ALA Kitchen Table Conversations Community
Attached is the record of the Kitchen Table Conversations held at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas. Notes from 11 different Kitchen Table Conversations were pulled together in a continuous stream, then organized under consistent headings. That consolidated and categorized record is attached.
At the beginning of each conversation, participants were asked to react to a "community narrative" that has been built up over preceding conversations -- Annual Conference 2013 (Chicago), Midwinter 2014 (Philadelphia). That "community narrative" is a live narrative that continues to gain nuance and richness through successive conversations. The overall community narrative coming out of the 2014 ALA Annual Conference conversations is attached.
After that initial conversation, participants were asked to focus on their aspirations for, concerns about and recommendations for advocacy by ALA and its member community. An advocacy-specific "community narrative" was also developed. Both the consolidated and categorized notes and the community narrative are being pushed to ALA groups focused on advocacy, as well as to the ALA Executive Board.
We will again be holding Kitchen Table Conversations at the 2015 Midwinter Meeting in Chicago. A specific announcement will be posted here. In the meantime, please continue the conversation by commenting and sharing on this list.
We need your help to get 100 signatures of ALA members!
If you are an ALA member, please add your e-signature to our petition to form/renew an ALA Membership Initiative Group entitled: Libraries Foster Community Engagement.
Sign the e-petition at: http://www.ala.org/CFApps/epetition/index.cfm?pid=D086C2BB10BC9B4D
Please forward to your colleagues.
Nancy Kranich, Petition Initiator
Libraries Foster Community EngagementMIG purpose and goals.
Libraries Foster Community Engagement Membership Initiative Group will provide an ALA organizational home for anyone interested in the work of library-led community engagement. It is a community of practice where participants share experiences facilitating public forums, fostering community and civic engagement, and leading change in communities. Participants will also hear about professional development opportunities and library experiences related to convening, dialogue facilitation, forum moderation, deliberative dialogue and local partnerships to help communities understand issues of concern and solve problems together. This MIG will involve participants from the former Libraries Fostering Civic Engagement MIG, and will include those who advise the ALA Center for Civic Life and those who participate in the Libraries Transforming Communities project. Among the goals for this group are:
- Rename the Libraries Fostering Civic Engagement Membership Initiative Group: “Libraries Foster Community Engagement.”
- Build on the strong work of the earlier MIG begun in 2004.
- Provide a community of practice for those interested in the overarching work of building community relationships (work served by the ALA Center for Civic Life, the Libraries Fostering Civic Engagement MIG, the Libraries Transforming Communities project and other future and past work) that is widely accessible and dynamic for as large a group of participants as possible
- Ensure that the various cohorts who are completing the Harwood Institute Public Innovator labs have an opportunity to share their experiences and resources with their fellow participants
Feedback from the 2014 Midwinter Meeting Kitchen Table Conversations -- which were substantially focused on aspirations for/concerns about the ALA Annual Conference -- has been shared with the ALA Conference Committee.
That committee will meet on Saturday, June 29, LVCC N225, 1:00-2:30pm. The agenda is posted as a public document in the committee's ALA Connect space: http://connect.ala.org/node/224518. They have a full agenda, including both a discussion of a Council resolution related to programming at Midwinter Meetings and the feedback from the Kitchen Table Conversations related to the ALA Annual Conference.
You are invited to attend and participate.
Well, it's taken a while -- but here are narrative summary statements from the Midwinter conversations.
(1) Participants received the narrative summary from the AC13 conversations and were asked if it resonated with them and if they had things to add. It did -- and they did. So, that original (2013 Annual Conference) narrative summary was adjusted to reflect further discussion. That language added following the 2014 Midwinter discussion is underlined. The "structure" for the narrative summary is bolded; the language developed based on the discussion at AC2013 is italicized.
People want a welcoming, inclusive, engaged, supportive organization. But they’re concerned that ALA’s complexity makes it difficult to navigate and that ALA needs to be more welcoming to new members and new ideas. As people talk more about these concerns, they talk about silos, about having too many choices and too much “noise,” and about bureaucracy. They say we need to concentrate on building relationships and on developing a sense of community; we need more focus; and, we need to continue the conversations. They say members need flexible ways to participate meaningfully and that ALA should be a “safe place” to learn and grow. If we worked on this together – ALA leadership, Division leadership, Round Table leadership, staff – they would be more likely to trust the effort and step forward to help. Overall, people believe we are stronger together and have more in common than we realize.
(2) Then we shifted the conversation to the ALA Annual Conference. Here were the "transition" questions in the Facilitator/Notetaker guide:
In order to take action on what we are hearing, we are considering making some structural changes to the ALA Conference? Given our aspirations for the ALA community, what do we want the ALA Annual Conference to be like?
Overall, how do you think things are going when it comes to the conference?
- What makes you say that?
- What's going well? (link back to aspirations)
- What's not working" (contributing to "silos," "noise," "lack of focus")
Based on the notes from three days of Kitchen Table Conversations, here is the narrative summary. Again, the "structure" for the narrative is bolded and the language summarizing the conversations is italicized.
People want an Annual Conference that is inclusive and welcoming, well-organized, and allows for meaningful participation across Divisions and other groups. But they’re concerned that it is challenging for many members, can be costly and that there are barriers to broad participation and exchange. As people talk more about those concerns, they talk about time conflicts, lack of recognition for conference-based learning, perceptions, digital access, and process improvements. They say we need to actively invite participation, focus interactivity and intimacy, provide more opportunities for people to make connections and help people find their way in a large conference. If members and staff, including both Divisions and Chapters, worked together they would be more likely to trust the effort and step forward to help.
I have attached the lengthier consolidated notes to this message.
At the 2013 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, 80 people responded to 2012-2013 ALA President Maureen Sullivan's invitation to participate in a series of small group discussions: the Kitchen Table Conversations. Notes were taken at each session. These notes were compiled and common threads were identified -- the shared aspirations and the shared concerns.
The following narrative from that series of discussions was shared with the ALA Executive Board and executive committees of ALA's eleven Divisions at their Joint Board meeting, October 25, 2013:
People want a welcoming, inclusive, engaged, supportive organization. But, they’re concerned that ALA’s complexity makes it difficult to navigate and that ALA needs to be more welcoming to new members and new ideas. As people talk more about those concerns, they talk about silos, about having too many choices and too much “noise,” and about bureaucracy. They say we need to concentrate on building relationships and on developing a sense of community, we need more focus, and we need to continue the conversations. If we worked on this together – ALA leadership, Division leadership, Round Table leadership, staff – they would be more likely to trust the effort and step forward to help.
ALA Executive Board members and Division leaders also met in small groups to discuss their aspirations for ALA as a "community of members, staff, external allies and partners, and others in our field." That discussion is continuing.
A more detailed summary (attached below) of the initial group of Kitchen Table Conversations is still being reviewed and considered. Participants were asked, individually and collectively, to consider the feedback from these conversations carefully; to identify "one small thing" that we can do -- collectively or individually to "make it better"; to act; and, then to continue the listen-discuss-act-repeat circle of innovation. Continuing, collaborative innovation takes all of us, working together in community.
A short guide to the process used for the Kitchen Table Conversations is on the ALA web site:
The Conversations will continue at the 2014 Midwinter Meeting (Philadelphia) and 2014 Annual Conference (Las Vegas). An invitation from 2013-2014 ALA President Barbara Stripling will be posted soon.
This space is also a place to continue the conversation. It's open.