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  • valarie907 12:00 am on October 8, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , leadership, listening, transparency   

    exposure and disclosure 

    Transparency is more than sexy…it is essential.  We are familiar with stories of exposure and scandal…Watergate, Enron and so many more.   The fear is in the exposure of secrets (right Pepsi?).  A friend told me recently that she walked away from her position as a CEO when it was mistakenly revealed that her pay was $40,000 less than her male counterparts.  Chris Taggart’s presentation “Corruption, corporate transparency and open data(2012) illustrates the high stakes of corporate transparency to prevent corruption and crime.  The purpose of transparency is to develop accountability, both within and without, resulting in deeper trust between stakeholders and an improved means of attaining mutual goals through open communication.

    Are we listening to and participating in that conversation?

    But, what if there are no “secrets”?  What place does transparency have to do in the day to day operations, of say… libraries?  When information institutions (especially public ones), supporting associations and organizations adopt the culture and value of transparency, the disparity between relationships of the stakeholders is diminished to open up channels of communication and contribution.   It may occur among internal stakeholders (admin/staff/officers) as well as external stakeholders (customers/supporters/members).  Language changes from “mine” to “ours” in order to achieve the mission of the library.

    The movement towards transparency is significant in an age of broad customer choice.  Much of the driving force behind transparency is emerging technology.  We know more, share more, and decide more, faster than ever.  The linear model of the flow of information has morphed into a dialog and the conversation flows through many channels and directions.  Social media and other means of user-generated content have empowered consumers by giving them a platform to voice their opinions and experiences about products and services.  Are we listening to and participating in that conversation?

    Visibility and accessibility are often overlooked aspects of transparency, but can be critical in achieving support.  Libraries offer a tremendous amount of resources that is continually expanding and changing, but those resources do little good if no one uses them.

    Allow me to end o a cautionary note:  Let’s not get institutional transparency confused with careless full disclosure.  While it is true that nothing can be hidden anymore, the decision to disclose information about our institutions should be thoughtfully made so that we are prepared to answer all questions, honestly.  Some activities, such as discarded books or financial records could bring up difficult questions.  Preparing for this type of full disclosure provides an opportunity for the institution to take full responsibility for their decisions, which could mean making a few tweaks here and there, upon examination.  It also means preparing to wade through the deconstructive responses to find the constructive questions so libraries can offer better services and access to information.  Isn’t that what libraries are about?

    The future demands transparency…now.


    Last year, as I explored new models for school libraries for my workplace, I was pleased to discover these excellent resources about transparency in the K-12 school library context:

    Transparency is the New Black by Gwyneth Jones (2012)

    Transparency is the new fierce by Joyce Valenza (2012)

    Transparency and trust for librarians by Doug Johnson (2011)



    Anderson, C. (2006). In praise of radical transparency. http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/2006/11/in_praise_of_ra.html

    Lincoln, M. (2009). Transparency: How to become a transparent organization. http://marpr23.wordpress.com/2009/05/07/transparency-how-to-develop-a-transparent-plan-to-maximize-value-and-build-a-brand/

    Stephens, M. (2011). The transparent library: Measuring progress. http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6547089.html?industryid=47356

    Thompson, C. (2007). The see-through ceo. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/15.04/wired40_ceo.html


    • Judi E 8:27 am on October 9, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Valerie, thanks for helping us to consider the flip-side of transparency. My first reaction to your cautionary statement “Let’s not get institutional transparency confused with careless full disclosure”, is to agree. Thinking about how I would back up my belief, I’m not sure how I would define “careless” and “full disclosure”. Seems like there’s some subjectivity and gray area around those terms. It would be prudent for any organization, libraries included of course, to collectively establish their own definition and policy.
      Thanks also for sharing the valuable resources!

      • Pamela Hawks 3:09 pm on October 9, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        @Judi E , Yes, thanks for those links! I was lucky enough to catch Gwyneth Jones’ presentation at the Lib2.012 Conference and just knowing that there is someone like her out there doing what she is doing keeps me charged and ready for change.

    • Jesse B 2:58 pm on October 9, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I agree with you and Judi. I think transparency is a fact of life. But there is a difference between engaging in an honest conversation and carelessly throwing facts or ideas out there. To me, the point is to have a strong relationship with your constituents. This entails being open with them. But it also means engaging with them, discussing why things are the way they are, how you see these facts/ideas playing into the way the organization functions. Transparency is an essential piece, but it isn’t the whole conversation.

