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What We're Reading Now

Be Intrepid

11 December 2012

Allison read Intrepid, The University of Virginia Library 2012 Annual Report, and enjoyed a celebration of words, a feast for the senses and a bit of inspiration for 2013.

Tags: allison read, courage, creativity, david whyte, leadership, uva

Our blog at Allison Partners is called What We’re Reading Now so I guess it’s no surprise that I’ve enjoyed a lifetime love affair with libraries. I like how they smell, wandering through the maze of stacks, seeing the exhibits, leafing through old documents in the archives, and even attending board meetings and events in library spaces. As an undergraduate, I did an independent study with UVA Professor Dr. Peter Onuf in 1993 and wrote a paper, African-American Presence During the Construction of UVA 1818-1828, so that I could include those stories on the tours I gave as a member of the University Guide Service. I couldn’t believe that the library let me hold documents written by Thomas Jefferson so that I could search for references to slaves and free blacks. When they put a copy of my paper in the library, I thought I would burst with pride.

I’ve always admired the entrepreneurial spirit my friend and UVA librarian, Karin Wittenborg, brings to her leadership of the library. She’s done many innovative things over the years, but I remember most fondly when she boldly decided to allow food and drinks in the libraries and opened a Greenberry’s Cafe in Alderman. This was a pretty radical move in 1998, but Karin knew she had to compete with bookstore cafes and other study locations if she wanted to stay relevant to her students, faculty and community members. You can read more about Karin's approach to leadership and change in her blog post, Rocking the Boat.

So I wasn’t at all surprised to see that this year’s annual report was inspired by UVA Professor and poet Lisa Russ Spaar’s assertion that UVA's library is “One of the most intrepid library systems in the country.” I get a lot of annual reports and many are lovely publications, but I look forward to this gift like no other. It’s more artifact than report and is meant to be held. You can find it here or better yet you can call the Director of Communications, Charlotte Morford, at 434-924- 4254 to get a copy for your coffee table.

Karin’s welcome letter begins by acknowledging what’s positive about being intrepid (fearlessness, ambition, and risk taking), but she also recognizes it can have a negative side (naivety, overconfidence and foolhardiness). Then the report is divided into four parts: curiosity (one of my favorite things), observation, experimentation, and expansion. You’ll find:

  • An illustration of Dorothy catching Toto by the ear from the first edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, 1900;
  • Images from U.VA. CHILLIN IN AN OCEAN OF KNOWLEDGE, a music video about using the library created by McIntire School of Commerce students who were curious to see if they could make it go viral;
  • Photographs of businesses from the former African-American neighborhood of Vinegar Hill in Charlottesville;
  • A drawing by O. Henry from the Beyond Words: The Writer’s Art exhibition that has doodles, sketches and paintings by famous writers.

I’m sure there’s something in this report that will tickle your fancy and as you’re skimming the pages and appreciating the library’s accomplishments and vision for the future, I want you to ask yourself this, “What part of my life needs me to be fearless, ambitious, and willing to take risks?” Then I hope you’ll infuse your 2013 goals with something just a little intrepid.

p.s. If you need some encouragement to give up your fear of failure and take important risks, my recent blog post on David Whyte’s book, The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America, might just help.


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Charlotte Morford
Dec 12, 2012

Wow, Allison, great post! Thank you so much and have an intrepid 2013!

Allison Partners
Dec 14, 2012

You’re very welcome and thanks so much for the service you all provide for our community every day!


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