So, yesterday was the day! We made stone soup at work. And I’m laughing as I write this because the first thing I have to do is recant something I said in my last post (in addition to pointing out that the picture above is not a picture of our boardroom, unfortunately!):

“And won’t it be lovely to smell the fragrant, savory scent of the simmering soup while we meet to exchange thoughts, and ideas, and opinions?”

It turns out that it was not lovely for everyone! We placed the large, electric roaster that contained the meat version of the soup in the boardroom for the reason stated above (which was formed in my idealistic state of mind where everybody loves everything that I love and bluebirds perch delicately on Snow White’s outstretched finger…); however, not everyone found the scent pleasant, and in fact, more than one person was sensitive to the odor of cabbage and onions permeating the atmosphere in the room. It’s always the little things, isn’t it? The things you don’t think about that can thwart even the best of intentions?

With agility, flexibility, and compromise again playing prominent roles, we moved the roaster into the next room during our break and continued with our meeting unimpeded by the smell of cooking cabbage and onions.

But that was fine. Fine! After the close of our meeting, we set up for lunch and everything was delicious. We had a homemade Fall salad made with apples, pears, red onion, Swiss cheese, and a lemon poppy seed dressing; our two versions of stone soup; bread and butter; good Vermont cheese; pickles; cookies, and freshly made sun tea with lemons. And there was a place for anyone and everyone at the table whether or not a contribution was made to the meal. The point was to share the bounty and enjoy the camaraderie–for whomever wanted to share and gather together.

So what does any of this have to do with changing the culture at our Library System office? Well, nothing or something depending upon how you look at it.

My co-worker and I decided that we had a good time spending the early morning hour before work preparing soup in the kitchen. We enjoyed the collaboration–consulting about quantities of ingredients, make-shift substitutes, spices–and working together to prepare a meal–something that doesn’t often happen in an office setting. We just may do it again sometime, or on a regular basis. Pot lucks are certainly the norm; however, this was not a pot luck. It was a planned preparation. Someone else joined us, too, and that was much appreciated. And most everyone pitched in at the end to help with the clean-up. There were also 16 small containers of leftover soup in the refrigerator, and most are gone today. It is the soup that keeps on giving, in more ways than one–you could still smell the scent lingering this morning, which is a good thing or a bad thing depending upon your perspective.

I think it all comes back to deciding what you want the culture of your library (or other place of employment) to be. How you want it to feel. What you want it to allow for and what you expect to get out of it. A creative culture is one that keeps finding new and different ways to achieve great things, big and small.

Last week, some of us attended a Webinar called Creativity Lost presented by a local company that is often listed as one of the top places to work in Pennsylvania. The company is nxtbook media (which happens to be only a few miles away). The Webinar was led by the “Chief Inspiration Officer” Michael Biggerstaff.

If you take a look at the Web site, you will quickly see that the evidence suggests that nxtbook has a culture of innovation and creativity. The validity of this presumption was solidified by the content of the Webinar. Nxtbook embraces individuality and individual creativity. Their culture is one that celebrates fun and quirkiness and knows how to let loose but gets the job done–and done well–at the same time. I doubt that the words “structure” or “inflexibility” dominate their conversations.

What is the moral of stone soup, the blog post? Well, the moral of Stone Soup, the folktale, is that working together is better than going it alone and that everyone can contribute to the greater good. To me, for our purposes, the moral of this story is that everyone should bring to the table what they can–whether that is food, or information, or expertise, or humor, or skill, or knowledge, juggling, fire-swallowing, card tricks, or whatever…and share it with everyone. Some will appreciate what you have to offer; some will be indifferent; some will reject it. But that shouldn’t stop anyone from trying. And trying again. And trying again.

The version of Stone Soup that Ed and I used as a backdrop ends like this:

“Thank you,” said the villagers. With the gifts you have given, we will always have plenty. You have shown us that sharing makes us all richer.”

“And to think, said the monks, to be happy is as simple as making stone soup.”

Not that simple, really. But it’s a start.

We can talk about ebooks until those proverbial e-cows come home–ownership, pricing, licensing, DRM…but without a culture that supports risk-taking, creativity, and the right to fail from time to time, how much will ebooks matter in the long run?

Ebooks do matter, but the culture of libraries matters more.

Or maybe I’m just full of it–full of stone soup. At least it wasn’t stoned soup that I consumed ( a different time under a different set of laws!).

This high is all natural.