Paul’s BCLA Talk

We have heard from many in our communities, for a while now, that they would would  like to see more  programs in which they can be active participants; where they can interact with others, while sharing knowledge and experience, learning together, and making stronger community connections.

paulStaff have been empowered to take initiative in responding to this desire for change in our programming model. Developing responsive programs has been a disruptive and a transformative process, challenging participants, both staff and community members, in ways that have strengthened community bonds.

We’ve welcomed individuals willing to share their expertise in order to lead sessions that bring others together, on a regular basis, to learn, in an active, participatory manner.

–We’re running a creative writing program led by a local author, in which participants write together and share their work;

We’re offering a creativity program, designed by a local life coach to allow participants to work together with ideas from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.

–We’ve also been developing knowledge-sharing, and discussion-based programs in partnership with community members, where participants shape the content of the program, determine its structure.

At our Discussion Lounge, inspiration of my fellow presenter Ross Dunnet, people are encouraged to share what they’ve been reading, what’s been inspiring them, what’s been concerning them, making them laugh.

–In our Massive Open Online Course program, folks select courses to participate in together, and decide as a group how sessions will unfold.

–We’ve introduced our communities to the concept of DIY conferences, as tools for co-learning and building community around issues of concern, with recent ‘community unconferences’ on education and technology, and on community and belonging.

–Working with community members this way to develop ongoing programs, has been challenging.   Planning and delivering services differently, has taken time and focus away from some aspects of our jobs.

Because, as staff and managers, we’re working more closely together than we used to, we’re dividing our labor better, and working to our strengths in a way that has allowed us to mitigate that impact, while in fact improving many of our services.

–Many of us have had to hone skills we don’t typically use as librarians, and, in some cases, pick up new skills.  So have community members participating in these programs, and this is a disruption, I think, that actually has helped strengthen them.

–These programs entail open discussions of one sort or another, often around topics and themes of real importance to the individuals participating.  As we’ve gotten to know one another, we open up more, and sometimes this can be difficult.  Always, people have participated in discussions with civility, and an open mind.

Some topics have aroused emotions, and we’ve needed to discover ways to interact productively while discussing ideas where there are strong opposing feelings.

–Conversations often reflect those taking place in our greater communities and some of these are fraught.  Does the Kinder Morgan pipeline need to get approved as soon as possible for the sake of our economy?  Or does it need to be stopped to prevent ecological damage?  Under what circumstances is it ok to check your text messages during a small social gathering? Views are frequently opposed, often passionately.

–Working through difficulties like this together has been part of the transformative value of this new programming model.   We’ve had to learn to be better moderators. To put our own strong feelings in check, and make sure everyone is getting a chance to share their thoughts.  Getting through these rough patches has brought us closer. It’s enabled people with different, often opposing, fundamental ideas, to accept one another despite differences.

 –Overcoming difficulties together, has strengthened relationships among community members.  Tackling difficult lectures, discussing challenging ideas together, has enhanced bonds, as well as learning.  With these programs that regularly bring people together around issues of common interest and concern, I believe, as a library, we are helping to make strong communities even stronger.

Return to Under the Hood

Links to panelist speaking notes:

Andrea Freeman, Manager of Welcoming Initiatives

Jennifer O’Donnell, Digital Services & Resources Librarian

Sabina Burnett, Circulation Assistant, Capilano Library

Ashika Debba, Circulation Supervisor, Lynn Valley Library

Krista Scanlon, Collection Services and Evaluation Librarian

Jacqui Jones-Cox, Branch Librarian, Lynn Valley Library

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