TEDx LibrariansTO - Discussion group

On Saturday (June 25, 2011) I had the opportunity to attend TEDx LibrariansTO and was asked to facilitate an audience discussion group. I tried my best to guide our group through 9 discussion questions. We made it through 6. But! I think we were the only group that actually went through the questions. The group discussion was *really* great, and I figured I'd share the notes I took. So without further ado, here are my notes.

  1. What means should librarians choose to encourage their institutions to embrace change?

    * New formats are definitely an opportunity for change elements
    * Open Access -> change the publishing model
    * "Buy it and we'll have to use and adapt it!" [Not sure how I feel about this, but is an opportunity for change I suppose.]
    * "Just do it!" (Quoting Amy Buckland's talk)
    * Challenging and debating each other - we need to do this more, and stop being so stereotypically nice.
    * Embrace dissent
    * Challenge vendors, and take back/refine argument that access to information is a public good (curb external forces from defining libraries)
    * Advocate and share these stories (and events) to people outside of libraryland - stop talking to ourselves. [This aligns well with John Dupuis' Stealth librarianship manifesto]

  2. What are the similarities or characteristics of thought leaders that you know? Tell us about the attributes that your ideal thought leader would have.

    * The ability to extract and extrapolate common/shared ideas among people and push and drive other people [CHARISMA!]
    * Good thinker/motivator
    * Obsession with higher concepts
    * Dedicated, articulate, think a few steps ahead, and inspire
    * Good cat herder
    * Follow through with action
    * Natural curiosity
    * Radical collaboration combined with finding champions (relationship building)
    * Be able to an idea/project sell inside and outside the library (sell the benefit)
    * Leading edge *not* bleeding edge
    * Savvy -> ability to manage the opposition
    * Do the extra work
    * Thought leader for patrons and the community as well as in libraryland
  3. How can experience of failure contribute to making an effective thought leader?

    * You *must* fail before you succeed
    * Ability to learn from mistakes
    * Ability to recognize mistakes
    * Thinking who takes an unpopular view
    * Acknowledgement that failures can be as good as successes
    * Need a culture that will embrace failure
    * Analyze other failures to show it can succeed somewhere else
    * Build relationships
    * Learn to talk about mistakes openly
  4. What venues are available to us to constructively criticize each others ideas?

    * Yelling at vendors
    * Learning how to argue with each other
    * Step being so polite with each other
    * CLA great debate is a good idea, we should do this elsewhere and more often
  5. What should we expect/demand of our thought leaders?

    * Honesty with provocative statements
    * Sense of humour
    * Openmindedness
    * Dedication to life long learning
    * Push people out of the way
    * Though armada
    * Don't burn out
  6. We can't all be thought leaders all the time. Often, by necessity we are followers. So, what does it mean to follow a thought leader well?

    * Make sure they don't burn out
    * Help out
    * Step up when things can be delegated
    * Thought collaborators
  7. Name on thing we could do right now in order to be perceived as thought leaders outside the profession.
  8. How do we recognize a thought leader?
  9. Are the loudest voices online actually representative of important thought currents?

Overall, there was some dissent in the group over the term "thought leader". Not everybody agreed with the term, and felt like it encouraged centralized power. There was an overwhelming outcry against centralized power. Also, our group came up with what I think is an excellent critique to the whole thought leader idea. I can't remember who exactly said it, but whoever it was, it was great! "The thought is the leader, we are the thought supporters." If anything, it would be another great discussion piece.


Should have started off with this, but a *BIG* thank you to Shelly and Fiacre for putting this together. It was a great day with great people! Also, a big thank you to all the speakers!


Nick Ruest
Associate Librarian
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