Connect, Create and Collaborate pt 3

In thinking this week about collaboration, connection and creation– in all its forms, this article in Forbes — about how most groups don’t truly collaborate got me thinking about times that I thought I was collaborating – even partnering – with other staff or community partners – but what I was actually doing looked more often just like listening patiently, tolerating, or convincing.

To enter a room of possible collaborators and acknowledge you might not have the best idea yourself – or that you need their help to do work differently and better can be a scary and risky endeavor. Scary because you might not be able to do it “your way” and risky because you have to give up more control than you might be comfortable with—and that this could change your outcome. Living in this place is a hard balance and I work on it almost every day because if it’s an idea with mutual investment – something a group came up with — you have that many more people invested in its success and sustainability over the long term.

In my library right now we have three new strategic change focus areas – students, seniors and readers. These are groups that we’ve always served and will continue to do so – but we’re identifying them as “change priorities,” meaning that we want to look for new, different ways of thinking about how to serve these groups throughout our library– ways that engage all our staff about things that they can each do in their work. In order to enter into this work in partnership with my colleagues, I had to back up and acknowledge I wasn’t the only expert in the room – that everyone around me had new and different ideas that I hadn’t heard before.

Like many of us, I’ve been following the news of elimination of telecommuting at major companies like Yahoo and Best Buy . In both cases the desire for increased collaboration, among others, were cited as reasons for these changes – it made me wonder what other strategies these companies – and others – were using to embed or reinforce a culture of collaboration – which is way harder than just sharing a cubicle.

What can libraries learn from other organizations about what a real culture of collaboration could look like? If we could figure it out among staff, it would probably be easier to teach it to young people.

Most of us are actively creating and supporting ways for young people to connect, create and collaborate with each other but are we doing it in our own work? This post focuses on creating with our colleagues.

A few years ago I learned some techniques that, quite literally, saved me from myself. I hadn’t been managing staff very long and wasn’t very experienced in supervision. I tended to think that if staff had a problem, it was my job as a supervisor to fix it for them rather than helping them address – and find a solution for – the problem itself. Many of the supervisory classes I had taken focused more on a “the boss is in charge/don’t question it” style of management – and that just didn’t feel right to me. I was moving into a new position as a co-manager of a large library in our system and knew I needed some new techniques in my toolkit.

Our library is a county department and the county had just started a facilitation network – to train internal staff to facilitate on behalf of other departments in the county – believing, rightly, that this was a cost saving measure – and also believing that there was great value for everyone in making meetings run better. Read More →

If so, then please join us Thursday, Jan 10th from 2 – 3pm, EST, for a free, members’ only webinar in utilizing social media to build your career and help you in your job search.’  The focus of the session will be on practical tips that you can implement in your spare time.’  Reserve your spot via this brief online form, because space is limited! If you are unable to participate in the live session, please know that, as a benefit of YALSA membership, all members will receive a link to the recording in the Feb. issue of YALSA E-News. This event will be facilitated by Courtney Young.’  Happy new year!

School’s out, I’m no longer sick, and the blog is no longer down! In honor of the evolving focus of this column, I’ve changed its title and broadened my scope. But don’t worry; I’ll still be trolling the various databases for hard-hitting research, too. The first month of summer is usually the busy one, in which students are still finishing school, are already in summer school, or have begun to embark on busy summer adventures, like camp and travel. So the ideas I’m offering you are a bit more low-key or focused on the librarian, rather than the patron, since I gather that your patrons are not exactly in the mood yet for anything that requires a lot of commitment.

  • Last weekend, PostSecret put up a (trigger warning) postcard from someone who dislikes being labeled intolerant for saying that certain types of people are, maybe, hypocritical about oppression. That made me think of a tumblr I found once upon a time called Oppressed Brown Girls Doing Things, whose tagline, “Because we’re still oppressed,” is awesomely readable in a multitude of ways. You might just find this fun to read when there’s a lull in your day, but I know I’d love to see some of these posts find their way into a collage on a library wall, a bookmarks list on a library computer, or into the meeting of any group that meets in your teen room. While the content ranges from NSFW language to sarcastic gifs, the blog also brings up a lot of pertinent points about what it means to be a woman of color. Read More →
  • Ever since I joined the school library world, I’ve been amazed at the ways in which seemingly similar professions (book publishers, booksellers, authors, English teachers, for example) know little about one another and maintain rather separate professional development lives.

    In a past life, I occasionally attended the Association for Writers and Writing Programs annual conference (AWP). When I revisited this conference in my librarian role, I found stark differences. Where we celebrated new YA author panels, AWP had panels with authors defending their choice to publish in this area. Even vendors displayed a different side of themselves when surrounded by these literary academics. Then when I went to the Book Expo America (BEA) the following year I noticed that small publishing houses that had huge booths at AWP were hidden in remote aisles far from the glitz of larger houses. At ALA, a completely different view of topics, panels and vendors revealed themselves. The shifts intrigued me, and it got me to thinking…am I discovering all I can when sticking with my own profession’s resources?
    Read More →

    We have each experienced a time professionally during which we didn’t feel educated enough, engaged enough, cool enough for our duties as professionals who serve young adults.’  For some of us, our training in YA services has only be on-the-job training (and “training” might be an overstatement!)’  YALSA is committed, as demonstrated in its Strategic Plan, to continuous learning and professional development.’  But to successfully engage its members, we need your input — your Great Ideas – as to how YALSA can connect members with current information, deliver continuing education, provide more training at local and regional levels with regard to YA services and issues, and increase overall the number of library workers competent in teen and YA services.

    Here’s how to help YALSA members and potentially win $250:

    1. Review Goal #3 of YALSA’s strategic plan.

    2. Review guidelines of YALSA’s Great Ideas Contest.

    3. Submit your Great Idea by March 16, 2012


    You know you’ve found yourself, at one time or another, thinking, “I wish YALSA would…”‘  Well, here’s your chance to propose your wish to YALSA, by giving the organization a practical how-to on the topic of continuing education and professional development.

    If you have any questions about the application or the process, please feel free to direct them to Priscille Dando, Strategic Planning Committee Chair, at