Sunday, August 23, 2015

Values in the library

Recently, Tim Miller, the director of the Pines and Plains Library in Elbert County Colorado, reached out to Sharon Morris, Director of Library Development for the Colorado State Library. He was looking for a workshop based on the idea of organizational values, and knew that Sharon had just finished her doctoral dissertation on just that topic. Sharon and I have done a number of workshops and classes together so she invited me to team up to help develop and deliver this new one. We're still working on the final title, but it's something like "Our Values, Our Culture: Purposeful Libraries for Community Impact."

Here's a broad overview of the premises of the day:
  • Individuals have deeply held values that they bring to the work place.
  • Often, people can discover that they hold a key subset of those values in common.
  • When you think, talk, and reflect on that, you not only become more mindful of how you show up at work, you become more intentional about the culture of your workplace.
  • All of that leads to greater confidence in your own abilities, your actual ability to provide consistent service in the moment, and the integrity and capacity of your organization.
So over the course of about five hours (with time out for lunch) we walked the staff of this rural library through exercises in which:
  • They had to choose three values from a list. These values best captured what they wanted to live up to in the workplace.
  • They met in small groups to select three top values in common at that table.
  • We facilitated a discussion to see if they could find three or four values the whole staff could agree upon.
That set the base for the rest of the day, in which we explored how they could embed those values in their work, how they could use those values to communicate with each other, and finally, how they could communicate, through a series of common but complex work scenarios, those values to the community. Ultimately, that's the test: would the community be able to correctly identify what motivated the staff?

There were a few other twists along the way. Sharon has a gift for devising meaningful exercises that turn instruction into highly personal learning, and I had a few ideas, too. We recently tallied up and reviewed the various evaluations of the day, and I'm pleased to report that it seems most of the content really resonated. Staff reported real changes in their understanding, and the director of the library later reported that he sees a distinct difference in staff behavior.

It's a powerful approach. Figure out what you aspire to. Think about ways to make it real. Hold yourself and coworkers accountable to that aspiration.

At any rate, this is an engaging day for staff. If you'd be interested in that, contact Sharon here or me here.

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In November of 2018, I left my position at ALA in Chicago to return to my Colorado-based writing, speaking, and consulting career. So I'...