Competency M – Communication

…demonstrate oral and written communication skills necessary for professional collaboration and presentations

Introduction

Effective communication is integral to the foundation, development and success of any personal and professional endeavor. Careful consideration of diction, tone, and body language are key to ensuring a message was received as intended. How we choose to convey both our oral and written messages can often be heard at a louder pitch than message content, and speaks volumes about our intentions. To maintain positive work environments, it is imperative that staffs practice reflective listening and other effective communication techniques.

Communication is necessary to provide quality service to patrons as well as to maintain a trust bond, and a positive working relationship with staff. Library staffs must plan, implement, standardize, and practice effective communication methods to best meet patron, staff and organizational needs. Whether communicating with co-workers, colleagues, patrons, supervisors, or other stakeholders, maintaining effective communications is vital to a library’s organizational success.

As part of a service industry, libraries provide programming, services, and collections access to various community members including students and workers of all ages, and as such must know or learn how to communicate with people from all walks of life. In particular, public library staffs serve a very diversified clientele, and often are tasked with communicating with many different people of varying genders and ages and belief systems from all over the world. As such, bilingual librarians are considered an asset to the reference desk.

Often, service staff lacking foreign language skills must invent new communication methods to meet ESL patron needs.  Librarians might ask a patron to write his/her request if possible, or suggest the use of body language to describe a reference need. Efforts like these can sometimes help librarians remove barriers to meeting patrons’ information needs. Another perceived communication barrier when interacting with patrons is the use of library jargon. While librarians may refer to the “OPAC” when talking with co-workers, s/he should consider simply referring to it as the “catalog” when interacting with patrons. Use of jargon can be off-putting to patrons who do not share library vocabulary.

Digital reference librarians must communicate tone where “no visual or audio cues are available and librarians can only communicate with users by the exchange of written messages…[This] lack of visual and audio cues could make the librarian-user communication difficult and even cause anxiety and misunderstanding on both ends…”(Luo, 2007, 198) Chat reference competencies include setting the tone by using effective and appropriate punctuation as well as by projecting friendly attitudes with the use of smiley-faces. These efforts at effective communication are integral to customer satisfaction and repeat service use.

It is interesting to note how technology has impacted the many means by which we communicate. Choosing appropriate technologies for effective written and oral communication needs is also essential to the success of any organization. At my current job as a bookkeeper, I manage the accounts payable process and pay our vendors and independent contractors. My department typically receives email alerts about coming due invoices, which I then forward to an executive producer for a descriptive line item code which explicates the nature of the payment as well as payment approval. For the last five years, I have been utilizing Microsoft Outlook to manage this process due to a lack of technological alternatives, which has created an information silo wherein unresponsive EPs claiming they had submitted coding to my office for payment could remain undiscovered. This week, we implemented a new invoice approval system, which utilizes Basecamp message threads to give visibility to this problem, which allows my department to efficiently communicate any necessary deliverables interdepartmentally, and promotes equitable access for all staff to gain awareness of the accounting system as well as how it works to maintain quality control with our vendors and freelancers.  Another switch my department has made is to digitize any mailed hard copies of invoices we receive to mitigate indiscernible handwriting and illegible scrawls. In the past, I was often tasked to decipher our executive producer’s scrawled numbers, and occasionally mistook a 0 for a 9. These kinds of mistakes impeded workflow and are now being avoided with clear communication.

Evidence

LIBR 202_Assignment A-2_Final Report

My first piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency M is my group’s final report created for my LIBR 202: Information Retrieval class. As Group Leader and Facilitator, it was my responsibility to coordinate sharing of ideas and compile them into documents, as well as coordinate group meetings, maintain contact with all group members on a daily basis for the duration of the project, and keep everyone apprised of respective project duties and tasks. This role was in addition to querying our database and choosing pre and post-coordinate terms (descriptors) for our controlled vocabulary.

This paper demonstrates my competency in organizing and leading a group effort to design a controlled vocabulary in a collaborative group environment.  Emailing the group regularly with updates was a critical asset to the group due to the asynchronous nature of SLIS’s distance learning program. While it was fortunate that four of our five group members lived in California, one group member lived in Japan, which necessitated clarity about his limited involvement in any synchronous group meetings as well as communicating about timetables and group role expectations.

LIBR 204_Strategic Plan

My second piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency M is a strategic plan I co-wrote with two group-mates for my LIBR 204: Information Organizations and Management class. Each of us wrote a section and shared it with the group for feedback. I wrote the organizational description, created the budget and strategic action plan and set goals for our library: Berkeley Public. Due to a lack of initial team planning and an absent fourth teammate, my group found ourselves in a time crunch and collaborated on a plan of attack that resulted in the creation of a submitted strategic plan in one week. My role as Team Facilitator was instrumental in alerting my team to deadlines and improving group communications. We met daily in Angel chat to discuss objective achievements and milestone accomplishments, and our positive, friendly, and morale-boosting communications catalyzed a strategic plan for our chosen library.

LIBR 266_Unit 5 Elluminate Recording

My third piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency M is an Elluminate presentation I participated in for my LIBR 266: Collection Management class. Our group presented ten suggested improvements for our respective libraries. We each chose a library to visit, study, and devise plans for improvement to suggest to a fictional donor. I based my presentation on Albany Library in Albany, California, and communicated the need for two improvements: additional story-times for the large preschool-aged population and increased branch hours. My presentation can be located at the 10:49 mark and continues until 19:16.

As Group Leader, I reminded the team of upcoming meetings and key deadlines as well as helped facilitate the synchronous meetings. Our group organized this assignment by meeting synchronously in both Google docs and Blackboard Collaborate with a set agenda, and by communicating via email. Each team member used PowerPoint to present ten improvements for their individual library to the team. During this meeting, the team voted on the best improvements that appeared worthy of funding to prepare for the final assessment by Professor Disher (Mr. Moneybags: the fictional donor). By working independently on smaller tasks, our team gained a sense of autonomy that was useful for communicating with the group about the overall assignment. Our final presentation received nearly full funding.

Conclusion

Effective communication is key to any learning/work environment. In my coursework at SLIS, I have participated in a variety of group projects that either thrived or failed due to communication efforts. These collaborative experiences provided me a firsthand opportunity to witness the crucial nature of effective communication efforts as well as the necessity for awareness and caution in setting diction and tone.

Openly delegating participant responsibilities as well as clarifying our respective roles in the group were simple and efficacious techniques we used to set goals and milestones for group achievement. Another communication method we used was reflective listening, which involved simply repeating what we heard a given speaker say as a way to validate the speaker’s contribution as well as to make meaning from what was being suggested.

References

Luo, L.  (2007).  Chat reference competencies: Identification from a literature review and librarian interviews.  Reference Services Review, 35 (2).  195-209.

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