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Empathy in Libraries: Let's Consider Our Contributions
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Empathy in Libraries: Let's Consider Our Contributions

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Thinking about the role of empathy at a time when the world seems filled with conflict and intolerance raises compelling considerations for libraries. Employing empathy intentionality, can we make a difference in the experiences of library staff and patrons as it relates to information literacy teaching, collection development, staff training and development, building design, website development, and other library operations. Can this intentional empathy make a difference in the lives and perspectives of marginalized students through welcoming and non-judgemental behaviours? Yes! Research performed on this topic (2019) will be presented. 

Participants will leave the session with practical ideas as to how they can be more empathetic in their work, considering the experiences of colleagues and patrons/students. This session will challenge participants to critically reflect on their contributions to their library inferring that if we were all more intentional at demonstrating empathetic behaviour we would build a stronger and healthier work culture and influence students/patrons in more positive ways. As a result, an empathetic approach to all aspects of library work presents a more authentic experience to conversations and interactions fostering a greater understanding of human differences and the richness that comes from equity, diversity and inclusion.

You will gain: 

1) A stronger understanding of what empathy is and the potential impact on library colleagues and patrons;
2) Participants will be able to identify places in their own contributions where they can consider the impact of the demonstration of empathy through intentional behaviour; and
3) Participants will be more aware of the powerful potential of empathy in libraries, generally, and in planning spaces, acquisitions of collections, library events/programming, library website and other library operations

About the presenters: 

Nancy Goebel is Head Librarian of the Augustana Campus Library of the University of Alberta. Nancy’s strong interest in information literacy has led her to spearhead: the creation of information literacy awards for students and faculty; the production of the DVD It Changed the Way I Do Research Period: Augustana Talks Information Literacy; the open source information literacy assessment software WASSAIL, and, the Augustana human library. As an extension of the Augustana human library, Nancy did research during 2019 considering how libraries can foster the development of empathy in library staff and patrons.


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