A thing at which I cannot fail

In my job, there are things at which I can fail, and things at which I cannot.  For example, I can fail to complete my secretary’s annual human resources paperwork in a timely manner, and all I get is a slap on the wrist and a request to do better. I cannot, however, fail to appropriately manage her workload and performance, as that would have major consequences for our library. Which is not to imply that Angie does anything but good work, it’s just an (*ahem*) currently relevant example…

So there are lots of things on my to-do list which I can manipulate and push around and reassign deadlines to, but there are also some key things which cannot be approached that way. Non-negotiable things. Things at which I must not fail. One of the things At Which I Must Not Fail right now is planning for a renovation of the main library’s facilities in 2014-2015. I learned of this potential project from the head of facilities just before Christmas (I was flabbergasted, overwhelmed with potential, and since I had the conversation at a reception with a glass of rum punch in my hand, I’ve had a bit of “did that really happen?” going on), and have been rolling it around in my mind ever since. A month later, it’s been confirmed for me that the College will indeed be requesting capital funding for this project, and that I should, indeed, keep planning for it. Given that I’ve spent all three of my years as Director lobbying everyone who would listen, quietly and persistently, to help keep the Libraries facilities modern, relevant, and vital, this feels like a major victory for me. For us. For the community. But I can’t just say “woohoo, I won!” and leave it at that. “Winning” was just step one.

A few things have become very very clear to me as I consider the whole thing:

  1. This is the moment to do the student focus groups I’ve been pondering for 2 years. Set a group of student volunteers loose with whatever creative tools they want or need — video or still cameras, whiteboards, paper, markers, laptops, Play-Doh, whatever, anything they can think of — and charge them with telling us how they want the building to be redesigned. I suspect that letting a group of creative undergrads go crazy will mean I get some stuff that’s meh, some stuff that’s expected, and some stuff that’s off the wall and pretty awesome. I can learn from all of it.
  2. I also have to figure out how to do something similar, but with more depth and meaning, for our other campus stakeholders. I want to engage students and their creativity, but I need to also thoughtfully engage faculty and staff both in and out of the libraries, and find a place in the process for their beliefs and perceptions about libraries, their passions for our work, and their visions of our future.
  3. I need more information. I just ordered a handful of professional best-practices books about building projects, and re-upped with ALA so I can go to Annual to absorb whatever content, contacts, and vendor information I can find this summer. I’m watching for workshops and conferences that have relevant content. I am not ready, but I will be.
  4. We must keep weeding our collection. Like Karen Schneider, I’ve found that I’m managing a library that houses a book collection that’s physically outgrown its utility to our users as our information needs shift. Its footprint has grown too far beyond the architect’s initial intentions, our user needs are pushing back against it, and I cannot in good conscience redesign this facility around a collection with these same use-to-space proportions.

This is also the opportunity that Crumb Library has been waiting for since the last failed program study more than a decade ago. That project fell apart because the study came in over-budget, so there’s a lesson for me there, as well: I will not let this come in over budget. We will be creative, and we will be visionary, but we will be realistic. We will make this work, and we will build something remarkable that combines the gorgeous bones of Crumb and the College’s centuries of dedication to learning and education.

I can do this. And I will not let it fail.


  1. disaster plan, disaster plan, disaster plan oh and preservation…keep those in mind when you redsign and build and it will pay off in spades down the road in prevented disasters and better collection life. Just saying! Good luck!


  2. Indeed! Given that we had about a half dozen leaks on the second floor at the end of the week, due to the combo of ice dams on our flat roof and added freezing rain, INDEED. 🙂


  3. Plan large and then cut back. I feel we are sisters in crime, or something. I too have gone from disregard to having a page in the capital campaign. Big heady stuff, and I too cannot fail — or at least, I don’t WANT to fail. Let’s succeed together.


  4. Definitely put one of those newer librarians you’ll be hiring on the planning committee! Don’t let the architects try to take over (ahem, not speaking from experience, but that’s how you end up with pretty but unusable spaces). Stop and enjoy for 2 seconds how awesome it is that you’ll be getting an upgraded building.


  5. Or, plan large and stage it if needed. We did a three part plan which got immediate funding for phase I, with a promise of phases II and III down the road after we interest some kindly rich people in the project.

    There was an article in the November 15th issue of LJ entitled Clemson’s Road Map, which describes much the same process.

    Good luck!


  6. This sounds fascinating…and familiar. (Evidently the word “renovation” has been tossed around here since before I was hired, and recent developments hint that we *might* be getting closer to such a project. of course, the architect’s plans we have are now woefully out of date….)


  7. Clemson’s Roadmap is intriguing. Even just the nomenclature could help us around the “library doesn’t need a separate master plan” meme… and a granular/modular approach makes sense for various reasons.


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