The American Library Association’s democracy statement reads, in part: “Democracies need libraries. An informed public constitutes the very foundation of a democracy; after all, democracies are about discourse—discourse among the people. ... It must ensure that citizens have the resources to develop the information literacy skills necessary to participate in the democratic process.” This might seem like some pretty big shoes to fill, but there is truth to it. Public libraries help us stay informed and keep us kind.
As library professionals working across a diverse field, we experience tensions and triumphs as we work together. We’re launching this Open Shelf serial podcast, From discord to discourse, to promote our capacity to be effective collaborators and co-workers so that we can continue to build strong relationships across occupations and library sectors.
A central theme in the conversations we will publish will be the navigation of professional relationships. Why? Because most of us do not work by ourselves; we are often a part of library teams composed of different job titles, work styles, responsibilities, skills and experience. As these teams, and the libraries they serve, come in many shapes and sizes, we can find it difficult to work through uncomfortable situations with our colleagues.
Institutional culture and political landscape can have a large impact on how we perceive our jobs and on what we believe to be our responsibilities in relation to those of our colleagues. We can experience this impact sometimes through a feeling of frustration when we believe that we’re undervalued, overworked, or silenced by others. Our work environments start to seem precarious, and we can become proprietary about the work we do. When this happens—to individuals and to teams—we are faced with negotiating and navigating our own expectations and the pressures we feel. And this journey can become incredibly daunting, especially if/as political, social and culture shifts also have an impact on our work.
So we want to explore the trickier parts of collegial relationships and the successful, innovative solutions library professionals have developed in response to some of the perils and the possibilities that arise in the workplace. We think that there’s value for our community in bringing together a variety of library staff members from many sectors to talk about challenging, if not taboo, topics—talking about tough issues can help us navigate and develop strong, respectful relationships with our co-workers.
With guidance from professional articles, scholarly research, and anecdotal blogs, this sub-series will hopefully clarify the diverse, unique and impressive staffing solutions being implemented in Ontario libraries—and the best practices for shaping our individual roles in our libraries and the role of the library in the community we serve.
Capacity building happens partly through dialogue. This podcast will offer a safe and a constructive space for conversation, debate and solutions so that we can feel less alienated and more effective and can develop practical solutions to the more uncomfortable aspects or problems we face in the workplace. Our conversations will be informal—no one has the perfect answer—and it’s important to explore some of the amazing professional development, program collaboration, and workplace solutions that library workers are using to respond to these collegial issues.
Here’s a taste of what you’ll hear: A short conversation between me and Martha Attridge Bufton, Open Shelf editor-in-chief. The first full podcast will be published this coming May.
If you are interested in being a part of this series or have an idea to explore with From discord to discourse, please contact Kasey Whalley at kaseywhalley [at] outlook.com.
Kasey (Mallen) Whalley has been working in and with libraries for over ten years. She is currently employed as a Library and Information Technician with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board and finishing her Masters of Information at the University of Toronto. Kasey writes the Continuum column for Open Shelf and can be reached at kaseywhalley [at] outlook.com.