We in the public library sector have, for some time now, been talking about the importance of continuous learning to doing what we do and doing it well. In order to be responsive and innovative in our services, we rely on staff being comfortable with uncertainty, willing to take calculated risks, and ready to learn on the spot as they figure out new technologies and collaborate with customers and each other. It’s almost become a mantra: public libraries need employees who are good at learning! We need employees at every level of our organizations who see themselves as continuous learners and are willing to take responsibility for their own learning and growth. That, we keep telling ourselves, is what we need to survive and thrive in the 21st century!
And while we are in agreement about what we need, I hear much less discussion, let alone agreement, about how to make it happen. How do public library leaders ensure staff identifies as self-directed learners, capable of seeking out and taking advantage of a wide variety of learning opportunities, be they formal or informal, face-to-face or online, solitary or in a group? In essence, how do public library leaders create and sustain a culture of learning where staff is encouraged to identify learning priorities, and develop plans to meet their own needs, in consultation with his or her supervisor? A culture where learning is recognized and embraced as part of doing business, simple as that.
We do know that a culture of learning does not happen by itself! It is the work of leadership to create the organizational culture that will help the library achieve its strategic directions and be the kind of library that engages the community in matters of learning, literacy, and creativity. We in southern Ontario are fortunate to have Crystal Schimpf, an experienced library trainer, well known in the U.S., coming to Brampton this fall to offer a workshop on how to create a learning culture in our libraries.
We need a good showing at this workshop! Not just because we’re bringing Crystal from the States for this unique opportunity, but even more importantly, we need a good showing because our libraries depend upon it. Making the most of staff development, planning for it strategically, and with sustainability in mind, is crucial work for today’s CEOs and managers. I know we’re all too busy to take a day away from the office. But I also know we can’t afford not to take a day away to engage in serious thinking and learning about a deeper, more systematic approach to strategic and sustainable staff development.
I look forward to learning with you on October 2nd in Brampton!