‘Wholehearted Libraries: Soft Skills for 21st Century Information Professionals,’ First Library 2.020 Mini-conference Encourages Compassion, Empathy and Finding Balance

Library 2.020 Wholehearted Libraries March 10, 2020

The first Library 2.020 mini-conference, “Wholehearted Libraries: Soft Skills for 21st Century Information Professionals,”  kicks off the 10th Annual Library 2.0 Worldwide Virtual Conference—the global conference series began in 2011— embracing the idea that “soft skills are heart skills.”

Organized in partnership with Dr. Michael Stephens, associate professor at San José State University’s School of Information, the conference topic was inspired by Stephens’ book, “Wholehearted Librarianship: Finding Hope, Inspiration, and Balance.” The online and participatory conference will be held on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, from 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time, and registration is free.

“I am super excited to be working on this Library 2.0 conference,” Stephens enthused. “The emphasis these days on human connections, soft skills, and libraries as safe and encouraging spaces demonstrates how responsive we can be to user needs. We should always consider our users through a lens of compassion and empathy. What would make their lives easier? It’s about taking care of user needs.” 

Conference sessions will focus on defining and expanding the understanding of soft skills, nurturing a positive mindset in employees, using the power of stories to promote understanding, and extending the reach of librarianship into global communities. Participants will learn how to engage users with soft skills such as compassion, empathy, creativity, curiosity, and finding balance, and explore ways to develop open-mindedness and emotional intelligence.

In “Hitting the Breaks on the Fast Track to Burnout,” an article by Laura O’Grady published in Public Libraries Magazine, Stephens reflected on the significance of “heart skills” in librarianship:

“We do a lot of ‘taking care’ in our field, such as offering a safe space for every person who comes through our doors to learn and grow, designing welcoming spaces for folks to come together to collaborate and exchange ideas, creating thriving digital communities, and providing participatory services to promote learning and well-being. What we’ve done in the past can also be seen through this lens. Think of all the programs and services over the years that might fall under the ‘taking care’ banner. Even my own mantra of ‘the library should encourage the heart’ is all about tending to the needs of our people.”

A collection of columns, blog posts, and essays that celebrates compassion and empathy, teaches ways to develop and empower kindness, and encourages curiosity and creativity as keys to establishing “radical trust” and inclusivity, Stephens’ book, his second, was published in May 2019 by ALA Editions, an imprint of the American Library Association, was recently selected as Book of the Week by Against the Grain, and was included in the 2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Librarians and Book Lovers by American Libraries. 

The conference offers presenters an opportunity to showcase research, work, and thinking on the human side of 21st Century library and information work, and all are welcome to submit a presentation proposal. Proposals will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis; the number of sessions is limited, and early submission proposals are recommended. The deadline to submit presentation proposals is February 21, 2020. For more details on presenting at the conference, visit the call for proposals.

“Wholehearted Librarianship” will be the first of three mini-conferences held online throughout 2020; the second and third will be held in June and October. All of the Library 2.020 web conferences are free to attend. Register in advance and receive links to the recorded sessions. Visit the conference website for more information.