Keeping Up with Affordable Care Act News

With the enrollment period for the initial public activity under the Affordable Care Act less than two months away, librarians need to be sure we are staying alert to related news from both federal and state governments. One easy first step is to make sure you are subscribing to notifications from An email subscription won’t bring an avalanche of puff pieces; instead it can give us the opportunity to see what portals have been developed for Americans to use to enter the Health Insurance Marketplace, enrollment in which opens October 1.

If you’re in California, there’s already a quick link from the Marketplace landing page to Covered California, the access point for all Californians to use when entering the Marketplace. The Covered California site already is built out to a degree that we should be getting familiar with it right now, not next month or (*shudder*) when our community members start asking for details.  Start with the Fact Sheet and consider linking to it from your library’s home page as a demonstration of not only the library’s preparedness but also as a reminder to site visitors that it’s already time to start pulling together the information they will need to enroll.

Here at Infopeople, we have several projects in the works, that are going to roll out starting this month, to help with library planning around understanding how the Affordable Care Act relies on our public library staffs to make a difference in the quality of life everyone in our communities experiences. So, at the same time that you subscribe to, you might want to start following Infopeople on Twitter (@infotweets), like us on Facebook, and subscribe to the Infopeople Project’s Training Calendar. We are going to be producing a lot of information quickly–all of it aimed at helping you help the folks who rely on you for good healthcare and insurance information and public computer access, two all important aspects of our defined work come October 1.

2012 Trends Every Librarian Needs to Know

Thanks to the California State Library’s Rush Brandis, many of us received this presentation in email form today. The story told by these new figures, and suggested applications for creating a responsive information future, include an array encompassing health, education and much more besides commerce and entertainment.

In one interesting section of the story these slides tell, we get the chance to consider how technology and its adoption provoke society to evolve from being asset-heavy (think your old vinyl record album collection) to asset-light (MP3 playlist, of course).

Don’t just sit back and watch this show: let’s start brainstorming the opportunities we have to evolve as asset-light services that deliver more broadly and with more depth than can our asset-heavy tradition.

Mountaintop Experiences

Next week, Infopeople is sending a few California librarians to a new and unusual library conference. “R-Squared” (Risk x Reward) promises an exciting “mountaintop experience,” both in that cheesy life-changing sense and also in a completely literal sense, as we’ll be spending a few breathless days in Telluride, Colorado, at close to 10,000 feet. We’ve received advisory emails about drinking extra water, toning down weekend exercise goals, and coming with open minds. The conference focuses on experiences that will vividly demonstrate how to lead libraries in taking healthy but meaningful risks–risks with rewards that will revitalize libraries, keeping us relevant and even innovative in a changing world.
Although I now live and work at sea-level in Los Angeles, I grew up on Cobb Mountain in Lake County, and just a few summers ago spent 13 weeks in the Sierra, so I’m pretty familiar with mountaintop experiences. I remember the exhilaration, the inspiration–and needing to sleep a lot. Here’s hoping for a week of beautiful perspectives on the Rockies and libraries, new dreams and ideas to bring back to California, and a conference schedule with mandatory nap-time built in!
Sarah Vantrease is a Branch Manager at Los Angeles Public Library and was a participant in the 2010 Eureka! Leadership Institute.

Dan Pink and Improv Skills

Dan Pink is coming out with a new book on December 31, 2012.  It’s called, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.  To “sell”, for him, includes much of what we do all day which is convince, persuade and motivate people to do what we want or need them to do.

An applied improv colleague of mine, Lindsey, has been emailing with him about improvisation and like little schoolgirls amped up about a cute teacher, we’ve gotten excited each time there’s been contact.  Lindsey recently sent me a link to a video of Dan talking about his new book.  In the video there is a section where he talks about what skills are needed to sell/persuade/motivate and he says “the three skills of improvisation are possibly THE most important skills to have for persuading people.”

Those of you who know what I’ve been up to for the past 5 years know why I’m excited about this.  The skills of improvisation are what I’ve been promoting and training in my management, customer service and teambuilding workshops.  So those of you who’ve been in them, we’re ahead of the curve.  For those who may not have understood why I’m so excited about the skills of improvisation, I’m hoping that Dan’s book will clarify the need.

In my work with libraries, these are the skills I focus on the most, all of which must be practiced with the spirit of “Yes, And.”

  • Be Present
  • Listen
  • Support your partner
  • Take risks

I guess I’ll have to buy Dan’s book to find out what three all important skills of improvisation he chooses.

In my pondering what Dan will call his three important skills I got inspired to poke around to see how other applied improvisers talk about the skills of improvisation.  (I’ve done it many times before, since it’s a relatively new field, there is always something new to discover.) Here’s a list of skills that make perfect sense when you think about improvisational theater.   They are also absolutely relevant to libraries thinking about the future.

  • Notice more
  • Be changed by what you hear
  • Accept offers
  • Let go of your agenda
  •  Embrace constraints
  • Make the other people look good

No matter what the exact language, the intention behind all of this is to have us all reduce stress, communicate better and do more creative solution finding to serve our communities.  Thanks Dan.

Mental Models of Community Engagement Hold Us Back

My colleague Gail Griffith and I did a preconference at ALA called Mental Model Busting.  One of the mental models we explored was community engagement.  As you might guess, people’s mental models of community engagement were all over the map.  Not that there was disagreement, just wildly different assumptions about what is meant by “community engagement”.  The flipcharted responses revealed that to some it was partnering, for others it was identifying community.  For some it was having the whole community read the same book, for others it was letting the community see our value and for others it was just “messy” 😉  flipchart of Mental Models of Community Engagement

If you want to get your library involved in engaging your community you may need to have a mental model busting conversation with your staff.  Why does it matter?  Because your mental model determines how you expend time, money and resources.  For instance if your goal is to “let the community see our value” you might hire someone to beef up your PR efforts.  If “finding partnerships” is your goal you might prioritize your time looking for partner opportunities outside the library.  If “having the community read the same book” is community engagement, you might say “We’re already doing it!”

The process of surfacing mental models exposes a group to the fact that there are multiple concurrent realities and that there is not one correct answer. This allows people to see for themselves where they might be limited in their thinking.  Instead of convincing people that they are wrong and you are right, the conversation should allow people to hear different perspectives and bust up their assumptions.  If you can create the right atmosphere where people are really listening, they’ll be able to find their own limited thinking and learn from each other to create a shared, and presumably much broader, view of community engagement.  The point of the exercise is not to figure out who is right and who is wrong or to more perfectly define community engagement.  The goal is to figure out what decisions should be made about spending our limited time, money and resources so the library can have an impact on community engagement.