Scholarship Report: Alice Henderson – ALA / Hardwood Institute 2019

Event: ALA / Hardwood Institute 2019 — Atlanta, GA – October 15-17, 2019

Attendee: Alice Henderson–Director, Plainview Public Library

How does attending this event relate to your current role in your library?

Every city is different, and has its own goals, needs and circumstances. By aligning library initiatives with overarching goals for the community as a whole, I will be better able to ensure that the work we do is meaningful and needed. The “Turning Outward” philosophy will help deepen my understanding of those overarching goals. It will be my intent to use that understanding as we move through our next strategic planning process.

What was your favorite session you attended and why?

As this was not a conference, it did not involve sessions, per se. The topic that I found most helpful was Community Rhythms, which is looking at a community’s capacity for change. Knowing what stage a community is in pushes decision-makers to consider an appropriate scope of initiative. Communities in “Waiting Place” will have a vastly different reaction to something new than a community that is in “Growth” stage. When we go to conferences, it can be easy to look at what someone has tried and want to duplicate it. Adding a step to consider your own community’s rhythm can help ensure that the thing you want to try is received positively.

What was your biggest takeaway from the event as a whole?

Communities are complex and each has its own story and set of circumstances. Effective leaders are ones who are those who have put the effort in to be authentic in their understanding of their community’s aspirations and concerns.

What is one idea that you gained from the event that you plan to implement now that you’re back?

We were asked to create a detailed action plan for when we returned, and we will receive support from our coaches in the weeks to come. Much of my plan involves creating connections with people who might be open to “turning outward” and helping to start building a bank of public knowledge through community conversations.

Would you recommend this event to others and why?

I would recommend this training to anyone who is looking to learn more about engaging effectively with their community. On the surface, it appears deceptively easy because it involves conversation and asking people about their hopes and concerns. As you dig into the training, you discover the power and responsibility that comes with having those conversations. The coaches were excellent, and I came home with clean copies of all of the discussion tools as well as a set of contacts that are as committed to community change as I am.