    • Abigail Bormann 8:13 pm on October 9, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I think your distinctions between “full disclosure” and being transparent are excellent – it’s important to remember that some library practices, like disposing of weeded books, are often something the general public finds offensive. (As if throwing away science books from the 1980s were throwing away precious tax dollars!) But I think that some of these “shameful” things we are scared to share with the public are the ones we should be considering for a different spin in transparency-mode. For instance, what if a library were to blog something like, “We recently weeded many very outdated and damaged books from our collections and are going to discard them in order to make room for our newest catalog additions. However, some of these books may be suitable for various craft projects for children – have you seen any great crafts that require old books or printed pages?” Granted, my last library was required by state law to dispose of the books and never let anyone officially have the discards, so that idea might not work for every library… but if a patron were to find out that the library was throwing out books without any context to it, wouldn’t that seem worse than if they are told up front what is happening and the reasoning behind it?
      Just a thought. 🙂

  • valarie907 11:17 pm on September 23, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , leadership,   

    context book report – community 

    Community Context Book Report

     “Communities are human systems given form by conversation that build relatedness.” (p. 178)

    Peter Block did not write about libraries in Community: The Structure of Belonging.  Yet, the concepts explored lend very well to developing a culture of change in many contexts, including the library, by increasing accountability and responsibility of each member of a community through citizen-to-citizen engagement.  The purpose of this framework of community engagement is to re-frame our conception of community and how a sense of belonging can be deliberately and authentically constructed in order to facilitate the connectedness necessary to achieve real and intentional transformation in a small group.


     “…to belong is to be related to and a part of something.  To belong to a community is to act as a creator and co-owner of that community.” (p. xii)

    Membership can be sold and purchased, but the membership Block proposes is democratic and deep.  Belonging as a fundamental human need is central to Block’s philosophy and the language used reflects the variety of ways we talk about belonging: collective, connected, membership, linked, interdependence, involved, participated, associated, related, attached…  We have all experienced loss of a connection to some degree and the words associated with the loss often evoke a strong reaction:  marginalized, unattached, fragmentation, broken, detached, disconnected, isolated, loneliness, dividedness, separated, divorced, different…

    The Conversations

    “The power is in the asking, not in the answers.” Block (p. 184)

    Intentional transformation is made possible through conversation and Block emphasized that the right questions are essential to transformation.  In order to create or transform a community, Block suggests we trade problems for possibilities through carefully formulated questions.  The small group meetings are carefully planned and feature specific conversations centered on:

    • Invitation:  A call to create a new future and its possibilities.
    • Possibility:  Problem solving is about the past, possibility is about the future.
    • Ownership:  In contrast to blame, we decide on our value and meaning.
    • Dissent:  “No” responses are not closed doors; they are opportunities to begin a dialog.
    • Commitment:  Promise made with no expectation of a return; it’s a deal, not a bargain.
    • Gifts:  Focus and capitalize on gifts rather than deficiencies.


    “Invitation is the means through which hospitality is created.” (p. 113)

    The concept of hospitality is emphasized in the first step to transformation beginning with an invitation and is reinforced when preparing for the meeting and the meeting space.  The goal is to be sure those involved each know they are valued and welcomed to encourage participation in the conversation regardless of status.  Attention to details of the space center around equality and comfort.  Some libraries have prioritized hospitality as they strive to improve their spaces and service so their customers will look forward to returning to the library as well as enjoying their visit.


    “The essence of creating an alternative future comes from citizen-to-citizen engagement that constantly focuses on the well-being of the whole.” (p. 178)

    Application of this framework may be made on various levels within a library context.   A library interested in seeking meaningful change or enhancing their institutional culture should begin exploring the ideas proposed by Block internally before inviting their customers and broader community to the conversation.  The internal library culture can be empowered by applying Block’s community concepts to transform its organization, creating a flatter and more collaborative work environment when everyone is equally valued and given permission to ask questions.  Because this framework requires a personal investment, co-creation and co-ownership, the leadership needs to be invested and set an example to ensure success.  It will be by leadership’s example that the rest of the staff will build the trust necessary for them to enter into the conversation.  Once the institutional connections are realized the broader community may be invited to participate in the decision and change making process so that services can be improved with increased customer contribution and participation through an open and creative dialog.

    “All of this takes time, but we are choosing depth over speed.” (p. 148)

    Block emphasizes that language is powerful and illustrates how to use it throughout each chapter.  At times, the explanations of his ideas are rather abstract, but he offers practical ideas and encouragement, too.  Equipped with the framework offered in Community, a library can affect positive change on all levels while strengthening relationships.  The most powerful message is that of action.  The act of structuring an authentic experience of belonging suggests a deliberate and purposeful construction of that experience to facilitate a sense of accountability and responsibility to the community attained through ownership and co-creation.  It is an investment that might be costly in time and attention to begin with, but will deliver results worth the effort.


    Block, P. (2008). Community: The structure of belonging. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

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