Last week I had the distinct honor of participating in the first RIPL: Research Institute For Public Libraries, held at the stunning Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs. The institute was a joint project of the Colorado State Library and the Colorado Library Consortium (CLiC). Its Vision was to "create a culture shift in public libraries to be purposeful in gathering, analyzing and using data for decision making, strategic planning, and to prove library impact." It was also described, by several program presenters, as "a data boot camp." A deep thoughtfulness of instructional design was on display: the institute was incredibly interactive.
There were many wonderful speakers about many aspects of the use of data. Some of my favorite speakers were from Colorado (although there were some other standouts, among them Pew's Lee Rainie - see my American Libraries blog about one aspect of that talk here - Danielle Milam from Las Vegas, and Deirdre Costello from EBSCO). But one of my takeaways was that the old "stun and drone" method of instruction (Power Point and lecture) just doesn't work anymore. This new style of continuing education is the hallmark of our state library's Library Development people (under the leadership and example of Sharon Morris), and it made what might seem dry, technical matter to some, quite lively and engaging. But the program planners (and speakers) like Nicolle Steffen, Linda Hofschire, and Elizabeth Kelsen-Huber really seem to believe that data is exciting, too. And after awhile, you start to believe them.
I tweeted a bunch, as did many others: see #RIPLeffect.
Beyond that, my own contribution came at a breakout session near the end: storytelling with data (hint: end with the data; don't start with it).
To my regret, I had to leave part way through George Needham's wrap-up (another favorite speaker). I had been battling, for about three days, what turned out to be an inflamed tooth. This was the worst pain I have ever felt, finally flaring so bad I drove myself back to Castle Rock for an emergency root canal. (And may need another one.)
But I've been reflecting on the institute since then, and find much to commend it. It was impressive to me that it had sold out in 12 seconds.
I wonder: are 100-odd people (and some odder than others!) enough to truly shift a professional culture? I think the answer is yes.
My warm congratulations to State Library and CLiC staff for one of the most involving, enjoyable, and thought-provoking professional education experiences I've ever attended. Based on what I heard from other attendees, I gather there's strong interest in doing it again. I bet that one sells out in 10 seconds.