A Chat with Stacie Ledden – Director of Innovation and Brand Strategy for Anythink Libraries

Stacie is rad. SUPER rad. I met Stacie last year at Public Library Association (PLA) and we got jazzed on the oddball things we were both creating at our libraries. Soon after we became Facebook and twitter buddies where I learned more about the amazing initiatives she’s involved in which include Outside the Lines (http://getoutsidethelines.org/ – #getOTL) and being one of the minds behind R-Squared – The Risk + Reward Conference (http://rsquaredconference.org/). Seriously, this woman is a prime example of why people from the non-library world NEED to be involved in what we’re all trying to create.

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Over the course of our interview (or should I refer to it as more of a conversation which occasionally reached fevered pitches?) we discussed a lot of big ideas.

First we tackled what people in Youth Departments can bring to a leadership role. Her thoughts? Youth librarians have the ability to add whimsy, color, and opportunities for all ages to learn through play. Anythink Director Pam Sandlian Smith was once a youth librarian and during a  visit last year from Rebecca Miller, editor of SLJ, Rebecca remarked that Pam had basically turned the whole place into a children’s library. Stacie found that exciting and believes these opportunities for libraries to capture the attention of adults using methods youth librarians already apply – color, marketing, and attention – have the ability to focus on our audiences in a way they aren’t used to receiving. That attention will make youth librarians valuable voices at a leadership table and will keep our public involved in a dialogue we need to stay relevant. She believes we can’t simply rely on the fact that people love us forever, we need to involve them.

We also threw around the idea of not viewing failure as failure. That each experience, be it good or bad, is always an opportunity. Being in a position of innovation she gets asked a lot about failure and never feels she’s giving the answer people are looking for. My question is are we looking for stories of failure to learn how to weather our own? If so, when is moving forward not the answer to encountering failure? We both agree what is important is to recognize the quiet failures, our dying or dead ideas and to throw them away. Holding onto them is maybe the only true form of failure.

There’s far more to our conversation and to Stacie than could ever be captured in 500 words. She’s someone I feel a deep commune with. A fellow library outsider who loves the driving force of libraries and has always been a librarian. We have no piece of paper to prove it, but it drives us from the most deep down punk rock place. It is the only way to stay hardcore and facilitate change from within a system. The best way to create change by actually embodying the change. Becoming the system instead of railing against it.

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More is More and Less is a Bore – I.A.

Busy.

Busy doesn’t even begin to cover what my life has been like lately.

Justin and I talk a lot about how the librarians who are out there doing the work and really kicking ass don’t have time to constantly get the great photos and update their twitter accounts. I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing my work and entering a sort of zen state of uber-organization to get all my work done. I design the programs, perform the critical thinking and facilitate the programs sometimes while simultaneously running the desk single handedly. A lot of us are one woman or one man shows and I choose not to believe that it limits what we can do. Truth? I get it done because I’m crazy competitive and I have to.

A great example is Camp EtsyNooga. I got 3 days off desk in August to tie together over a year’s worth of planning (in my head) a crazy idea to create a camp where teens could lean the ropes of running a small, creative business by following the best practices of running an Etsy shop. It was a 6 week program (On Saturdays from 9am-3pm) that included an Etsy Small Business Saturday Craft Fair I had a big hand in creating and a Master’s Class for families to set up Etsy shops (since teens are technically minors).

Three days? That’s madness. Over the last 6 weeks I’ve been creating the slide shows and handouts for this class while curating articles pertinent to each teens specific art form from all over the web and in books I know (and some I didn’t) while  I was running the desk, doing readers advisory, leading tours (some planned, some not), hiring a teen for her very first job, leading my regular programs like Tween Lego Club, MakeAaNooga, and the Tween/Teen volunteer program and doing other library type stuff. Am I killing it with each of these? Absolutely not. I coasted on the success of a few of these programs and neglected them while I obsessed over my new opus.

Now it’s time for damage control. The relationship with the adult Etsy Team needs some care taking and thought to foster new successes and to assist them in achieving their full potential. The volunteer program is so successful I need to rework the scheduling and available opportunities to ensure it is beneficial to teens, not simply taking up their time. The regularly scheduled programs haven’t been getting the equipment I need to take new risks so I have to track down over a month’s worth of items. I have copious thank you notes to write.

Toward the end of all this I was surprised with the news that the 4th Floor would like me to start creating programming for them. I’m insanely excited and nervous about this opportunity. I’d like to dive right in and give it a ton of attention but… maybe I’m growing up or getting older or am possessed by a closet organizer or something… I’m going to lay a crazy solid foundation first. I’m going to tend to my neglected programs and right some wrongs. I’m going to set up meeting with members from both departments to understand exactly the kind of focus their work has so I can work in tandem. Im going to solidify my partnerships with outside organizations like the Etsy Team and my fabulous local cosplayers Chattooine to encourage their maker activities and develop programming that is based not just in my fantasy world but their actual needs.

This will give me a solid footing to move forward in my career by starting from a place of empathy. Working together is the only way my new opus will be as fabulous (better?) as my last one. Will it be a ton more work? Yes. But you know something? I totally love my job. Even the bad parts are better than when I was a blueberry raker, better than when I worked retail and way better than when I was a plumber’s assistant. This job is freaking GREAT. If you’re feeling burnt out I highly suggest you take a step back, do something to remind yourself of why you got involved in the first place, solidify your footing and continue moving forward. As Iris Apfel says-

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