Final FIT Team Thoughts

Safe EnvironmentI had only been employed at OPL a few short months in Summer 2013.  Since my entire professional library experience had been in academic libraries, I was learning both public library work and my branch manager position.  It was overwhelming at times to learn a new job and how to facilitate community conversations.  I happily discovered the FIT Team such a source of support and camaraderie throughout this year and a half that all the ups and downs were more bearable.

Each pilot project deepened understanding of my community and enriched me as an Omaha citizen.  I also met important individuals who opened up new opportunities for working together and sharing resources.  Deirdre Routt and I worked on a transportation and refugee project in Fall 2013.  Clint Sloss at MAPA was identified as a person central to understanding transportation, growth, and Omaha.  Clint later used all the FIT Team members to facilitate his Omaha Safe Enviroment 2Heartland 2050 community meetings.  He also became part of my Pilot Project 3 planning on the talent drain.  Clint has been a tremendous resource for my understanding Omaha’s movers and shakers.  I also believe that OPL’s connection to MAPA helped him gain more ground in his organization’s work this year.  It was a win-win relationship.

During Pilot Project 2, Laurie Hajek-Jones and I met like-minded colleagues who have a mission to improve online access to those needing it the most.  This city-wide group serves as a daily resource when OPL can’t meet a patron’s computer need.  I’ve called various offices to see if I could send a patron because I know their services.  We are creating informal and formal networks that will ultimately serve the public more effectively and efficiently.  The pilot projects in some cases have a very direct impact on how well I do my job at OPL.  I didn’t expect that result.

Although some projects related directly to my branch’s needs, not every project had me as engaged.  My final Pilot Project 3 was such a project.  Although the topic, Outmigration of Young Professionals in Omaha (Talent Drain), is important to Omaha’s long-term prosperity, I didn’t feel a “fire in the belly” sort of enthusiasm.  What I learned, however, is that less enthusiasm could be a plus.  Since I didn’t feel that I owned the problem, responsibility for carrying the work forward didn’t rest on the FIT Team’s shoulders.  It was liberating to facilitate without too much of a tie to the topic.  I expect that our future facilitations will mirror this experience more than the ones where we felt more ownership.

I learned so many things from the FIT Team experience that are hard to quantify.  I gained confidence in my ability to deal with uncertainty.  I learned to be a better team player and to compromise for the project’s good.  One of the biggest lessons is I don’t take a nose dive into a neurosis cesspool every time I make a mistake!  I stand in front of Sam McBane Mulford, Cheryl Gould, and the FIT Team and make a fool of myself on a regular basis.  I don’t take myself so seriously.  I worked with team mates who were hard working and level-headed.  They were all easy to communicate and make decisions with.  Since we brought different strengths to the table, others would jump in when one person couldn’t do something.  It helps that we’ve provided a “safe place to land” with one another.  This comfort and sense of security allows us to take risks we might not be courageous enough for in another setting.

Sam and Cheryl cultivated a safe and nurturing environment that I believe the FIT Team embodies and can carry on.  I try to remember concepts like, “yes, and” and “everything is an offer” when working with my branch staff.  I am trying to think bigger when solving problems.  I find myself repeating the “what if, what then, and how might we” phrases in my head.  I know that my experiences with the FIT Team have positively shaped my perceptions of OPL.  I am proud to work at an institution that sees community engagement as something that changes communities for the better.  There is a genuine desire to improve our patrons’ lives.  We are tackling important community problems.  I don’t see this IMLS grant as something that only brings recognition to the director or one more rung on his ladder to success.  I see the grant as an innovative way to make the library relevant in a place that desperately needs more community dialogue.  I am very proud to be a FIT Team member even when I’m feeling understaffed and over-worked at my branch.  In ways big and small (internally and externally), I see the benefit to me and the greater community.

Cheryl, Sam, Terry Wingate, Linda Trout, Jody duRand, Theresa Jehlik, and Gary Wasdin – thank you for making this happen and letting me be a part.  It’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience.

Posted by Marvel Maring, Facilitator-in-Training

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