“Next Chapter”, the first installment of the Reimagine : ED program, kicked off at the Lovett School in Atlanta, Georgia on the first weekend of April, 2011.
That weekend brought together thought leaders from across the country to connect and imagine the future of the library. The weekend represented two components connection and inspiration. Both were vital to create an environment that would allow us to push the envelope as we began to envision the future of the library.
In an effort to create a degree of comfort and connection between our attendees, in which many were meeting for the first time, we started the weekend with a dinner. The goal of our evening was to connect and create a level of comfort between the attendees so that when they would meet the following morning there was already a personal relationship and degree of comfort, which as we would see is vital to embracing transformative change.
The dinner party itself took on a different feel. To begin, while sitting down to some of the best barbecue in Atlanta, we used several prompts to help the generate conversation that would create more of a personal connection between the participants. These prompts included:
- If you were a superhero, what would be your unintentional super power?
- If you were to give a TED talk, what would it be? (and not about your career)
- Describe an awkward moment during middle school?
- If you could start a restaurant, what would it be and what would be your signature dish?
The questions led to stories and conversations that brought new connections between peers.
After dinner, we were led by futurists David Stalely and Andrea Saveri in an exercise on how to envision the future. Stalely focused on the fact that innovations are not simply iterations on current ideas or technologies but rather mashups or new ideas that stem out of two very different concepts. To support that thinking, each participant was given two cards with an image on each card. With our two images, we were asked to create a new idea. It was a wonderful practice as we geared up for the next day, as we would be asked to “reimagine” the next chapter of the library.
The next day, at the Lovett School, was dedicated to building upon those new connections and be inspired to mash things up and create something new. This not only required a connection but a willingness to embrace the rules of design.
Jeff Sharpe, Trung Le, and Sarah Malin led us through an introduction to design thinking and a challenge that helped us understand how to listen, brainstorm, and create. This experience gave us a foundation on the importance of the design process as we would move throughout the day.
Future of Learning
Under the guidance of Lucy Grey, David Jakes, and Andrea Saveri, we then explored the most powerful and effective ways to learn. Their exercise provided us the chance to outline what we as a group believed to be powerful examples of learning.
Future of the Library
Finally, Joyce Valenza, Buffy Hamilton, and Helene Blowers helped us explore what library has been and what it should become. This experience became one of the most heated as we were asked to truly rethink the role of the library in a transformative learning environment. For many there were certain components to the library that were essential where as others believed that we should “blow up” the model all together. What this session proved was that transformative design is not a clean and easy process but rather something that takes a lot of work.
As we finished up the weekend, we realized that building comfort and connection between the participants is essential to create the right environment to be inspired to create something truly unique.
Even then, barriers were evident in blocking us from completely embracing a radical shift. Many of us had been holding on to our biases as keys to the future but realized that if we truly want to embrace what the future of the library, or anything for that matter, we must step away from those biases and embrace the process.