So a Non-Librarian Walks into a Library Full of Librarians…

By Kelly Torpey 

As I walked into the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library to attend Library Journal’s Transformative Power of Community Engagement workshop, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew where I was, and what I was attending, but I wasn’t entirely sure what I (a non-librarian) would glean from the experience.

I joined Gale as a marketing team member just over six months ago. I’m new to the world of libraries, and in truth, I was hoping to listen. To listen to what libraries and librarians go through on a daily basis; their conversations, struggles, and triumphs. I was also hoping to add some type of value to the conversations I was a part of, even though I knew (or, at least I thought) my own professional and personal experiences may not be 100% relatable.

The facilitator, David Bendekovic, instructed all participants to take a seat at a table with unfamiliar faces. We were all there to learn from each other, so it made sense. My three colleagues and I split amongst three different tables. Over the course of the afternoon, I had the opportunity to converse with librarians from 10 different libraries across the Carolinas and Georgia. The event had a great mixture of lecture, multimedia, group work and conversations. David’s examples and methods were extremely relatable for anyone seeking professional development.

One part of David’s presentation really stood out to me. It was a video that explained how to become a high impact library. The speaker, James LaRue, said something to the effect of “you have to sit at the table.” He went on to discuss the need to get outside of the library to meet the influential people in your community that might lead programs within the library.

Now, when I go to the library, I make a beeline for the self-help section. If anyone has read Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” you know that she talks about the same thing. If you want to succeed, if you want to be in the right place at the right time, if you want to make something happen, you HAVE to sit at the table. You have to put yourself out there or do something against the status quo that gets you out of your comfort zone and in front of change-makers.

You have to sit at the table.

When I brought this connection up to my group, to my surprise, it was relatable!  The entire room brainstormed ideas and actions to get outside of the library, and ways to interact with the greater community. Below are some of the groups thoughts:

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With all of the great conversations and exercises, the day flew by. It’s killing me to not go into more detail, but then again, maybe that’s a good enough reason for you to “sit at the table”. Take a minute to see if LJ has planned a Professional Development event near you.

Trust me, it’s worth it.

Kelly Torpey

About the Author

Kelly is an explorer. She enjoys traveling and experiencing new things. Whether sightseeing, paddle boarding or attending a concert, she’s always looking forward to the next adventure.

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