Dr. Michael Stephens and the Power of Stories
Published: February 1, 2020 by Havilah Steinman
The Special Library Association Student Chapter is well known for facilitating engaging events for all those connected to San José State University’s iSchool. Last Fall, they had the opportunity to host Dr. Michael Stephens, who shared about his recent publication Wholehearted Librarianship: Finding Hope, Inspiration, and Balance. This is his second publication with the American Library Association and, whether you’re a brand new librarian or a veteran, the ideas and encouragement set out in his pages are sure to impact your daily experiences at work. The recording of the event can be viewed here.
Dr. Stephens shared a unique presentation for the SLASC event, including direct examples he’s witnessed of wholehearted librarianship. A couple of examples include:
- Capital Area District Libraries introduced a Community Closet as part of their community partnerships. In the closet, library staff stock a variety of personal items, where patrons browse anonymously and take what they require.
- Chicago Public Library completely eliminated fines late last year. Library Commissioner Andrea Telli’s decision to do so led to a 240% increase in book returns.
It’s this type of kindness and community-minded approach to librarianship Dr. Stephens aims to foster in Wholehearted Librarianship: Finding Hope, Inspiration, and Balance which was just selected as Book of the Week by Against the Grain (read more about it on Faculty Research and Innovation Updates).
Dr. Stephens also opened up his presentation to discussion and asked attendees to share what they believe to be librarian superpowers. The purpose of the exercise was to illustrate the power of stories – how the stories we tell ourselves and share with others has a direct impact on our community. He writes, “We are the heart of our communities, and that only works because of what the people who work in libraries give of themselves. The best [librarians] make that emotional investment because they believe in the institution and the communities they serve.”
Librarians generally get into this business because they want to help people. In order to do this well, Dr. Stephens encourages librarians to take care of themselves. During the Q&A section, he was asked how to deal with aggressive patrons. He suggested to ask leadership if there are de-escalation protocols in place. He believes that library staff should feel safe at work. Dr. Stephens suggested looking for folks working in similar library environments that might have other de-escalation techniques, or suggest other ways to avoid someone getting upset. Having a network of folks on a global scale is very useful when working with these kinds of problems.
To find out more about Dr. Stephens and his book, be sure to read the press release New Book Explores Librarian Leadership Infused with Humanity and Heart and visit his Tame the Web page. A big thank you to the SLASC for hosting this event! You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Youtube.