PLA 2012

Public Library Association Conference 2012
Philadelphia, PA

Commando Diplomacy

We can't fix other people but can learn how to deal with situations and manage our own reactions.

QTIP – Quit Taking It Personally – we tend to get in trouble when we forget this simple principle

Refocus the conversation forward – we have lots of people looking for black & white the library world and so much is grey. Keep moving towards results; don’t look backwards at real or perceived slights.

The secrets of a drama-free work life:

Treat others as you want to be treated

Learn face-saving techniques (letting people back down gracefully)

Remember: we are each other’s patrons

Success lives within and you need to be fully present to achieve open and honest dialogue. Talk straight and create transparency. If you have made a decision, don’t make a committee come up with that decisions – say you need help with implementation. Demonstrate respect and loyalty and always give a face-saving out. Avoid righteous indignation (no matter how smugly satisfying). Balance a difficult request with a gift – support you can offer to get the outcome you need.

Tips for calming tense situations: stay calm; avoid anger in your words and actions, stick to the facts, ask for the other person’s perspective or opinion (and listen to it!), propose your solution, ask for buy-in. - Rhonda

Tell me Something I Don’t Know: Meaningful Community Engagement

Community engagement is everyone’s job – all staff have a connection in the community. Funding is too scarce to guess what the community wants. It doesn’t matter what *we* think they want, or should want. Demographics aren’t enough for planning – they are very narrow predictors. Am 18 year old job seeker has more in common with a 55 year old job seeker than an 18 year old looking for wireless access. Honour diversity but be careful of segmentation. Satisfaction surveys aren’t good either – they don’t cover non-users and are really only good for our egos.

Who speaks for the community? We need to engage at the scale of the community by getting people who represent constituencies.

What does your community value? You need to ask the right questions. This is less about telling our story and more about asking questions. Have them talk about what they know. They don’t know about running the library. Don’t ask them that. Ask them, “What’s great about living here?” “What makes you stay?” “What one thing would you change?” Ask what they care out – their issues, not our issues. Don’t ask “What programs do you want?” Ask, “What do you want for your kids?” Ask them what results they want. And listen, don’t tell. It’s not the community’s job to understand the library; it’s the library’s job to understand the community.

Talk about analogies. Ask “What’s your favourite place to go? Why? What do you like about it?” People are very good at talking about experiences. Focus on the outcomes and point them towards those outcomes. That’s the public’s prerogative: they get to tell us how the story ends.

Avoid wasting time. Don’t ask for library predictions! We don’t need them to predict the library of the future. Don’t make any commitments to non-existent services. Consumers are poor predictors of their own future behaviour. And no free ice cream – “Would you like us to open late at night and weekends? “Sure that would be great! Oh – more taxes? Forget it.”

To effectively connect at community meetings, you need movers and shakers.

Effective interviews:

• What’s keeping you (or your constituents) up at night?
• What do you wish you knew more about?
• Who else should we talk to?
• What positive changes would indicate that progress is being made on this issue?

Effective focus groups:

• Not cheap
• Can elicit a range of views
• Can probe a real specific issue in-depth
• 8-12 people, 90 min.

Effective Surveys

• Listed last for a reason
• Too many are about popularity
• Too random/self-selected
• Can’t use the data and add it up
• You can get some useful information but don’t say it’s something its not
• Can get experiential questions; e.g. would you work with this staff member again?

When speaking with movers & shakers, politicians and the like, thank them for their service. Not their money, not their support, not their time, but their service.

Not all input is created equal. It’s like a gift from your in-laws – accept it graciously. You don’t need to use it.

What comes up most often from your community? We’re kind of like the community’s teenage kid – they have to keep telling us the same thing over and over and over.

The process is ongoing. Start at the beginning and then start again. - Rhonda

Opening General Session with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

- Environomental issues and where the country is going
-opportunity to change the energy economy
-reason to protect the environment is for ourselves, to create communities and futures for our children
-we have to protect the environmental infrastructure and assets including: the air, waterways, parks, lands
-our character as a people depends on this
-Bill 1683- help people who want to convert to solar etc. was struck down
-environmental abuse is deficit spending
-an investment in our environment is an investment in infrastrucure
-1.3 trillion dollars of subsidies to oil companies each year
-the costs of oil spills should be billed back to the oil companies. If we all knew the true cost of oil none of us would be driving, it would only be electric cars.
-the actual cost of coal is really expensive
-ever fresh water fish in North America has dangerous levels of mercury in it
-Center for Disease Control: 1 out of every 6 women has dangerous levels of mercury in their wombs= autism, disorders, disease.
-345 billion dollars in health care costs in States from respiratory problems from coal
-could power the entire States on 75 miles by 75 miles of land with wind turbines
-North Dakota is the windiest place at sea level
-Sandra Walters

Young at Heart: YA Books with Crossover Appeal

- there are many books on the market today that are considered YA but still have great appeal and popularity among adults
-this session had a panel of YA authors and they talked about their new books and the wide appeal of these materials.
-the first author was Alexander Gordon Smith author of "Escape from Furnace", he talked about the horror genre and why these books have such great appeal, horror makes you believe that anything is possible and he is often asked why he writes such grisly things for teens: "horror makes heroes out of people, when things are bad you see people at their best, you stand up for what is right and for yourself."
-Siobhan Vivian, author of "The List"- wrote the entire book at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburg, importance of books and reading, addresses the judgement of girls, pressures that girls face in school.
-Gregg Olsen, author of "Envy", a mystery/thriller, this book has crime, twins, Pacific Northwest and three stories in the book that have a special connection to libraries…He went out and visited prisoners to do research for his book, he is the author of several other true crime books including: A Twisted Faith, Bitter Almonds, If Loving you is wrong, and Starvation Heights.
-Gayle Forman, author of "If I Stay" and "Where She Went", she talked about why adult readers read YA books, she writes about young people but they are not young stories, there are complex ideas, stories, characters, issues. We don't ask why teens read adult books, why wouldn't adults read YA is a better question to be asking.
-Sandra Walters

Meet This Season's Best in Debut Authors

Charlotte Rogan: "The Lifeboat"
Wiley Cash: "A Land More Kind Than Home"
Kira Peikoff: "Living Proof"
Stephen Dau: "Book of Jonas"

All of the authors talked about the importance of reading and literacy and how important libraries were to all of them growing up.
-Sandra Walters

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