leaving the league of awesomeness

I just got home from a hugely successful program at the library. Tom Rea, a writer from Casper, came to talk about Ella Watson, also known as “Cattle Kate.” Thirty people packed the library — we ran out of regular chairs and had people sitting on the little kids’ chairs, but no one seemed to mind. I rigged up a screen (there was a miscommunication about what equipment was needed) by securing our aged tiny screen to the ceiling with the aid of a spare computer cord and a double half hitch. I’d show you pictures, but the batteries in my camera were dead. Again. (NB: If anyone ever tries to convince you that a digital camera that takes AA batteries is a good idea because you’ll always be able to buy batteries for it if yours run out, do not take their advice. You will either buy many, many batteries or you will be like me and have many, many pictures that you never take.)

The lack of pictures leads into the title for this post, and its real subject, which is not success but failure. When Michael Porter (also known as Libraryman) sent out an invitation to join the 365 Library Days project, I jumped all over it, because, as they say, it was new and shiny, and because I sure do love Flickr, and because, as Steve Lawson put it, I wanted to be a part of the League of Awesomeness. A few weeks in, though, and I’m realizing that not only am I not going to be able to take all the pictures because of my damn camera batteries, but also that I am not going to be able to take them all simply because I have too much else to do, and while Flickring 365 days in the library will make me look awesome in the world of librarians who Flickr, it won’t mean much of anything to the population I serve.

It’s often quite amazing to me that we have a library at all in a town as small as this one. That we do have such a library, and that it is able to hold 25,000 volumes and be open 44 hours a week and have a monthly book discussion group and a weekly story time and an occasional program like tonight’s is a testament to a lot of things: to the cooperation between the Park County Library System and the Meeteetse School District, to the awesomeness of the Wyoming State Library and the WYLD network, to the Friends of the Library and the Park County Library Foundation, to the Wyoming Humanities Council and other groups, and to my coworkers.

We manage to do a lot of things, but we can’t do everything. It behooves me to remember the things that I am good at but also the things that I’m not. I’m good at giving teenagers the space to do their own thing in peace. I’m not so good at engaging them and getting them to come to organized events. I’m pretty good at ordering a selection of books that is — I hope — both broad and deep in all the right places for this community. I suck at getting those books read. I’m good at taking pictures of silly inanimate things that amuse me. I’m not so good at getting people to participate in pictures meant to go online.

I am — or rather the Meeteetse library is — probably going to be leaving the League of Awesomeness, or at least the 365 Library Days part of it. If I have a moment sometime, I’ll drop by and see how the rest of you are doing. I think it’s a cool project, and it could potentially be a great way to get some news coverage for your library — both for your library’s use of technology but also, and more importantly, for the things you do at your library that you are documenting (hint: start writing press releases)! For now, though, I’m going to go back to ordering books and trying to read more of them, thinking about summer reading, and wondering if it’s really essential for me to convince people that Firefox is so much better than Internet Explorer — another thing I turn out not to be good at.

5 thoughts on “leaving the league of awesomeness”

  1. Hi Laura,
    You will get no flack from me on this at all. In fact, based on what you say above, you have SO been in the “League of Awesomeness” all along.
    As you say, joining in the 365 Library Days Project is a commitment and I agree that if after you do the cost benefit analysis it isn’t more of a benefit for you, well that’s just the way it is. You know your situation and I surely trust your judgment. You obviously care a great deal and work hard, 365libs project or no. I DEEPLY respect that.

    I also appreciate that you would talk about your decision in a blog post. This goes back to one of the issues the group was designed to potentially help with: lack of $. The hope is that libs will use their photos over the year to get attention drawn to the amazing things they accomplish. This will stick in peoples minds (hopefully) the next time a bond initiative (or some such funding action) comes up. You know your community though and if there are higher priorities, they are what you should address.

    I do have to say again though, if you ask me, every library is in the “League of Awesomeness” simply by default.


  2. Michael–We thank people for little things so often that the word “thanks” seems kind of small for this occasion–but, lacking a better one, I’ll simply say: Thank you.

  3. What Michael said–but also: This is only a failure in the most literal sense. You tried something, you looked at your community’s needs and priorities and your resources, and you decided not to pursue it.

    I’d call it a balanced decision. I suspect Michael would agree.

  4. This post deserves a longer response, about doing what we are good at vs. doing what seems cool vs. doing what our patrons really need us to be doing.

    Briefly, though, on another part of this post: I’m sure that Laura understands this, but I want others who read this to know that I wasn’t trying to set up a binary where libraries that do the 365 Library days are full of Awesomeness, while libraries that don’t are Awesomeness-deficient. The point was that taking on a project like the 365 Library Days can take you places you couldn’t predict going in, like other online projects like Ze Frank’s Show or 5 Weeks to a Social Library did.

    Laura is self-evidently awesome, and it sounds like her library is, too.

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