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Fail! Learn! Share!

Failure panel

Sarah Houghton-Jan, Moderator

This was a wonderful session on failure.  How can failure be wonderful?  Because you learn from it.   A panel of 6 people who had failed shared their experiences.

Beth Gallaway (Information Goddess Consulting)–failed game design. She wanted to conduct an Online Game Design workshop in the library but it failed.  She sent many e-mails to a facilitator, and failed.  Lessons learned:  Talk directly with IT, bring backup laptops, be flexible, offer low/no tech alternate activities, and don’t panic!

Margaret Hazel (Eugene, OR Public Library) failed, but also succeeded.  “One City, One Voice” was a good vision that went bad.  The City Manager decided that the city had too many websites , and allocated a lot of public money to correct this.  The problem was that the people working on the project had no experience dealing with the public, and they had little power or responsibility.  The project failed miserably because it did not measure up.  The portal product worked, but you could not find anything on it.  There was no public involvement until after the development was completed–nobody used it.  No training was done, and nobody had input.  Organizational relationships deteriorated.

Jeff Scott (Tulare County Library, Visalia, CA) tried to use an open source system for time management.  Funds were insufficient so he tried open source.  It took 3 months to develop, and the product lasted 5 minutes(!) because it didn’t survive the first demonstration.  Lessons learned:  Treat every project like an RFP, get the details in great specificity, ask other users what happened and how they liked it, and prepare for both success or failure.

Andrew Shuping, Law Librarian, Mercer University, worked on a Learning Commons, which failed because of lack of a goal, no clear definition of anything, and too much change at one time.  There was no reporting or organization lines.  People got hung up on tradition, so the project was short staffed and had no funding.

Kim Silk at the University of Toronto tried to organize 2-3 terabytes of data in many formats and make it findable.  She tried several repository solutions, (PBWorks, DSpace, etc.) and ended up with Sharepoint, which is good for documents but not maps, spreadsheets, and other types of data.  But she fails daily because it was not possible to share the data securely.

Sandra Stewart at the San Jose Public Library (which is affiliated with San Jose State University) found that SharePoint failed.  Because of the affiliation, she had to deal with 2 bureaucracies, 2 staffs, and 2 technology platforms, all of which complicated the development of SharePoint.   She tried to force the staff to use it (by taking away paper calendars!).   After 2 years, some staff still do not know how to use SharePoint (that’s a failure!).  She learned to always let the early adopters in first because they will be your cheerleaders.  You can’t stop training–it must go on continuously.  Require that the staff use the system; don’t give them an alternative.


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