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The library where I work definitely has a collaborative culture, but yet we constantly struggle with communication issues.  With a staff that’s mostly part-time, working very different shifts, it’s always difficult conveying day to day goings-on, let alone procedural changes and new program information to pass along to patrons.  As a circulation supervisor, it’s my job to communicate things that effect circulation, which in a library is nearly everything.  Some staff need all communication in writing (i.e. email) to assimilate the information.  Others will read my emails, but not remember a word and need me to speak with them face-to-face.

Because the staff don’t have access to their employee emails without logging into specific stations, I created (at the suggestion of a staff member) a library gmail account that everyone could access from the circulation desk.  The idea was to provide a more inclusive internal collaboration tool by forwarding all relevant circulation emails to the gmail account, which would always be open on the circulation computer for people to read.  I used google documents to provide access to procedural documents.  I set up a delicious account to provide a place for the staff to collaboratively provide bookmarks that they felt were helpful in helping out patrons.  People were interested in it for a month, and then it fizzled.  Why?  Because, like I said, some of the staff need the face-to-face interaction. Therefore, it only got used by some of the staff, and as soon as they felt like they were the only ones using it, they stopped using it.  I think I unconsciously tried using some of Carpenter’s techniques by giving “forceful reminders” to use the gmail account, but it never really stuck (carpenter, 2009).  Besides, I just reinforced their behaviors because I like talking with people and training them, and I like technology, so I couldn’t help but do both and appease both communication styles.

We’ve just recently, to save staff hours, started having staff meeting every other month.  It’s absolutely infuriated the staff.  They crave the face-to-face collaboration, even if it’s just a place to finally have an audience to vent to that’s not just me (this can be a very healthy thing).  These are smart, tech savvy (mostly) people who aren’t afraid to venture into the latest collaborative technological tools, but they also want to know they are being heard.

Carpenter, H. (2009). “Enterprise 2.0: Culture is as Culture Does.” I’m Not Actually a Geek.