The Library Backstory

I’m often asked why I decided to write The Library. 

It comes from two sad stories - one personal, the other professional - that simply weren’t okay with me. I knew I couldn’t fix the outcomes of either of those - but I committed to doing something to help make sure that others didn’t have to experience the same things.

It begins with my Dad.

My father was the American Dream. He and his family came to the United States - by foot and by sea - when he was seven years old. By the time he was eight, he was the primary breadwinner in his family, delivering bootleg liquor to speakeasies during Prohibition.

Eventually, going straight, he owned multiple liquor stores and was active within and on behalf of the industry - specifically in support of independent liquor store owners who were starting to be targeted by the big chains.

He was successful, but then he got some very bad advice from people - friends and family - he thought he could trust. Suddenly, no matter which way he turned, there was impossibly growing trouble and previously inconceivable betrayal.

In fact, it was so bad that some of the advisors either lost their licenses or went to jail. Or both.

My Dad died when he was 47 years old - literally and figuratively - of a broken heart. 

I was 13.

Fast forward a number of years and I’m sitting as an observer in a conference room with the executive team of a major aerospace/defense organization - a newbie in my first corporate position! - listening to a presentation being made by a partner in a small, ‘specialty’ consulting organization.

Two weeks prior, one of the teams I had been working with had made a presentation to the executive team giving them a step-by-step solution to a major supply chain problem the company had been experiencing for years. It was brilliant.

The executives had been polite (there were t-shirts and a pizza lunch as parting gifts) but they told the team members that they weren’t going to make a decision yet as they had a consultant coming in soon. They did ask, however, that the team share their results with the consultant and his team when they came in to do their observational visit.

The team did exactly that. They shared their results and their deck with the consultants.

And that ended up being the majority of what the partner presented to the executive team - only with their logo on the slides - leading to a happy, handshaking, backslapping - expensive - agreement to get the consultants going on their ‘excellent’ ideas as quickly as possible.

After all, it was a really big problem.

The consultants were escorted out and I asked the executive team to give me just a few minutes before they left.

They agreed and, as they sat there, I pulled out the original team’s slide deck and showed them - slide by slide - how the consultant had just given the same presentation the team had given them. I explained what this decision by the executive team would cost in morale and productivity in the team and its area. I told them to expect it to be seen as a betrayal by management and that the team might well sabotage what had now become the consultant’s implementation plan.

They assured me that that wouldn’t be the case. That the team would ‘understand’ and ‘enjoy’ working with the consultants. That they’d learn new things. That the expense was worth it.

I told them that I thought they were wrong (one of my early executive mentors told me that because of my directness and honesty I committed career suicide every day - of which I’m still proud) and that they needed to be ready with a plan in concert with the team’s immediate management of how to fix the damage that was going to be done to the team and the area.

Sadly, I was correct. The team did the minimum while the consultants were there - and only when they didn’t have a way to avoid it - and the moment the consultants left, the team stopped. Even though the improvements had originally been their idea.

The damage was done - and I made a promise to myself that somehow, at some time, in some way, I’d find a way to give owners, executives, managers and teams the knowledge, skills and tools they needed so that they would be able to access all the excellent ideas and innovations resident - now - in their organizations and not be victims of outside ‘advisors’ whose agendas aren’t (and can’t) be the same as those of their clients.

Thirty years later, The Library was born - and for over ten years has shown its worth to individuals, institutions and organizations…over and over again.