Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Diversity in the Library

I just spent the last two days at a fantastic conference for STAPLE (Sustainable Training for Alabama Public Library Employees). While this organization is not applicable to those librarians outside the state of Alabama, I will simply dedicate this blog to sharing with you all some of the wonderful tidbits that I learned.

The overall theme of this STAPLE workshop revolved around Diversity and Inclusion.

About 40 of us shared the problem areas each of our libraries had, in terms of what groups we feel are excluded from the library, and how to become more culturally, socially, and economically accepting of all patrons who enter the library. The 20 hours that I got to share with these librarians from all different walks of life, and all different types of libraries was priceless. 

We were also fortunate enough to have one of the top Diversity Trainers in the United States, Susan O'Halloran, who showed us all some techniques on how we as librarians can create a welcoming atmosphere in the library.

We Mostly Discussed:
  • Listening Techniques
  • Realistic Outreach Strategies- such as how to target under-represented patrons to bring them into the library
  • Cultural Awareness

A Few Tips for You and Your Fellow Co-Workers- Some of the wonderful tips Susan O'Halloran discussed with us today, was how we as employees, whether we are librarians or not, can learn about our fellow co-workers culturally, which in turn will make our communication, respect, and understanding much stronger towards one another. 

We talked with each other about Cultural Training, where we all shared parts of us that shape who we are in the workplace. 

  • Example:  I mentioned that I was a college athlete, so therefore I am very goal-oriented, can take criticism well, and love working in teams, due to my background of athletics. 
    • This would be helpful for my co-workers to know in that they know I would enjoy group projects that involve deadlines, and they could feel comfortable telling me if I was doing something wrong without fearing of hurting my feelings. 

  • Another Example: A lady mentioned that she grew up in a family who often struggled financially. Thus, she is very stringent on her library's budget. She shared that her co-workers often get frustrated with her when discussing the budget, because they do not understand why she is working so hard to save every penny. 
    • This would be helpful for the above librarian's co-workers to know, because they would then have a deeper understanding and respect for why she is so strict with the budget. 

Often times, as seen in the examples above, sharing parts of our culture with our staff and co-workers helps everyone as a work family understand why we often work in the ways that we do. I encourage all of you who are reading this to try to share a piece of your culture with your co-workers, friends, family, etc. I guarantee that you will not only learn something interesting about the other person, but you will find that you work with them more efficiently, effectively, and respectfully due to this learned cultural understanding. 

Recommended Book of the Week:

My recommended book of the week is "Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In" by Roger Fisher and William Ury. This is a fantastic book that shares insight of how to effectively communicate with others, without losing sight of your own goals. 

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