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Friday
Nov302018

16 memes about empathetic librarianship

In a recent conversation about personalize learning, I explained to a new coworker why I moved from classroom teaching to librarianship. I found teaching literature and writing skills to a large and largely disinterested group of students less than satisfying. No matter how hard I tried or what methods I used, a high percentage of my 16-year-olds were simply never going to find meaning in Macbeth or 1984 or "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." (There were quite a few pieces in the anthology in which I as a 24-year-old teacher did not find much meaning either.) 

As a librarian, I did not have to find common resources that resonated with large groups of kids. I only had to find one resource that meet the need of one student at one time. By getting to know each student as an individual, I could be a more effective educator. I eventually figured out how to help individual students combine their personal interests with classroom assignments. (You love horses? How about writing your history term paper on how horses were used in WWII?)

I've been thinking a lot lately about empathy and why our students need to acquire it in order to be successful. In nearly every occupation, the ability to understand the needs and concerns of others is a vital skill in order to be effective. Separating successful from unsuccessful used car salesmen, politicians, social workers, and physicians come down to being effectively empathetic? Hmmm, I wonder if that applies to librarianship as well?

As I look back on being involved in school libraries as a grad student, practitioner, supervisor, adjunct professor, and writer/consultant, the skill sets most emphasized have been hard skills - information literacy skills, technology skills, materials selection skills, ethics, program planning and evaluation, communications, and knowledge of children's and YA literature among others. But empathy? Not so much...

Ironically, perhaps the quote for which I may best remembered by future generations has empathy at its core:

I looked back some of the posters I've made and found that quite a few of them indicate that the librarian owes his/her effectiveness not to hard skills, but to soft skills...

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 What personal memes might you add? How do you use empathy to better fulfill your mission as a librarian?

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Reader Comments (1)

Great message and timely Doug - thanks for helping to spread ideas!

November 30, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoel VerDuin

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