Future of Libraries Summit: Reflections from Behind the Marker (Part One)

By Katy Berube

In early May The Singer Group provided me with a great opportunity to act as a table facilitator at the American Library Association’s Future of Libraries Summit held at the Library of Congress.  As a table facilitator my experience of the summit was slightly different than that of a participant. Paula Singer, CEO of The Singer Group and lead facilitator, worked with myself and my seven other colleagues to ensure the deftly designed two day meeting process worked in the room with the participants enabling engaging participation while ensuring summit objectives remained on target.

When you are focused on process you are fully present to others reflections of events as they unfold, so on day two when a participant who had been a member at my table on a few occasions asked me “What do you think about the future of libraries based on your experience at the summit?” I had to pause.  At that point in time the honest answer was “I don’t know…yet.” I went onto explain that a really valuable part of experiencing the Summit as a table facilitator was the benefit of reflecting on the group thinking occurring in the room in addition to the speakers presentations before processing events for myself.

That participant’s question has stuck with me.  It took a while but “yet” has arrived.

So here are the first 5 of my Top Ten Future of Libraries Summit Reflections. Be sure to check back in next time for the top 5!

  1. Community is the name of the game with libraries role modeling how to make them work and really engaging stakeholders as co-creators at all levels.  While the distinction between virtual and face-to-face communities seems obvious today I agree with participants that this distinction will diminish overtime and appreciated that reminder.
  2. Power of story.  Stephen J Dubner, author speaker best known for Freakonomics, told an intentionally sticky story about how a Japanese man who had never eaten a hotdog before went on to smash the Coney Island Hot Dog eating contest.  This story will stay with me for a long time to come.  Here is why…
  3. Power of question.  The hotdog record was smashed because the contestant tackled the problem differently.  Instead of asking how to eat more than 25 hotdogs in 12 minutes he asked himself how to eat one hotdog faster.  He re-framed the question so he could ask different questions about the problem at hand. Big changes occurred as a result.
  4. Start small work big.  47 instead of 25 hotdogs were eaten in the same 12 minutes by the Japanese contestant because he re-invented the process of eating a single hotdog.  He experimented, failed, learned, and persisted.  I now keep thinking to myself all the time.  What’s my hotdog?
  5. Fly on the wall.  I digress but it was really cool to hold the microphone for table introductions for the Librarian of Congress and many others, meet ALA leadership in person, hear from futurists live, and talk with professional heroes who have inspired my passion for social learning like the Archivist of the United States. Fangirling moment out!
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