Bridging the Gaps – Library Journal/Temple U. Symposium

covered bridge

Image CC on Flickr by Gregg Obst

Next month Library Journal and Temple University are going to be hosting an event called The Future of the Academic Library Symposium: Bridging the Gaps, and I am a panelist during one of the morning sessions. This is the second year that LJ has held this symposium and it seems like a great event. Not only are there a lot of great folks on the panels who I really respect and love hearing speak (like Erin DorneyAmanda Etches-JohnsonJenica RogersAaron Schmidt, and Courtney Young), but it’s also FREE. If you are in and around the Northeast area you should definitely try to make it. Did I mention it’s FREE?

As for the segment that I am in, it is focused on people and is about strengthening the culture in the library. Here’s the brief description:

“Why can’t my colleagues tolerate change?” Don’t these new librarians realize how we do things here?” “How come the deadwood always rejects my great ideas?” “Technology? That’s the new librarian’s job.” Our academic libraries can become fraught with misunderstanding and stereotypes about our colleagues, and when the gaps grow wide they lead to organizational dysfunction. To build better libraries we must confront these gaps. Doing so requires that we engage in authentic conversation focused on creating a better understanding of each other. Once we learn to appreciate our differences, and how our organizations thrive from the mix of skills we bring to it, we an begin to bridge the culture gap.

I am really excited about my co-panelists and the topic that we’re discussing. This summer I volunteered to participate in a 25 hour intensive program about intercultural understanding at Champlain College. We had amazing discussions, watched videos, read articles, debated one another, and gave presentations. Ultimately I think many of us came to a better understanding of our own lenses through which we see the world as well as the lenses of others. After the experience I feel a lot more empowered to have conversations about different cultures and how we can go about bridging the gaps.

I’m looking forward to 11/11/11 in Philadelphia. Hopefully I see you there!


Focusing On What Works

person writing on board for the Champlain College Summit

photo by Stephen Mease

A little over a week ago Champlain College hosted a two day summit called Building Partnerships for a Thriving Workforce. They invited college staff, faculty and students, but also a lot of community members, business owners, parents and local stakeholders. The focus of it was creating the workforce of the future which involves both the college but also businesses that need well prepared graduates for an uncertain future. What was really interesting though, was that the summit was based on a process called Appreciative Inquiry.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is an organizational development method that focuses not on solving problems, but on discovering strengths and what an organization is doing well and then building on it. I’ve seen it used before in planning sessions and it works well. It can be really easy to focus on problems, what’s going wrong, and what is frustrating about an organization or situation, but that isn’t always the most productive way of making lasting, meaningful change.

We talked about this at NELLS a little over a week ago and person mentioned the idea of people becoming “addicted to the drama of complaining.” I thought this was a great phrase. It’s easy to focus on the negative or complain about annoying co-workers or what is going wrong. It’s easy to fall into the trap of asking questions like “what if it doesn’t work,” “what if we have too much success,” or “what if no one likes our idea?” While it’s important to anticipate obstacles, it’s more effective to plan for success.

For more information on appreciative inquiry I’d suggest the Library Trends article The promise of appreciative inquiry in library organizations by Maureen Sullivan. But even as a first step, during your next library meeting when the focus shifts to the problems of the organization, perhaps try to shift the question to “what are we doing well, what makes us effective, and how can we build on that?”