Professionalism & Leadership

Paper: Program Description Abstract

Beyond the Elevator: Improving Library Staff Communication Everywhere

Tuesday, May 7
5:05 PM - 5:20 PM
Room: Columbus CD (East Tower, Ballroom/Gold Level)

Background: Over the past four years, one academic health sciences library delivered a series of three staff development events aimed to facilitate better internal and external communication, partly in preparation for a major renovation. Idea generation, empowerment for advocacy, and audience awareness were key focus areas for development. We wanted to use semi-structured learning settings and facilitated exercises to provide common reference points for all staff. We aimed to build skills and increase staff confidence while honoring different learning and communication styles. Presenters will describe the three staff development events and demonstrate one key takeaway from each. We will share key outputs and impact and offer insight into the development of a library staff communication training plan aligned with long-term staff development and library objectives.


Description: The library’s management team discussed strategies to promote improved communication among all staff. Previous training in change agent tools was useful for managers in meeting settings. However, we recognized a need to develop other skills as we entered a significant period of planning and disruption due to a library renovation. We identified gaps: all staff needed to shift toward “big picture” and advocacy-related thinking to address communication and group participation gaps. The first training event, a design thinking workshop, provided an environment to practice iterating on ideas using props and structured scenarios. Elevator speech creation and practice, the second event, helped staff fit content to short speeches that could communicate big picture ideas in 30 seconds or less. In the third training, a series of three facilitated sessions directed by a physician with a background in improvisational theater (“improv”), improv-inspired techniques were introduced to hone listening and general communication skills. Design thinking training supported idea generation and later strategic planning efforts. The elevator speech and improv training underscored the importance of audience awareness, listening, and advocacy. A staff survey and anecdotal observations from library leaders illuminate the impact of the training.


Conclusion: Modalities of the training worked well for some staff, but not others, which we attributed to differences in learning style, personality, and motivation. Not all staff participated in all training. Staff turnover affected overall communication and participation. Library staff knowledge, skills, and confidence did improve in specific areas. One benefit from the trainings was the shared experience and related common language gained from participation. Reflections on these trainings will inform future communication skills exercises.

Emily J. Glenn

Interim Associate Director, Education & Research Services
McGoogan Library of Medicine
Omaha, Nebraska

Emily J. Glenn, MSLS is an Associate Professor and Interim Associate Director for Education and Research Services at the McGoogan Library of Medicine at University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Emily is a liaison to research units, basic science departments, and student groups, coordinates library systems and technology, and is a faculty advisor to the UNMC Makers Club.

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Heather L. Brown

Associate Director, Collection Services
University of Nebraska Medical Center
Omaha, Nebraska

Heather L. Brown, MA, is the Associate Director of Collection Services at the McGoogan Library of Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center where she oversees Collection Development and Metadata, Interlibrary Loan, and Special Collections. Scholarly communications is her liaison role. Other areas of practice are institutional repository management and social media.

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Mary E. Helms, AHIP

Head, Strategic Initiatives
McGoogan Library, University of Nebraska Medical Center
Omaha, Nebraska

Mary E Helms, M.A., M.S., AHIP, Head, Strategic Initiatives, McGoogan Library, University of Nebraska Medical Center. Student of popular culture, film, and wine.

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Emily McElroy

Director & Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
McGoogan Library of Medicine/ University of Nebraska Medical Center
Omaha, Nebraska

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