What Does it Mean to Have an Organizational Culture of “Yes”

In my last blog post, I asked the question  “What would happen if your organizational culture was one of “yes”?  I imagined that some people reading the post thought something like “She’s crazy!  If we say “yes” to anything more, we’ll explode.”  Indeed, libraries already do so many things for so many people that adding more, probably won’t work.  I’d like to clarify what I mean by creating a culture of “yes.”

When answering a yes or no question such as, “Would you like to go to the beach?”  a “yes” answer expresses affirmation.  People like to hear “yes.” It feels better (a clue as to the value of “yes” in bringing people together).

When talking about creating an organizational culture of “yes”, it’s important to understand that “yes” does not necessarily mean agreement. It means “I hear you and accept your offer and will look for the possibilities” as opposed to “here are all the reasons your crazy, misguided idea won’t work.”

A culture of “yes” is one where people are committed to listening for possibilities, to putting their internal critic on hold, and to appreciating all contributions.

In a culture of “yes”, people feel safe to suggest, to give feedback and to experiment because they know people will listen for what’s good and useful.

In a culture of “yes”, people will learn that it’s safe to ask for clarification when they don’t understand.  They will learn that “mistakes” should be mined for information instead of being grounds for punishment.

Once you build this kind of trust in your organization, all staff will feel empowered to help find solutions and create new services.  So, consider starting to create a culture of “yes” in your organization because with everything the libraries are trying to provide these days, we need all the yessing we can get!


Stressed workplace? Take a walk!

The benefits of regular exercise as a stress reducing or coping activity have been documented in a wide variety of forums from medical journals, to popular self help magazines, and human resources texts.  Walking–one of the simplest, least equipment heavy exercise options–has been touted as having benefits as such exercise, as well as offering potential for socializing while undertaking, seeing the sights in many and varied environments in which it can be undertaken, and requiring little or no post-exercise cleanup.

If your library staff is stressed–whoa! Whose isn’t these days?–think about putting a simple walking program into place for employees (and that would include you).  Berkeley Public Library offers a simple and elegant model:

  • All staff are invited to participate, and any can start participating at any time (There’s no “first session” for which you needed to have shown up).
  • Steps count, not time spent stepping, and only the steps taken getting to and from work, while on a work break, or meal hour count, not whatever running around you might do outside your working life (That levels the playing field for those whose nonwork environments aren’t walk friendly).
  • Very inexpensive pedometers are available from the Human Resources staff office, but many new walkers discover that they become addicted to the counting and obtain their own, which happen to be available through many healthcare offices for a cost under $10.

But how do you create interest in getting people up and out into the neighborhood just to walk around?

  • At BPL, there’s a regular spot-that-interesting-picture-opportunity theme.  By and large, staff have cell phones and almost every modern cell phone has photo taking capacity. This week’s suggested photo op might be a mural you see while walking, next week’s could be an ironic sign.
  • Encourage staff to walk together to encourage each other–and while they encourage each other on foot, you’ll find that they come to see each other as pretty regular human beings, instead of just the job title.

There are lots of variations that are possible with such a program: you can introduce staff to social media, like Twitter, by suggesting they tweet the day’s walk or step goal; you can post the snapshots taken while folks were out walking; you can ask for route suggestions and blast email (to staff!) a customized Google map showing the route and some interesting landmarks along it so they can keep an eye out for what’s up ahead.

On the benefits side:

  • Stress reduction at the personal level
  • Stress reduction at the staff group level
  • New communication lines open across departments as walking partners discover each other
  • Better familiarity with the neighborhood around the library
  • Real opportunities to meet and say “hi” to customers when they aren’t inside the library

Oops, looks like it’s time for my afternoon walk! Be back at work in 15 minutes!

Another California Library On YouTube

“Sunnyvale Voices: From Settlers to Silicon” includes more than 20 short reminiscences about the history of Sunnyvale as told by residents (Vince Cala’s were my favorite.) Each oral history is available in print, audio, and video. The project was funded with an LSTA grant. If you’re thinking about doing an oral history project for your community, more information about what it involves can be found in the Project Manual [PDF].
Are there other California Libraries using YouTube? Please let us know via the comment section.

The Thriving Library

Marylaine Block, librarian—turned—freelance author (American Libraries, Information Today, Library Journal) has written a book (available from Information Today) about libraries with successful services that got them community support and funding. Chapters cover youth services, the library as place, partnerships, marketing, economic value in the community, Library 2.0, outreach, and helping the community reach its aspirations. The ultimate how-we-did-it-good handbook for today’s public library. Highly recommended for all public librarians so they can mark-up the chapters with ideas translatable to their library. Kathleen de la Peña McCook said it well: “A solid, well-documented foundation—amazingly grounded in strategic plans—that provides both a path and an inspiration to public libraries that want to flourish as third places.”

Infopeople Instructor Lauren John Publishes Book

We recently received an email from Lauren John announcing the publication of her new book, Running Book Discussion Groups: A How-To-Do-It-Manual by Neal-Schuman publishers. ($65)
Lauren says, “The book is a direct result of online classes that I taught for Infopeople in 2004 and 2005. Infopeople is acknowledged in (where else?) the acknowledgment page and suggestions/ comments from one of my class bulletin boards are included in Chapter Four (pages 50-54)– “Planning When and Where to Meet” (I got permission first from the librarians, Sandy Smith of Lodi, Deborah Dean of Shasta County, and Pat Koskinen of Oroville who posted).”
To order the book, go to:
It is also selling on Amazon.
Congratulations, Lauren, on this accomplishment!