I know everyone thinks library employees sit around reading all the amazing books we have access to all day long. How I wish that were true! When we’re not reading those books, we sometimes go to library conferences. I know what you’re thinking. How dull. A bunch of stuffy old librarians sitting around talking about….well, what?

Books? Patron horror stories? Ways to keep patrons quiet? You would be surprised, first of all by how “un-stuffy” library staffers are, especially when they gather together. They can be a pretty raucous crowd! The second surprise would be the topics that captivate us. Library conferences offer workshops that run the gamut from presentations on cutting edge technology being employed in libraries, like VR rooms, to how a local library started a community garden and fed the homeless from it. We learn a lot from each other - library people are all about sharing ideas - and then use those ideas to better serve our patrons.

Last fall I attended the Association of Rural and Small Libraries conference in St. George, Utah. I had never attended that conference before but had heard that it was one of the better ones. I was not disappointed. The focus of the conference was on the power of libraries to change their communities. I attended a variety of sessions, but the ones that had the greatest impact on me were the keynote presentations. The most memorable speakers had overcome some sort of “failure” or “challenge” to go on to achieve success. We’re not talking run-of-the-mill failures that most of us struggle to overcome on a regular basis, like failing an exam or losing out on a promotion at work. We’re talking big-time, life-altering failures or challenges.

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The first speaker, Jill Nystull, had it all. She was an educated, talented, beautiful professional woman with a great family and a life most of us only dream of having. Despite all her success, she fell into addiction and her life spiraled out of control. With the help of a loving and supportive family, she got the help she needed to successfully battle her addiction. The most important thing she learned while in recovery is that she needed to find her passion and pursue it - that it was critical to her continued sobriety. She created her website, One Good Thing where she shares all sorts of helpful info. She is living her passion thanks to her failure. She shared that had she not “failed” she would never have found her passion and would not be the success she is today.

The second speaker was best-selling author Richard Paul Evans. He has Tourette’s Syndrome. As you might imagine, he suffered from bullying throughout his childhood. He could have become a victim and fallen into self-pity. He could have given up and looked at the world in a very negative light. But he overcame his “failure”, his challenge, and worked to be a success. He is an acclaimed speaker and author, whose books have been made into movies and changed the lives of thousands. It wasn’t easy. It took hard work and medication. He has to work hard to control his outbursts, and not allow them to keep him from succeeding. When he speaks, his tics are barely noticeable, but it takes great effort to control them. He explained that he is almost grateful for his condition because without it he does not believe he would have achieved what he has. Life would have been too easy and he would have been soft. He encouraged us not to allow ourselves to adopt the victim mentality, not to allow adversity to keep us from greatness. He shared an analogy with us about grapevines. Apparently, grapes grown in rich soil develop weak roots . They produce poor fruit and don’t live very long. But the grapevines grown in poor soil have to work hard to obtain the nutrients they need to grow strong and produce amazing fruit. They live for decades. People are the same - adversity and failure makes us strong. If we have life too easy, we don’t develop the strength we need to succeed.

failure success

So, how do we employ these philosophies at the library? Well, we work hard to provide the best service to our patrons we possibly can, both in the materials we purchase for our patrons and in the assistance we provide in everything from which book to read next to how to use your new mobile device or laptop. We don’t always succeed, and when we do suffer a failure, we learn from it and go on to improve the service we provide the next time. We actually embrace challenges - ask us a tough question that you need answered in order to move your business forward; bring us your brand new mobile device that you simply cannot figure out how to use; ask us to help find that favorite book “with a blue cover and a bird on it” but whose title you can’t remember; ask us how to tell fake news from real news - we are there to help you find the answers, to overcome your challenges, and along the way we may fail a time or two, but we will all be that much stronger for the failing.

learning from failure

 Gina Emory, IT Manager

One Good Thing and Richard Paul Evans

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