What if?

I’m a big fan of “What if?” questions when it comes to planning and imagining. They’re my favorite way to think through both the positive and the negative about what we do, and I do it in my personal life as well as my professional one. (“What if I enrolled in a PhD program? What if we tried to have a baby?” was a recent and fruitful What If dyad, for example.)

And right now in my professional world we’re in the midst of a lot of change, both internal to the libraries and external to the College. We have a new president, and several new VPs, and several pending administrative retirements. Things are going to be changing, and I always prefer to be ready to offer options to my supervisors rather than to receive direction (though I am capable of taking direction!), because I believe you can’t declare yourself an authority on your area of expertise if you aren’t willing to share that expertise.  And so I’m doing What If thinking like crazy right now.

What If we adopted the maker movement as part of campus movement towards creativity and innovation?

What If we double down on research help and information literacy and reframe our goals around them?

What If we truly became the technology center for the campus, including all support and technology literacy?

What If we embraced the “academic social space” role for our students and folded it intentionally into the mission of the libraries?

What If…

As I have the time and the coherent thoughts, I’m going to share some of those What Ifs, workshopping my own thoughts in writing. I invite you to play along as you wish!

I’m curious: What would you ask about libraries if you were going to do a What If?


  1. I like:

    1) What if we started from scratch?

    2) What if we built our future around things that won’t change?

    Number one helps to clearly define your reason for being, i.e. why should you be funded and what value do you provide to your stakeholders?

    Number two is a paraphrased version of a strategy from Jeff Bezos. Here is his take:

    “I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. … [I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,’ [or] ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’ Impossible. And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.”


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