Start Walking, You’ll Find Your Way

a path through the woods

This weekend I was walking some trails with my girlfriend. In Vermont the trails aren’t always well marked, so we weren’t sure which way to go. We looked at the map for a bit, but it wasn’t quite clear. Instead of continuing to study the map intently, we decided to just start walking in a direction that seemed correct. After walking for a while, and exploring a few dead ends and things that caught our interest, we eventually found the trail we were looking for.

This mildly boring story can be taken as a parable for how to innovate and go about creating the future of libraries. The first thing you need to do when want to create the future is to start imagining it. Try to get an idea of where it is you want to go. In our walk we had a specific trail in mind. This could mean coming up with a vision statement for your library. It could also mean, for example, saying something like, “In two years I want our library to be completely focused on customer service and be the most welcoming place on campus.” Having an idea of where you want to go is important.

Next, when creating the future some planning is good, but doing is even better. In our walk, the map could only tell us so much. Planning is necessary for success, but it can also paralyze you (I’ve been guilty of this). It is impossible plan for everything, so sometimes you have to give up control. Planning will eliminate some bumps along the way, but other bumps you encounter help you to learn. In a TED Talk, Tim Brown of IDEO says that “instead of thinking about what to build,” we should begin “building in order to think.” He goes onto say that,”it’s only when we put our ideas out into the world that we begin to understand their strengths and weaknesses.”

In addition, don’t forget to explore interesting avenues along the way. This is where you make some great discoveries. In hiking it might be a patch of wildflowers or a great scenic view. In libraries it could be some different perspective you hadn’t thought of, or a solution you had not imagined.

Finally, have confidence you’ll find your way. If you have a vision of where your headed, if you have the ability to explore, be curious, and learn from your mistakes, and if you have the drive to see the vision through, you’ll create a brilliant future.

Andy Burkhardt


  1. I like your metaphor but couldn’t help wondering how you would factor in all those bushwalkers that get lost?? I’m sure they had a vision and a plan. Sorry to rain on your walk…!

  2. I think that’s a legitimate point, but it seems like so many more people go out and have an awesome hike and don’t get lost. Sure there are a few people who lose their way and wander around aimlessly, but if you don’t go explore for fear of getting lost then you’ll never make any discoveries.

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