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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

ALCOP's 2013 Conference: Day 2

Dr. Molly Boyd keynotes the ALCOP meeting on Monday, Oct. 7.
(example of a photo that doesn't need permissions!)
Today was the second and final day of ALCOP's third annual conference. I've already covered what happened yesterday, and here's some of what I heard today. 

The Monday morning keynote was given by Dr. Molly Boyd, Assistant to the Dean of Libraries at the University of Arkansas Libraries. She discussed Stress and Change in the Workplace. Her measured, slow speaking style, combined with her southern accent, was like a soothing anti-stress tool in and of itself.

Molly started by explaining that stress causes three major types of responses: Physiological, Emotional, and Cognitive. She discussed each, sprinkling in some data. For instance, she cited studies of stress, telling the crowd that jobs were the #1 source of stress for American adults. (You can learn more from the American Institute of Stress.)

Boyd counseled communicators on handling work stress,
reminding them to take care of themselves first.
At first, I wasn't quite sure why stress would be a keynote topic for a conference of communicators. As the speaker continued, she explained how we could use the knowledge to deal with colleagues who were stressed over change and other challenges. As the previous keynoter and other speakers had discussed on the first day, marketing, rebranding, and promotional work bring change to libraries, and staff members are often resistant or hesitant to embrace it. That helped tie the topics together for me. 

Molly revealed four stages of reactions to workplace stress and then shared some strategies for handling each one.

1. Denial: Humans' initial reaction to change is negativity, fear, etc. It helps to ease people into it by explaining why change is necessary and what each person's role can be so they don't feel isolated.

2. Resistance: These emotions are common, and you can help staffers by being good, supportive listeners and letting them vent.

3. Exploration: Invite staff to brainstorm and have input. Set reachable, short-term goals and follow the progress.

4. Emerging commitment: It helps to do team-building exercises to bring everyone into the new normal together. Acknowledge and reward accomplishments. Make sure all communication is positive. 

That's all good advice for the next time you need to deliver customer service training, teach employees how to use messages, or move things around within your building to adapt to new needs. 
Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation,
and change, Jennifer Rae Hartman told us.

After the keynote I went to a breakout room to listen to Jennifer Rae Hartman, also from the University of Arkansas Libraries, discuss Community Building. As the PR person there, part of Jennifer Rae's job is bringing people together. She tied team-building to empathy, sharing part of a TED Talk video and recommending the book Daring Greatly

Her presentation centered on an initiative she'd been working on to foster a better sense of community among the many staffers in her large library. Each week she does a simple interview (via email) with a staffer, always asking the same questions. (Favorite words? Pets? Funny story about yourself?) She lightly edits each interview, adds a fun photo from the person, and then posts these profiles on an internal blog (not visible to the public). Staffers look forward to these weekly posts, and it gives them more reasons to greet and befriend their fellow employees. Jennifer Rae explained that these light-hearted profiles help bridge the divide between departments and also between faculty and staff. This activity and other fun contests are working to build a sense of camaraderie that can only feed success. 

Speaking of feeding success and building community... During all of our meals together (3 Sunday + 2 Monday), everyone really seemed to enjoy the networking. There's nothing quite like having a chance to meet like-minded people in a small, friendly, informal setting. Some trust is already implied, and as we share vulnerabilities, we build more.

As Monday's lunch was winding down, ALCOP founder Bob Kieserman called for everyone's attention so he could give out the association's first award. He named it the Founders Award, and said he hoped to be able to acknowledge a member's help and achievements every year.

Bob Kieserman gave the 2013
Founders Award to Kathy Dempsey.
Photo: Curtis Rogers
Bob began reading from a plaque, explaining why he was honoring this person: "For her dedication to furthering the profession of library communications and serving as a major influence in fostering new ideas and innovative discussions among her peers throughout the world. I'd like to give this award to ... Kathy Dempsey." 

I couldn't believe it -- that was ME! I'd had no idea this was coming; I was as surprised as I was appreciative. I had done a lot of informal work with Bob and the early ALCOP staff to promote the group, shape the organization, and to set up member discounts for subscriptions to Marketing Library Services newsletter. I was also the first keynote speaker at the first conference. And I did all of that because I feel strongly that library marketers need their own organization. We need our own place to share ideas, successes, and failures. I really want ALCOP to succeed. But I never expected to be awarded with a certificate and a check, and I was really shocked and thrilled. Thank you, Bob and ALCOP!

After the delicious and exciting lunch, I attended one more session: Repositioning the 21st-Century Library, which was, surprisingly, given by an architect. Peter Gisolfi talked about a few libraries his firm had designed and highlighted some building changes over the years. His presentation was rich with professional photos, but wasn't the sort of "positioning" that most of us were used to hearing about. I didn't think it was really core content for a marketing / communications conference; I'd have rather seen a session on media relations, copyright for photos, SWOT analysis, etc. 
Push your architect to plan great spaces.
Peter Gisolfi revealed, "We only get a
good building with demanding clients."

However, Peter did share some interesting content. He named various building trends that his library clients have been asking for. These included art galleries, cafes, auditoriums, glass walls (to separate areas while maintaining sightlines), quiet study spaces, and communal study rooms. He touched on environmental LEED-certified buildings, and commented that "zero-energy buildings are not that hard to achieve." As an architect, he's seeing libraries being viewed more often as important civic locations and community centers. (As if they weren't already!)

There was one more timeslot with two final sessions to choose from. I couldn't stay for these, but I had certainly gotten my money's worth from the conference. I renewed some great connections and made new ones. I got ideas for future MLS case studies. I enjoyed the conference site, a basic Holiday Inn, because it was convenient to have everything in one hotel that was easy to navigate and not too expensive. The staffers were very kind and attentive, and the food was great. 

Questions about ALCOP?
Contact Executive Director
Kathleen McCallick at 
As I drove home to nearby New Jersey, my mind was full of ideas for things that ALCOP could accomplish, and how it could aid professional development. We're just beginning to build our own community of communicators -- with degrees and without, with library backgrounds and marketing backgrounds, beginners and old hands -- and it's professionally fulfilling. Of course, any organization can only be as strong as its members, so I certainly hope you'll join us! No need to wait until next October. Become part of ALCOP now and get in on the ground floor of our Facebook group and other discussion channels, get the Library Communications Journal for free, and meet folks who have been where you are.

Libraries need a lot of MarCom support in order to survive and thrive. Libraries are essential, and our work is essential to their existence. I'm dedicated to ensuring that libraries stay funded so they'll always be a vibrant part of our democratic society. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've wanted to attend this since it began. Glad to hear your involvement and good experience.