We need to talk more, enough with all this shhhh!

I have only attended one Professional Development day and that was earlier this year. From the half dozen lectures and events throughout the two days, there was one common theme throughout, a one (or two person) presentation with little to no audience participation, aside from the time near the end of the demonstration devoted for questions. Each lecture followed the same criteria: a librarian would present a service, event, or change implemented at their library, how it positively, or negatively affected the rest of the library, and how the audience could incorporate the same services, etc. at their own insitutitions. 

It’s not as bad as it sounds, despite the multiple hour to hour-and-a-half long lectures, they were extremely interesting, and very informative. That being said, after reading Stephen’s article (2018), “PLEs @ ALA”, I cannot help but wonder what a PD day would be like in an atmosphere that is completely different,  relaxed and open to brainstorming and informal communications. 

“Organizers have recognized that people want to be active, exchange ideas, and be challenged by one another.”

People have ideas. People dream. People think. But, not all people have the opportunity to share these ideas. Some people are shy. Some people are ignored. Some just don’t get the opportunity to speak up. 

There are many obstacles that prevent people from sharing their ideas. Those same obstacles can prevent other human connections from forming: friendship, trust, collaboration, and accountability. I cannot help but think how amazing it would be to sit down in a room full of librarians and be able to actively engage and share ideas with. I mean, how often do librarians, or any other employees in other fields, get the opportunity to share their ideas and get a reasonable, welcoming, and entertaining audience who is more than excited to offer feedback and work alongside you to see your idea possibly reach fruition?

So why are the participants attending these PD events (and other related activities) becoming more open and willing to collaborate and are actively seeking opportunities to share their ideas? I couldn’t help thinking that communication, internal communication and the inadequacy of both in the workplace, have been slowly leading to this participatory explosion among librarians. From experience and observations, communication is one of the most challenging, ignored, and undeveloped skills in many institutions and places of business. 

    Poor communication offers the following for employees:

  • Employees have no opportunity to provide input and suggestions
  • Employees struggle when working together
  • Employees feel undervalued, not important
  • Employees don’t know what is happening, what services they are supposed to be providing or have ceased to provide
  • Employees become dissatisfied with their working environment, which then affects their work and their duration of employment

While I believe library events would definitely benefit from more engagement with the attendees, I also believe that this observation from event organizers have revealed a larger issue: There are not enough opportunities in the actual workplace available to employees for collaboration, idea sharing, communication. While organizers work towards reinventing professional development from lecture-based instruction to hands-on, informal, brainstorming “focus groups”, employers really need to focus on addressing communication in the workplace. 

I’ll stop here and offer one possible communications solution that my supervisor and I have been toying with and are in the process of writing a proposal for (so as to hopefully implement it in our daily dealings with each other). Discord, the online, social media and gaming platform. That’s right, we are trying to get all of our library staff actively involved in Discord, a place where we can share information and links with each other, whether we are in the office or not, and a place where we can store and archive information for later use. If you haven’t tried it, check it out. I was actually introduced to Discord by another iSchool student. We have shared multiple classes over the last year and a half and have utilized Discord as a way to keep in touch with each other as we work on projects (both individually and in groups) and have used that platform to encourage each other and share additional school related information, i.e. to inform each other on upcoming registration dates (like the class registration that opened earlier this week.) 

What are some other ways or technologies that could be utilized to open up communication in the workplace?

ReferenceStephens, M. (25 October, 2018). PLEs @ALA. [Web blog post.] Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=ljx181002newsOfficeHours

Join the Conversation


  1. Hi Adam,
    I was struck by your comment, “From experience and observations, communication is one of the most challenging, ignored, and undeveloped skills in many institutions and places of business.” I have had the same experience in general – the number one thing most employees say needs improvement is communication (between staff, between departments, between management and support staff, you name it!). I think this is ironic given that the 2019 MLIS Skills at Work Snapshot reported that communication skills are among the most desired skills by employers. (http://ischool.sjsu.edu/sites/main/files/file-attachments/career_trends.pdf) Perhaps employers are looking at the communication situation backwards: instead of recruiting folks who have “communication skills,” they might want to analyze their existing communication channels and provide training for exist staff, as you suggest.

    To answer your question about other technologies that improve communication, Slack is a great social tool for companies who are seeking more effective interdepartmental communication. (https://slack.com/)

  2. Thanks for the recommendation about Discord, Adam. I’m definitely going to check it out. Loved your ideas and reflection on librarians talking more. Can’t agree more!

  3. p.s. my staff is currently exploring chat tools that we can use on our computers to communicate across the network. Should be an interesting search.

  4. Hi Adam,

    I couldn’t agree more. I do believe that these presentations have interesting information that would be very much necessary for library professionals to know but at the same time, it does feel slightly more stiff and does not allow for much feedback or discussion except for the usual ‘questions anybody?’ at the end. It’s a shame because these events sound like a great venue through which discovery and new discussion could take place among peers.

    I’m someone that if someone has already brought up my question then I’m not really inspired or courageous enough to really speak my mind. In addition, I just find that I don’t really relax enough to find the opportunity to ask those important questions.

    On a professional note, I remember the stories that my mother would tell me about how the purpose of a particular meeting was to answer any questions or concerns but no one wanted to speak. They had previously complained at either past meetings or privately with colleagues that the management was not listening to them or their concerns. Perhaps in that case, communication could have been improved and morale within the workplace would have brightened up. It also didn’t help that they still do not have a HR department and that they feel oppressed by the new director.

    I think being clear and transparent about communication is key in addition to providing opportunity for the focus groups you mentioned could help air out any concerns and tension.

    I love that you mention discord because so many of my friends from under-grad love using discord because they can keep in contact despite long distance or time zone differences. I never thought to utilize it as a platform to communicate with my classmates and keep on top of important deadlines so that’s good to know. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  5. @alleyadam2019

    One example of coomunication at my library is using Slack as a means of communicating for upcoming programs. Another more personal means of communicating across levels at the library was the implementation of “Collab Labs”; One full-time librarian works with a part-time circulation clerk in an MLIS program on a shared PD project. So far, I’ve loved both methods.

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