By Taryn Marks
Presenters: Kristina Alayan, Elizabeth Graham, Emily Florio, Ashley Chase, Rachel Decker, Sherry Leysen, Kathleen Wilko, Jennifer Davitt, Margaret Hall, Tina Ching, Carissa Vogel, Ramon Barajas
In this non-recorded session, a group of 10 facilitators spread out at tables throughout the room, then guided discussions about a variety of topics related to ensuring sufficient engagement and support at the workplace (see the Facilitators Handout attached to the presentation description for a list of the topics, which included professional development, managing up, managing laterally, reorganization, and mission). Each table elected a recorder and a reporter; the recorder took notes about the discussion as it took place. Just over half way through the program, the reporter from each table read a summary of the discussion that had taken place at each table. The facilitator then gathered the notes from the recorder and email addresses from the participants, with the goal of emailing all participants the notes from each of the tables sometime after the conference.
The concept behind the presentation was that those attending the presentation were the experts on the topics, and that we would have the knowledge and experience to generate the information needed to satisfy the hard-hitting takeaways identified by the program description (such as the last takeaway, that attendees would be able to “minimize the impact of policies outside their control that may otherwise undermine their ability to retain high-performing staff and librarians”). Importantly, the moderators warned that this session should be one that focused on solutions rather than problems (even noting colloquially that this should not be a “b****-fest”).
While concept that we all were experts seemed exciting in theory, in reality none of us were actually experts. The discussion at my table was wide-ranging and varied, and I do not think we addressed any of the takeaways we were supposed to have gotten. Instead, I learned a lot about what the other people at the table thought about my discussion topic, without getting any solid ways that I could incorporate change into my library or ideas about how to minimize the impact of policies outside of my control (two of the anticipated takeaways). In listening to the summary of the discussions at the other tables, it appeared they all had similar experiences to mine.
At the end of the presentation, the moderators did provide some suggested readings and a few additional pointers that they thought were important, which are attached to the presentation description. I’m looking forward to receiving the summary of the notes that were taken at each table, in the hopes that they provide more information than could be gleaned in the short summaries reported at the conference.
Overall, take a look at the suggested readings; and if you’re interested, email one of the presenters to get the notes from the session and the slides that they showed at the end. These were the most important parts of the presentation and you will learn as much as I did from attending it.