Competency B - Statement and Evidence

  Portfolio of Cathleen Elizabeth Ash


compare the environments and organizational settings in which library and information professionals practice;

From a one-room library in a small town to the New York and Los Angeles city public libraries, to Harvard's Law Library and the Eleanor Bonnar music library in Africa, there is no shortage of various organizations in which professional librarians can practice. Indeed, if the first list does not intrigue, let's not forget archival and special collections - or even private collections across a myriad of fields. Whether or not the organization is run or overseen by a single person, or has hundreds of employees and decisions are based on committees, there are a number of things that remain constant: a need to know your constituents, your colleagues, the political clime in which you work, and mostly - how to get along (be it with your colleagues, clientelle, or funding sources).

A lot of the work I completed focused on school libraries, with an emphasis on high school libraries, because this is where I want to be. I love working with teen-agers and while teaching them information literacy skills has been challenging, it has also been rewarding. More challenging has been the need to learn better communication and interaction skills with peers, and to gain political savvy to better interact with administration and parent-community groups, and deal with the political morass that is the public education funding system in California.

In all of my dealings with all of these groups, the most helpful tools have been communication skills. Armed with clear communication skills and an understanding of various communication (and personality) styles that others might have, any organizational setting can not only be understood, but great strides to work well with the organization can be made. It's important to consider that the classic face-to-face interactions are not the most common form of communication anymore, too. E-mails, memorandums, Instant Messages (IMs), phone and VOIP calls, and video relays have all affected the way organizational interactions occur. While the classic face-to-face may exist less and less today, it's still important to follow the critical adage of "know your audience." Indeed, it is even more critical and needs to also include clarity on the purpose of the interaction:  what you expect all parties to take away from the interaction and where lines of negotiation over any item might be drawn.

A great example of this occurred last year, and a number of the papers I'd researched and presented for my classes at SJSU (below) supported me in my pursuit of funding for a new technology project. I was dealing with three very different organizations - and three very different types of people. A silicon-valley company was willing to assist in funding a project, as was a non-profit organization, if I could get the principal of our school on board. Over the years, I've learned what "my boss" wants to hear and how he wants to hear it, but the paperwork and proposal still needed to be drafted to the expectations of the other two companies involved. I wrote up the proposal in a business-like fashion, then provided a very different-looking summary to my principal. It was a win-win situation (I did receive the funding!) because I considered what I needed (the purpose), who was involved (the audience) and modified my approach to ensure all organizations would be on board.

List of Evidence for Competency B:
Collaboration, Conflict, & Communication A look at management styles and their relation to high school libraries.
Reference Librarians An in-person reference observation and notes about the process.
On-Line Chat with Librarians A document discussing the pros and cons of online access to librarians.
Professional Readings A list of professional articles or blurbs discussing technology and tolerance.
We've Come a Long Way A paper exploring the personality traits of people and how to better a library organization with an awareness of peoples' differences.