The Utah Library Association (ULA) dove headfirst into failure on February 19–20. Along with the Salt Lake City Public Library (SLCPL), ULA hosted Strikethrough: The Utah Library Association Failure Workshop. Billed as an interdisciplinary discussion of failure for librarians, it brought together librarians, medical doctors, and performance artists.
“I think we need to teach and show students that failure is a very real part of life and learning,” says Sherry Gick, who was the librarian for Rossville Consolidated Schools in Indiana for five years before becoming the district’s K−12 library and instructional technology specialist in 2014. Gick embraces the pedagogy of “meaningful failure,” emphasizing the process of learning. “The library is a great place to demonstrate this and allow students to try many different things,” she says.
Library conferences can be great places to pick up new ideas, with roundtables, seminars, and sessions filled with stories of successful projects from peers, vendors, and professionals from other fields. Information from these sessions can help other libraries get started on new initiatives without having to reinvent the wheel.
But all projects involve some degree of risk, and some projects can fall apart as the result of preventable problems. At the recent Code4Lib 2013 event held at the UIC Forum at University of Illinois at Chicago, a group of librarians found during their Fail4Lib pre-conference workshop that discussing failed or problematic projects can be as constructive as discussing success.