Projects Fail


Some projects fail.

In my experience, this can be a hard one to accept. Librarians are by and large passionate people, and they bring this passion in to work. They have great ideas for projects, and pour all their hopes into these projects, and the projects come to life.

But projects are not immortal, nor should they be.

This has happened at every library where I have worked, but most recently, with my portfolio. My portfolio started in a burst of enthusiasm and ended in a sad fizzle. Web projects are a fair bit of work, especially when one is not a web developer by training. Simple tasks take a lot longer, and the process of trial and error involves a lot of error. I will give myself a star for trying. But I should have admitted earlier that the portfolio had ballooned into something I was not committed to completing, and just put it down.

I would like to step aside to mention that had this been a work project, it would have unfolded a lot differently. For instance, I would have identified a target audience and criteria for success before starting the project. A deadline would have kept me moving, and coworkers would have been on hand to identify issues when I got stuck.

But sitting here by myself, I dreamed up the portfolio as a “why not” sort of project. Not a good plan for success. Add to that volunteer commitments that I am very excited about, the portfolio became like that unmarked takeout box in the back of the office fridge, lurking and decaying and giving the entire office an odd odor. Defining the point where a project hits failure is hard: sometimes a little more time is all that’s needed. But this portfolio had plenty of time to get off the ground, and it didn’t. That is not success.

Every project I have seen–successful and unsuccessful–needs to have an end. We have to decide whether that leftover-takeout project is worth keeping any longer. Unlike the takeout, which must be disposed of, never to be seen again, projects can be set aside to hibernate. Maybe the time wasn’t right. Maybe the audience wasn’t there–yet. I sort of hope this will happen with my portfolio. If not, I am glad I didn’t leave it there to fester.