forward”. This is what we need to do. Lean forward. Question everything. Be radical. Have a crazy, zany idea, develop a proposal, and DO IT. Stretch your own limits. Stretch the limits of those around you.
We recently ran a fundraising campaign on Indie GoGo for the FFL Fabulous Laboratory and our tag line for the campaign was “The Future is HERE. Be a part of it”. The future is here and it may be scary and even threatening. We owe it to ourselves and our communities to engage with it. Answer the question, “why do we do this” not with “because that’s the way we’ve always done it” but with honest analysis and open minds. What problems do we have in our community? What can we do to help?