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Positive Vision and Questions in Libraries

“All we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” -Buddha

“A vivid imagination compels the whole body to obey it.” -Aristotle

I just began a 6 week online workshop on Appreciative Inquiry conducted by David Cooperrider at Case Western University’s Weatherhead School of Management. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is an organizational development model and a way of implementing change that focuses not on the problems or deficits of a group or organization, but instead focuses on the positive and increasing what they do well. I recognized right away that this workshop was going to be exploring a lot of questions that I have recently been dealing with, especially the importance of questions in the change process.

One of the interesting elements of AI is called the Anticipatory Principle. This principle states that our current actions and behaviors are guided and deeply influenced by our images of the future. An example of this is Pygmalion Effect in pedagogy. Research shows that students will perform better if their teacher has higher expectations of them. The same is true with organizations or institutions. And of course examples like the Pygmalion Effect or the Placebo Effect are instances of self-fulfilling prophecies. If we have a positive vision of the future we will create that future. If we have a negative vision of the future, that is what we will get.

Then I come across sentiments like this:

I remember coming across this tweet a couple of months ago at the Library Technology Conference, and it seemed pretty spot on. There’s a lot of hand-wringing that goes on in librarianship. We see a “crisis of identity” and “low self esteem.” There’s a lot of hype that libraries are doomed or that the library “empire” is declining and falling.

It’s easy to focus on problems, a future of obsolescence, budget cuts, or change resistant colleagues. But there is a problem with that. If we focus on obsolescence or resistance to change, that is what we’ll get. Focusing only on fixing what’s wrong with libraries is a waste of energy. There will always be more problems. Instead we should be focusing on the strengths of libraries, capitalizing on them and innovating in those areas.

This is a really exciting time in the history of humanity and there is so much potential, not just for libraries but also for human curiosity. There are tons of examples of libraries and librarians innovating, creating new service models, and meeting the changing needs of their members. When libraries are at their best, they are funinspiring places, that foster community and civic engagement, empower citizens of all ages and cultures, and promote literacy and scholarship.

How can we shift our professional discourse away from all the problems facing libraries and instead think about questions like “what do libraries look like when they are at their best” and “what would an ideal library look like?”

 

14

Puppies In The Library And Social Media


Photo by Stephen Mease

It all started with a tweet. At the start of the month a student made an off-hand comment on Twitter about renting puppies to deal with stress. Last week several of us were chatting at an event about finals coming up and I mentioned the idea of pet therapy for helping with stress. Gloria, one of our awesome circulation assistants is also a dog-sitter/walker,  and she was thrilled with the idea. She knew the perfect fun and relaxed dogs to bring (Thea and Pippin).

We floated the idea by our director Janet and she asked a lot of good questions about things like noise, safety and logistics. She also believes in the value of experimentation and trying new things, so together we devised a plan to have a puppy VIP room that kept people, dogs, and noise contained. We decided we would offer dog-therapy on Monday and Tuesday from 5-8:30 (we had to work around the dogs schedules).

Since it was a fairly last minute idea, I began promoting it with signs Friday and more importantly via social media. The posts on Twitter and Facebook began to get some buzz.

It was mentioned and retweeted a pretty good amount over the weekend. When it came time to host the puppies on Monday we got a few more people than we expected. In fact, we were swamped!

Our original idea of having the puppy VIP room in a good-sized office had to be replaced with a plan B of a large meeting room in the library. Once my office-mate Lindsey skillfully shuffled everyone upstairs, the event went swimmingly. Everyone had a smile on their face, and it was a completely calm and relaxed environment. A news crew even ended up covering the story!

There were plenty more tweets from students either asking about the dogs, posting pictures, talking about how Champlain is the best school ever, or posting our news video. I heard from multiple students either on social media or in person how awesome an event this was and how it actually helped during this stressful week.

This event is a great example of how social media can be leveraged by libraries and organizations. It’s a tool for listening to your community, responding to your users, promoting relevant services that meet their needs, telling stories, and demonstrating value.

How better to demonstrate value than having students tweet things like #bestschoolevermy college > than your college, or proud to be a Champlain alum.

0

Award Reception And “Allies In Education”

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”Aristotle

Staff with ACRL award

We had our celebration for the ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries Award on Monday. You can check out some of the pictures from the reception on Champlain College’s Facebook page. We got to celebrate with students, our student workers, the library staff, the faculty, the administration and even trustees. It was truly a community event which is exactly what library events should be.

Another really fun aspect of the party was a video that an alumni of our digital film-making program produced for us. It highlighted the importance of the award and some of the things that make our library great. But my favorite part of the video is at the end when my good friend Steve Wehmeyer, a professor in our Core Division, is talking about the work that librarians do. He says, “Whether they’re coming into the classroom doing creative info literacy sessions, or whether they’re helping us develop engaging activities for first-year students, I’ve really come to see librarians as our allies in education.”

I loved that phrase “allies in education.” That’s how we have to think of our work. We’re not just running a library and curating collections. We’re educators who are partnering with other educators to provide the types of environments, resources, curriculum and events that facilitate and empower learning.

Our library team is really dedicated to the work we do. We were all excited to win this award, but we also know that our work isn’t done. There is still a lot of room for growth and improvement. There is a lot that we can learn from other libraries who are also doing amazing things. If as Aristotle said, excellence is not an act but a habit, we have to continue our work and keep building on our successes. The work of an educator is never done.