From the President

Betsy Simpson, ALCTS President 2011-2012

Betsy Simpson, ALCTS President 2011–2012

Better Odds Than Vegas

Have you ever heard, “Don’t bet on the big one if you can’t afford to lose”? Let’s face it—placing all your chips on one roll of the dice can be risky, whether we’re talking about individuals or organizations. Such is the premise behind Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries by Peter Sims. Sims makes a compelling case for incremental change using prototyping and piloting to test new ventures while resisting the “deep cultural inclinations for detailed planning and error minimization.” More and more it is virtually impossible to predict and correct in advance for all the potential pitfalls of the latest initiatives. Heck, it can be hard just figuring out which ideas are worth our time and resources, limited as they are. As Sims cautions, “people routinely bet big on ideas that aren’t solving the right problems.” The little bets approach offers a way to try out ideas on a small enough scale that any failures along the way are absorbable, and successes give clues about what comes next. If this sounds familiar, you’re right, it is. ALCTS is filled with “little bets.”

Take, for instance, the ALCTS Virtual 2012 Midwinter Symposium, “Launching Your Star Potential.” It was a highlight of my Midwinter happenings, and I hope yours, too. Offering a virtual symposium was a little bet that paid off with as many as 500 attendees at some of the sessions. Building on ALCTS’ success with virtual continuing education offerings, Pamela Bluh, Norm Mederios, Cindy Hepfer, and Keri Cascio organized a week of well-received virtual presentations about leadership, including two outstanding talks by ALCTS members Mary Page and Erica Findley. In fact, I learned about Little Bets during the last talk in the symposium series, “Leading Change” by James Hilton, vice president and chief information officer at the University of Virginia. Looking ahead, ALCTS sections are considering section-related virtual symposiums. It’s truly amazing how each small win generates energy and momentum that leads us in new directions.

Sims points out that this emergent process is what drives success for individuals like Chris Rock and companies like Pixar and Starbucks. So ALCTS is in good company with how it is reshaping itself in a changing and uncertain information world. The Critical Issue Areas/Strategic Plan ( and many task groups (e.g., ALISE-ALCTS Meeting, Transforming Collections, Publishing Review, Advocacy) are evidence of ALCTS’ efforts to revisit old assumptions and explore new ground. As part of the ongoing push to grow ALCTS’ virtual presence, the ALCTS Board voted unanimously at its Midwinter Board meeting to change division and section committee terms from post-Annual-Annual to Annual-Annual beginning in 2013, a move that should foster more virtual committee involvement and activity. PARS made great strides during Midwinter with its experiment to stream the PARS Forum live, which included five speakers in three separate locations, a live audience, and numerous virtually-connected attendees. This spring the Board of Directors will hold its first-ever virtual meeting to consider ALCTS participation in standards development.

The gambling capital may have lots of glitz and glamour, but ALCTS members place their chips where it makes a difference for our association and our libraries, one little bet at a time! Thanks for your contributions.

Contact Betsy Simpson (