When I first read the email my boss had sent out asking if I wanted to attend the 2010 Midwest CONTENTdm Users Group Meeting, I honestly wanted to hit the delete button right away. There were some scary words in that meeting title! Midwest = vast area of the U.S. = people I don’t know. Users Group = people who are familiar with their institution’s digital collection = me feeling inadequate and wondering if I know enough about ours. Meeting = interaction with these people from various places talking about their digital collections = me scared to death to talk to people I don’t know about a process that I may not know enough about! Those are the reasons why I wanted to hit the delete button; those are the reasons why I didn’t want to go. I did feel very obligated to go, though.  This conference would help me gain knowledge about digital collections.  It would let me see what problems other people are having and what solutions they’ve found, and it would help me better our department. There was nothing to lose. I wouldn’t be alone: 3 others from my department were also going to the conference, so that made me feel a little bit better and a little less scared about being around strangers.

Shortly after our arrival at the conference, I realized that I may have been worrying about nothing at all. Sure, there were about 70 people there, most of whom I didn’t know, but I felt more comfortable than I expected. There were many sessions to attend and choose from over the 2 days. The choices were another thing that intimidated me at first, but really my worry was for nothing.

Overall, the Iowa State University Digital Initiatives team learned that in order for a digital collections department (and other departments) to be successful it has to have the complete support and cooperation of every department in the library, including IT and the administration. Success is a family effort. Without complete support, it is very difficult for the digital collections department (or any department, for that matter) to advance in a timely manner. We also walked away with the realization that people often get comfortable in the position/situation they are in, so they don’t care to take risks, or aren’t comfortable with the possibility of changing their ways.  Change is especially important when you are dealing with any sort of technology, since technology is always changing, always being upgraded. Shouldn’t we be upgrading our minds and thoughts as well? Shouldn’t we be considering the risks we are faced with? How will we know for sure if the risk will benefit us or not if we don’t try it out?

I realize now as I write this that I could be counted in the category stated above, the non-risk taker category. For most of the car ride home after the conference the conversation was about taking risks. Earlier in this post, I talked about how I didn’t want to take the risk of stepping outside my comfort zone to attend the conference. I was scared. Conferences are foreign to me. I like my little desk and the lab I work in, where I rarely have to interact with people I don’t know. I am not a risk taker; I like comfort. Well guess what, Mindy, you stepped out of your comfort zone, you took a risk and went to a conference loaded with strangers. Was it really that bad? Nope, not at all. So my challenge to you is this: don’t shoot down an idea right away if it is something that is not familiar to you, or doesn’t immediately interest you. This is your chance to consider new opportunities and take a risk. You might be glad you did!

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