Wednesday, March 19, 2014

PLA 2014: The Most Dangerous Idea of All

The Most Dangerous Idea of All: Change from the Bottom Up
Presented by Rivkah Sass and Brian Auger.
Resources are available on Google Docs.

Program Description:
Sometimes the very people who should be fostering staff engagement are its biggest enemy. What if libraries fostered change by truly encouraging innovation from any position? What if front line staff wrote your welcome brochure? What if your social media team included shelvers? What if risk taking was seen as a behavior that ought to be rewarded? This session will share ideas and outcomes from libraries that have removed obstacles and allowed frontline staff to thrive.

My Summation:
Both of the presenters are directors of public libraries, Brian is in New Jersey and Rivkah is in California and some folks have said that their presentation would have held more water if their staff had been the ones delivering the presentation but I felt they were both genuine and honest and I left feeling wonderful. Here's why...

Brian spoke about how he arranged it so his library's next strategic plan was researched, developed, published, and monitored by his staff - and staff from all departments: circulation, reference, tech services, IT, etc. He gave them specifics, guidelines, deadlines and then got out of the way. It took 12 months but his library now has a strategic plan that his staff are familiar with and whom support the plan, too. He even has one staff member who has taken on the responsibility of monitoring their progress on the plan. 

Rivkah spoke about how she created a staff think tank made up of library associates/assistants and technical staff. It was a volunteer group of about 12 who got together regularly to brainstorm solutions to problems with in the library as they saw and experienced them. In about 12 months, the group came up with about 10 solutions that were implemented in the library including a customer-centered welcome brochure - circ staff were the ones handing these out and now they are intimately familiar with their content because they created and designed them! I felt this was a great example of how administration could give innovation reins to circulation staff so they don't feel like innovation is just something that happens to them. 

How it fits into the bigger picture:
This couldn't have been a more appropriate and timely program to attend immediately following Simon Sinek's talk about how great leaders inspire. Both of these presenters demonstrated how they were reinforcing their circle of safety within their libraries. Brian was essentially saying that he trusted his staff by giving them the reins to develop their strategic plan. Rivkah did the same thing by providing space for library assistants and associates to share their problem-solving ideas and then by helping their ideas come to fruition. She trusted them, she backed them, and she shared their success. 

Favorite Soundbite:
Don't treat information as though it's currency. 

In libraries we hear that, "information wants to be free!" and yet sometimes in organizations we have information clogs; some people get some information while others don't or some people have information and choose not to share it and that leads to a weakening of the circle of safety. Why can't information be free within our organizations? I think it comes down to trust. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

PLA 2014: Simon Sinek on Leadership

I love going to conferences and as far as library conferences go, the Public Library Association's conference is one of my favorites because it's targeted to the environment I work in and the people I work with and because it provides just enough variety and choices for me to be learning all day long without suffering decision paralysis. If you're reading this and you've never attended a conference, I want my enthusiasm and excitement to come through the screen and encourage you to talk with your supervisor about attending at least one this coming year. It's great to hear from new people who work in either similar or different library systems; it's just so invigorating! 

Psst...the Maryland Library Association/Delaware Library Association's joint conference is coming up: May 7-9! 

In order to keep the length of my posts reasonable, my PLA reflections will span multiple postings.

Simon Sinek
Author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Simon made a comment about how the point of leadership is to figure out how to create an environment in which people will do remarkable things. He talked about how work environments are very similar to tribes from long ago - in that, we need to feel as though we are part of a circle of safety (trust and cooperation) lead by someone who we can count on to have our backs (in the days of cavemen, this was a literal statement) when danger or disruption threatens our status quo. When there is a breach in the circle of safety then the environment shifts from being one of a united front facing outside danger to one of internal strife; we become each others' enemies instead of each others' friends and safety nets which leaves all of us vulnerable to the outside dangers. 

A question asked by an audience member during Q&A was, "How do we get our circle of safety back after it's been tarnished?" Sinek recommended reading the book, Turn the Ship Around, by David Marquet.

Some other soundbites that Simon shared were:

  • The cost of good leadership is self-interest.
  • Customers/patrons should not be #1. Employees should be #1. 
  • Do not email emotional information; pick up the phone or say it face to face.
  • Have goals? Make sure they're visible from where you spend most of your time.
  • Human contact, as simple as a handshake, is the most important leadership tool. 
  • Have a vision statement? Can you visualize it? If not then it needs to be rewritten. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Highlights from Elliott Masie’s Learning 2013 Conference, presented Pecha Kucha style

Posted on behalf of Keela Pfaff, Library Associate & Admin Clerk for the Ruth Enlow Library of Garrett County.

Recently I viewed an archived webinar covering highlights from Elliott Masie’s Learning 2013 Conference.  The webinar also gave the presenters an opportunity to test the Pecha Kucha style of presentation where each presenter shares twenty slides with twenty seconds of explanation given per slide.  The idea is that learners are pressed for time so you should only present the most poignant and applicable highlights during a training session.

The first presenter stressed the importance of understanding how different individuals learn so that you can present information in the most effective way.  Things to consider include personalization of presentation—classroom vs. virtual vs. workplace, compression—people have shorter amounts of time to devote to learning so you need to cut right through to the “golden nugget”, instructor vs. learner—which one is really the driving force on the path of learning, and re-branding—consider the impact to be had simply from changing the language you use.

The second topic of discussion centered around future classrooms.  This was the part of the presentation with which I most struggled.  As a very introverted person, I understand the benefits of listening, quiet time to process information, and instructor-led learning.  However, these qualities were all given a negative connotation during this portion as the presenter espoused the benefits of a future classroom where groupwork and peer-to-peer interaction is given priority.  Keywords such as interactive, collaborative, groupwork, discussion, and relationships were repeatedly used and in nothing but a positive light.  One upside to Masie’s vision of a future classroom includes making it similar to a lab where learners are able to “fail in a safe space” and test their ideas. 

During the virtual learning communities portion, the presenter discussed how to serve a geographically diverse workforce without breaking the bank.  In the end, it was suggested that a blended approach which includes lectures, e-courses, videos, and games often works best.  Communication and networking are key to avoiding feelings of isolation among employees.

“Curation in Collaborative Learning” discussed how curation separates quality content in a sea of information.  Curation includes the five steps of find, fill, follow (various links to the info), focus, and frame (provide context).  Curator tools include Twitter, blogs, Google Drive, Pearltrees,!, and Curatr (fee-based).

While I enjoyed all the “golden nuggets” which were presented to me in this webinar, I struggled with the Pecha Kucha format.  It felt fast and chaotic.  Being presented only bullet points of information meant that I was left with no time to process the information and/or take proper notes.  Personally I have always thrived in classrooms where instructors lectured for the majority of class time with ample opportunity to take notes and ask questions as needed; however, I understand that everyone learns differently and I applaud those like Masie who experiment with new techniques.  I only hope that introverted learners like me do not get lost in the shuffle.