I Carry Blue Painter’s Tape in My Bag

Blue Painter's TapeHow has the FIT Team experience helped you in your personal and professional life?

Ah, let me count the ways.

Personally

First, the ground rules had great influence in my life.  Second, I made some incredible personal connections through this experience.  Third, I learned things that have been useful in all aspects of my life.  Fourth, I connected with my kids through the games and activities we have done.

I previously wrote a few posts about how the ground rules became part of my personal life.  The one that has had, and continues to have, the most impact, is Everything is an Offer.  That attitude of gratitude and acceptance is very powerful.  I need to keep it in mind more often – especially as my kids become teenagers.

The projects let me work closely with staff members I might never work with at all.  I developed friendships and found additional support that is important personally and professionally.  I learned more about myself in a true partnership.  I also learned to forgive myself more; ask others to do things in better ways; and better judge when to personally take on more to get the project done.

I also made connections with people outside the library I might never have met.  We were given a behind-the-scenes tour of the bus company.  I worked more with refugee groups.  Although the goal was for meeting participants to make connections with each other, I also made connections with them.

An important relationship is with Sam McBane Mulford and Cheryl Gould, our trainers.  They are concerned not only with teaching facilitation skills but also how to work as a team.  Sam and Cheryl have nurtured us and provided support in all aspects of our lives.  They cheered our successes and helped us get past the challenges.

Finding the balance between work and family but also the FIT Team and branch work has been hard at times.  I tend to do better at striking a balance when I have more, rather than less, demands on my time.  Yet it’s been a struggle to sometimes see that balance is possible.  I see other team members facing similar issues.  Just knowing others have the same challenges was a big help.  We found ways to support each other from just listening to discussing possible solutions.

I not only learned how to facilitate meetings from the front of the room but also how to be a better meeting participant.  I put some of the learned techniques to use in a wide variety of settings.  At other times I merely observed how other people act in meetings and participated more thoughtfully in meetings.

Recently I bought my own blue painter’s tape to carry in my bag in case I need to facilitate a meeting for an organization I belong to.  Although a group usually has their own flipcharts and markers, it doesn’t always have tape.  One of these days I’ll get around to adding some castanets (my attention- getting noisemaker of choice) and markers.

Kids improv gamesThis experience has affected me the most with my two children.  I used a technique or two to help my children make a hard decision.  I pulled out a game at a Chinese restaurant to keep my two children as well as my niece and nephew entertained.  The most unexpected but rewarding techniques were games and activities.  Last summer my kids spent two weeks at an improv drama camp.  As they talked about camp, I realized that the camp games and the training games were often the same.  While the names may change and the outcomes for nine to thirteen-year-olds can be very different from adults, the overall experience is the same.  After training days I really enjoyed telling my kids about the games we played, discussing the game results, and/or how our groups acted.  I loved having this unexpected way to connect with my kids.  These talks probably slightly increased my coolness factor with my thirteen-year-old too.

Professionally

First, I am in a job I never would have done without the FIT Team experience.  Second, I love what I now do because of my facilitation experiences.  Third, I can articulate my passion for my work and the library in ways I never could before.  Fourth, I see such potential for libraries by doing facilitation and community outreach.

When I first heard about the idea of libraries doing facilitation at Staff Day a few years ago (maybe in 2011?), I thought that it might be interesting to do.  I also hoped to have the opportunity to do so.  When asked to be part of the initial group, I was very flattered and excited. The initial meetings were confusing and a little disheartening.  I wasn’t at all sure what we were going to be doing or how we were going to do it.

There were many meetings.  Some were with staff – both general staff and the leadership team.  Some were open forums for the community (no one came).  Some were meetings with invited community members.  During these meetings, I saw Sam and Cheryl in action. While taking notes on what they did, I was often amazed at what they could do.  I still am.

After another Staff Day (2013) we created our current FIT Team.  Our first meetings were intense and utterly exhausting.  We were asked to think about our profession and the idea of community engagement in a new way.  We were forming a team while learning facilitation and creating a model (which we had to evaluate) for others.  Although some had a better idea of the goal than others, it was clear that we were all muddling our way through the process.

After more FIT Team meetings and learning techniques, we partnered up to begin our first projects.  These were scary.  Some worked better than others.  There were aspects of planning that didn’t work while others worked wonderfully well.  We all learned.

I was also coming to the realization that I was no longer satisfied with my current position.  I needed to consider doing something else professionally.   Although I had been urged by others to be a branch manager, I had long rejected it as too draining.  The thoughts of working with the public and resolving conflicts were daunting.  When the opportunity arose, I applied and was ultimately chosen as a new branch manager.

My FIT Team experience definitely assisted me in presenting myself well in the job interview.  A previous criticism had been my lack of community engagement.  Now, with the first pilot project under my belt, I had experience.  I could now speak enthusiastically and knowledgeably about community engagement and its potential for libraries.

My facilitation training has given me greater overall confidence.  When I started as a branch manager, I was equipped to go out into the community, learn about it, and see ways the library could participate in our community’s life.  I soon found that I really enjoyed this aspect of my library work.  Community engagement continues to be an exciting endeavor.

As we further explore community engagement, facilitation, and the sustainability of the FIT Team I can articulate my passion for my work.  Omaha Public Library is making Omaha a better place to live.  This is what I want to spend my life doing.  Since I work in my private life to do this, having it intersect with my professional life is amazing.  I feel very blessed to be a part of the FIT Team.  In the future I hope to continually develop my facilitation skills and practice them both personally and professionally.

Posted by Deirdre Routt, Facilitator-in-Training

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s