About 6 months ago a group of librarians – really, a rather motley crew if I may say so – decided to pull together a weekend at which people would meld ideas for new service models, products and operating models. What would we call it? a hive mind? a shark tank? It was new. It was kinda messy. We needed new language. We needed a new approach.

Passion beats backing & experience (we hope):

The ‘organizers’ or,as some called us, the motley crew or misfits – are in Arizona, California, Washington, DC and, yes, Canada. With no corporate backing and miles apart we collaborated virtually (phone, Zoom, Skype, Hangouts). We had limited experience in launching any event. Yet we pooled our pennies, secured a kicking location and took a risk.

What do we have in common? Passion. We want to see our profession and the library sector we so love succeed in a world of AI.  We want to see the next generation of those passionate about libraries take it and transform it beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Oh yeah – the other thing we now have in common is that we are laying awake at night worried we’ll lose our shirts on this venture. But we are all risk takers, and we are ready for another risk.

Sharks, thinkers, advisors & doers:

We decided to jump, launching Library Shark Tank October 12 – 14, 2018 @ the Asilomar beside the Pacific Ocean. 

We asked thought-leaders to join us, offering them nothing but the promise of lightning bolt conversations and good food. To top it off, we told them they have to pay their own way. Yet they are excited by this idea, and they jumped with us. Scott Hargrove, CEO @ Fraser Valley Regional Library System in BC; Laura Soto-Barra, Chief Research, Archives & Data Strategy at NPR; Todd Frager, CFO @ Library Systems & Services; Daniel Lee, Technical Program Manager for Enterprise Content @ Stikeman Elliott LLP; MJ D’Elia, Associate University Librarian (Research) @ University of Guelph, and more. Apologies to some of you whom I’ve missed.

Fresh air and hope:

Just when I began to think that we’d taken on too big a risk with this venture, I received an email that brought me sheer joy and showed me that we misfits are onto something with the Shark Tank. I’ve never met the individual who sent me this:

“Dear Rebecca,

What an amazing opportunity!  And such inspiring ideas! As an “old timer” (34 years), I’ve become a bit jaded by all the “woe is me” attitude among my peers.  I’ve always felt that the foundation of libraries is all about connecting with people, just our tools for that change over time. I don’t complain because my slide rule is no longer needed; I figure out how to use social media to get my answer.

I am excited to see there are people out there who see the long term potential of libraries.  Whoo-hoo for bringing these people together.

Though I feel that the energizing benefits of this gathering would be enormous, I’m certainly not a bad-ass librarian.  I will encourage bad-assedness from my staff and look forward to hearing what great ideas are generated.

Just a heartfelt thank you from an “old timer” who still loves her job, her library, and her patrons.  Thank you for the breath of fresh air and hope.”

I responded “Thank YOU for the breath of fresh air and hope!” I know from this email that there are more librarians and others passionate about libraries who will join us at the Asilomar in October.  People are sending in ideas they want to pursue. People are registering.  Is it expensive? Not really since it includes 6 meals and its located in a gem of a resort. And, it’s expensive to maintain and update our professional capabilities. Bloody hell, we are worth it every penny. Libraries are expensive enterprises and they are worth every penny for communities, campuses, corporations, journalists, democracy.

Some librarians have told us that they aren’t able to attend but would if their schedule allowed; if 3 librarians who can’t attend donated some funds we could sponsor more students or librarians who are early in their careers to attend. As it is we will sponsor at least one student to attend. We hope to sponsor more.

My idea:

What idea do I want to pursue? Well, I’m sitting in Halifax International Airport looking at the Halifax Public Library kiosk. It provides travellers physical books. My idea is to take this further — with digital readers to borrow (yes, like a kindle) onto which people can download any book or magazine they want, and a library staff on a Zoom or webconference screen providing readers advice, “if you liked Harry Potter, try Five Kingdoms; the book isn’t in this kiosk, but press the button to the left to download the digital version on the digital reader in the kiosk, and borrow the digital reader.” Am I crazy? Nah – I know another 2 or 3 librarians putting their heads together will take this idea and make it much much better. We’ll put our bad-asses together with our misfit minds and voila! New models, new ventures, new ways, sustained success for libraries.

What’s your idea?