Eureka!: Gail Griffith, Leadership, and Community Engagement

Current and prospective library leaders who love to practice, play, and learn should feel right at home in Gail Griffith’s “Building Leadership Skills: Community Engagement” workshop—the latest entry in Infopeople’s Eureka! Leadership Program series.
The daylong session, to be offered in libraries throughout California between January 5 and 30, 2009, will be about “doing and practicing, not so much about studying models,” Griffith said during a recent conversation. “There’s even going to be an exercise taken from improv” so that participants will walk away engaged in the process of seeking engagement between the libraries in which they work and the communities they serve. They will, as part of the scheduled workshop activities, be guided in developing a marketing tool they can use immediately to demonstrate their libraries’ value to everyone they meet.
Griffith, who serves as Deputy Director of Carroll County (Maryland) Public Library and has developed and led a leadership academy for all levels of library staff, anticipates a workshop full of activities which encourage participants to share information about their own libraries’ current successes. Comparing those successes to examples drawn from library systems throughout the country (including Chicago Public Library, which has a first-rate strategic plan including a call for expanding and enhancing program and partnership opportunities, and Johnson County Library, honored as “Best Kansas City Library” by Nickelodeon’s Parents’ Pick Awards in August 2008) should help workshop students gain a better understanding of how to describe what their libraries have to offer.
“Talking about what the library does is a great way of engaging,” she explained. It “helps you see ways you can partner with businesses and others.”
Griffith also plans to incorporate lessons learned from Frank Luntz’s Words that Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear: “That’s a very interesting book. The author talks about the fact that we often tend to use weak words. There’s this whole thing about managing perceptions,” she explained. “When you look at it, there’s nothing wrong with the language a library uses to talk about itself, but it’s not strong…A lot of times when you meet a stranger and say ‘I work for the library,’ they say, ‘I used to take my kids to the library, but now I have the Internet.’ What would happen if you said something like, ‘I work for an organization that provides equal access to quality educational resources for everyone regardless of their economic or educational status?’ It’s not changing what we do, it’s changing how we talk about what we do.
“I want people to leave this day thinking about how they can connect, when they want to connect, how they want to describe what their library has to offer, where they can look for and create opportunities, …and when those opportunities are available, what they want to do about it,” she concluded.
N.B.: Registration for Griffith’s workshop and other Eureka! sessions is continuing on the Infopeople website under the heading “Building Leadership Skills.” Other instructors include Steve Albrecht; Stacey Aldrich; Joan Frye Williams and George Needham; Suzanne Merritt; Marie Radford; Paula Singer; and Pat Wagner.