I’ve decided to embrace what I’ve viewed as a flaw – my desk full of stuff that I feel I must see everyday – to maintain visual contact with, as they say in the surveillance business. And I’m talking both my desktops – the one on my desk and the one on my computer.
I haven’t blogged for a year because I… didn’t want to. Now, I’m going to write about what I think is important for libraries based on what I keep on my desk(s). (Since I went over the dark side and converted to a Mac several months ago, I find I use my desktop much more than I did as a Windows user for 20+ years.) It could be a project or presentation I’m working on, some article, blog post, book or other piece of writing that lit a synapse in my brain that may have been dark for awhile or forever. And that is still one of the coolest and most exciting experiences I can think of. I love that rush of an idea or thought that I can integrate into what I already know and perhaps add a new twist that the originator of the idea may not have intended.
I’ve had two of his recommended titles on my desk for some time. I also realized something else – about his insistence that librarians must invest in themselves. I’ve practiced that my whole career. For a couple of reasons: I see constant learning and environmental scanning as an integral part of any librarian’s job because we claim to be all about lifelong learning. If we don’t practice it, how can we preach it? And we have to know what is important or of interest to the people in our communities, whether they use the library or not.
It’s that thinking in the previous century when I was a reference librarian and trained reference librarians that made me insist that we all read People magazine. I admit I still have a subscription (okay, two, print and on my iPad), but it was a weekly primer on pop culture and it was clear to me as a young adult and reference librarian in the 1970s and ‘80s that we needed to be plugged into that culture. The books, films, people and events that people were interested in and talking about were there.
Colleagues that insisted that they only listened to NPR and only watched PBS were only getting part of the picture. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an NPR junkie – one of the apps I use most is the one that locates NPR stations wherever I am, and I’m a Downton Abbey devotee who felt quite betrayed by the ending of season 3. But not everyone in our communities shares those interests.
Back to what’s on my desktop. (Okay, you should also know the promise I made to myself is that if I started blogging again after a year’s hiatus, I’d write what I want and go off on tangents when I dang well want to!)
I endorse Carl’s recommendation of Blue Ocean Strategy and David Lankes’ Expect More. I haven’t read The Filter Bubble, but I’m requesting it as I write.
Here are two books I think are essential reading and practice for librarians: The Secrets of Masterful Meetings and The Secrets of Facilitation by Michael Wilkinson. Michael is in the business of helping people work together effectively. His books stay on my desk or conference table for quick reference or to learn a new technique.
The ability to facilitate is an essential skill set for librarians. A key part of our work should be helping groups made up of all kinds of people work together to develop the best ideas and results for our libraries and our communities. What will ensure the relevancy of libraries in the future isn’t libraries, but librarians and how we evolve our profession.
This ability to help people work together is essential for our workplaces because how we shape and lead our libraries should be based on the collective wisdom and experience of the people we work with, not just the perspectives of a few. It’s also essential if we intend to expand our reach, increase the number of people whose lives we touch, and act deliberately to have real and lasting impact in our communities.
Here are some examples. At the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, we are training managers, supervisors and members of our librarian cohort in the meeting management and facilitation techniques in Masterful Meetings and Secrets to Facilitation. We’re using those techniques daily for most of our meetings to make sure they become a natural part of how we work together.
And they work for wide variety of meeting types. We’re using these techniques in departmental, strategic planning and process review meetings. We’re also getting a reputation for being good facilitators and are facilitating meetings for service clubs, economic development organizations and cultural and arts groups. This is becoming part of how we provide service to our community. These groups trust us to know and respect what they do, to not impose our values or perspectives, and to help them reach a decision or resolution that works for them.
Doesn’t this sound like a very natural extension of the work we already do?