Friday, November 23, 2012

Serendipity: Unexpected "Happy Accidents"

Serendipity - Our good friend Oxford defines this as “The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”   The origin of this word is rooted in a fairy tale entitled The Three Princes of Serendip, in which the heroes ‘were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.’ 

I happen to really like this word.  I also think libraries, public or otherwise, are filled with serendipitous energy.  This energy radiates from an ever evolving collection (you might find a piece of literature that changes your life), the different combination of people present in the space each time you visit, a new library program, a new policy,  new organizational visions or missions, or even through unexpected small talk. 

 For librarians too, our intuition and belief in growth can lead to great outcomes.  Interacting with others in the library, the community at large, or a conference can lead to surprising conversations.  These could lead to more formal meetings and possibly long term partnerships.  Opportunities for relationship building are lurking around every corner and we have to be ready to recognize these events when they’re in front of us. 

So, what can we do to encourage sweet serendipity to come a-knockin? 

  • Get to know your patrons.  Someone who has walked through your library’s doors many times could be a great connection or potential business partner.  
  • Provide programming that encourages interaction and conversation.   Bringing people together may trigger idea or information sharing.
  • Feed your curiosity.  If you have a hunch or instinct about something, try following it and see where it leads you.
  •  Be open to diverse perspectives.  You never know when an eye opening opinion will change your mindset.
  • Take a risk or get out of your comfort zone.  This can be hard for everyone, but if you can make a conscience effort to push yourself, you might be surprised with the outcomes that can occur. 

Hopefully this ignites a little bit of an 'explorer' attitude in all of us. You never know where uncharted territory will lead you...

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