This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 19 September 2012.
Last week, over three hundred librarians transplanted themselves from their home locations and gathered in Telluride & Mountain Village, Colorado for R-Squared: the Risk and Reward conference.
Self-declared risk-takers, they spent three days at high altitude
forging a new dedication to entrepreneurial thinking in the library
Joining one of four custom tracks – Creative Spaces, Culture, Abundant Community, and Customer Curiosity
– they prepared for a journey that they knew would be a dynamic
experience, but no one could have expected just how excellent the
conference would be. The conference generated a lot of buzz, fully
deserved, and I expect that as time goes on we’ll all start seeing
disruptive ideas that found their incubator up in the mountains this
At more than 9,500 feet above sea level, Mountain Village, Colorado
provided a stunning backdrop for the conference. A short gondola ride up
over the mountain from Telluride, we found ourselves surrounded by
phenomenal views and low population density. By choosing Telluride as the location,
the R2 organizers forced participants to take their first risk: getting
there. My trip involved a series of flights on progressively smaller
planes until I ended up in the 19-seater headed over the Rockies to
Telluride. Soon enough, we were on the ground and settling in, trying
madly to acclimate to the change in altitude and playing “spot the
librarian”; remarkably difficult with this subset of the profession!
I’ve made it to a number of library conferences this year, and they
all attracted their own populations. At R-Squared, though, the attendees
self-selected into a vibrant, active population, all of whom were
willing to dive right in, get their hands dirty, and figure out a course
of action. The conference was designed to be a unique experience, and
all of the tracks took people out of their comfort zones in one way or
another. The difference here, though, is that everyone leapt from their
comfort zones with a vengeance, chasing risks to enjoy their inherent
Every track allowed for that sort of exploration; every track pushed
participants to strive for lofty goals in little time, learning just how
much can be accomplished with a plan, a team, and a deadline. In my
session, we explored the entire pre-brainstorming process and
transformed a week of library events, all in a single morning! Other
sessions hunted for information spaces out in Mountain Village, explored
the possibilities of community expertise, and looked for disruptive
innovations to challenge staid thought patterns. The keynote speakers
that opened and closed the conference implored us to remember that we
are the voice of change–and we should be.
Those changes are going to build, slowly, but R-Squared was the catalyst.
We’ve all returned home, some with longer trips than others, and now
have to begin the process of applying what we learned in the mountains.
The real reason R2 was such a fantastic event is not because of anything
that happened in Colorado, though the adventures we had will not be
forgotten easily. Rather, R2 brought together an incredible group of
people, and showed them what a difference can be made when we all work
together. The ongoing conversations will change the nature of librarianship.