Association of Research Libraries
Research Library Issues 291 2017
how colleagues communicate ultimately affects the quality of
service and work the library collectively gives to its community.
Viewing conversations as moving beyond telling to creating
more interactive interpersonal sharing and responses,
the appropriate metaphor would be guiding a small boat through
rough seas, where the skilled sailor responds to the push of each
oncoming wave and each burst of wind, coordinating her actions
skillfully with the actions of the environment in which she finds
herself. To succeed, she must work with the environment, and make
her actions part of its actions. A conversation represents a similar
kind of environment. It is a context that must be travelled and
negotiated with a constant sensitivity to the ebbs and flows of the
interaction, and where one must constantly adjust one’s
communication behaviors to successfully make that journey.6
This analogy addresses an agent interacting with external forces
and emphasizes that the surroundings and context are not personal.
In thinking about and practicing this participatory, mindful
communicative strategy, it is helpful to consider the communication
patterns used: “successful communication is not about changing
the psychology of another person. It is not about using strategies
to get what you want. It is not about controlling the responses of
another person in ways that benefit the sender. It is about creating
communicative conditions in which change becomes possible.”7
Internally, liaison and special collections librarians and archivists
must see what they do as a cohesive, unified effort focused on
meeting users where they are, partnering in their work. Librarians
need to learn how to nurture interactive, dynamic conversations
with each other in order to facilitate true collaboration.
Organizational Culture and Structure
Recognizing and valuing differences and strengths offer insights into
the identity and organizational culture of the library. Within the library
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