The 2016 election turned up the heat on an already simmering political climate. What can libraries do to promote civil discourse—in the home, at schools, and in the workplace—when at high levels those lessons are lacking?
Join us for a pleasant conversation on how libraries can encourage courteous and constructive dialogues in the everyday lives of their patrons and community members.
We’ll cover niceties such as:
- Overcoming challenges presented by a heated socio-political climate.
- Fostering positive experiences between diverse community members.
- Introducing patrons to titles that call for a return to civility.
- Being kind, listening, and just practicing common decency.
Jim Heuer [00:00:13] Hey everybody, this is Jim Heuer, Director of Sales for Ingram Library Services. Welcome to Episode 3, Season 3, of Two Librarians and Microphone, our podcast series. I am the microphone in this scenario, and I've got two librarians with me, Tricia Bengel and Donna George. Episode 1 and 2 we looked at some of the trending topics, whether it be fake news, library neutrality, we're going to continue on in that vein. Today's topic, today's episode, will be about civility in the library. We've got a couple of books that we think are interesting, one's geared towards adult, one is geared toward all ages. Yes, official publishing term, all ages, not children's books. We can tell everyone that Tricia told me about that first and that I told you guys first…that type of thing. So, I like said, there are a couple of books on this topic that we found to be really interesting. The first one, we'll throw it over to Tricia. This is by the Social Secretary for Bush II, a woman by the name of Lea Berman, and the Social Secretary for Barack Obama, Jeremy Bernard. If anyone is wondering, the Social Secretary currently is someone by the name of Rickie Niceta Lloyd. But, we'll toss that over to Tricia to tell us about the book. What is that, Treating People Nicely, or no--
Tricia Bengel [00:01:40] Treating People Well.
Jim Heuer [00:01:40] There ya go.
Tricia Bengel [00:01:43] This was a really interesting book that I have been sharing with everyone I know. If I run into you in the grocery store in the next week, I will probably whip this out of my bag and tell you, you need to read it. I am, like many of my friends, like many of you, I am a total news junkie. I spend a lot of time reading the news, watching the news, and have become really, really fed up with all the talking heads who talk all over each other and just want to say the most outrageous things they can to get more clicks, more views. We've really stopped being kind to people, especially in the news world. Listening to each other, being actively engaged in trying to find the best information. It's become much more exciting to talk about inflammatory information. And so, this book, Treating People Well, written by these two Social Secretaries, is very reminiscent of that book that came out about 20 years ago, All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It talks about actually listening when people talk, talking less, listening more, being kind to each other, not trying to one up each other, not trying to insult each other, and it's all the things that are common sense that your mom taught you in the fourth grade that we've all seem to have forgotten and don't take importance anymore. Whatever your political views are, Laura Bush, I think, is an epitome of a gracious person, and she wrote the forward to this book. She really talks about how important it is to listen to your guests, to make them feel welcome,
Tricia Bengel [00:03:45] to make them feel appreciated, and I just think that we all need to take a little bit of that with us and spend more time treating people well.
Jim Heuer [00:03:56] What a great idea! Donna, you have an all ages book that you wanted to talk to us about, right?
Donna George [00:04:07] I do, and I'll just start by saying that I'm a middle child, and I think that kind of sits well with civility. I tend to be the peacemaker in any situation and I've worked as a business analyst where you sit kind of between technology and business. So, I kind of like being in the middle and I like helping to facilitate communication, so I was really excited for this podcast topic in particular. And one of the books that it made me think about is one that I read to my daughter when she was about five-years-old. It's an old picture book, and it's called How to Lose All Your Friends by Nancy Carlson. And it's a hilarious book that has tips for losing all of your friends, like, don't share your cookies, and take all of the toys and don't share the toys, and hog the space on the rug, and things like that that would resonate with a five-year-old. It's really an ironic little book and it's a perfect book for about a five-year-old. The group who would also like Mrs. Nelson is Missing, for instance, where they can listen to it and you can read it very seriously, but they realize that there's something else going on, and this book in particular has a good lesson in civility.
Jim Heuer [00:05:14] That's excellent, that reminds me of one of my favorite books. So, there's a book that I also am somewhat of a zealot for, it's called Leadership and Self Deception. And it's a business book told in fable, which you can stop your eye rolling, it's actually a pretty good read. But the basic premise behind that is treat everybody like people, right? That everyone you encounter has their own things going on in their lives and they're not, well, the basic tenant is treat people as people and not objects, right. So, that seems to be being nice to everyone or showing all the ways to lose your friends and doing the opposite, all that stuff seems to kind of go hand in hand. And I would imagine that over your library careers you can remember doing programs or other type of things in the library that had to do with civility, being nice to one another, and if not, that certainly would seem like a topic that maybe 2018 could usher in a little bit more of, right?
Tricia Bengel [00:06:24] I think this is also great advice for introverts, which Donna, I think we joke about all the time because many librarians, not to perpetuate any stereotypes, but many librarians are introverts and the best way to get through a dinner party or a cocktail party is to ask someone a couple of questions and just get them talking, because most people love to talk about themselves.
Donna George [00:06:49] Indeed.
Tricia Bengel [00:06:50] And it's a great way to win friends.
Donna George [00:06:54] You know, if I may talk about my daughter one more time, and Tricia you mentioned this too, these are all kind of fundamental things that we learned in the fourth grade. Ironically enough, when my daughter was about 10, the school she goes to had a real focus that year in the curriculum of teaching the kids how to work in groups of three. So, think about that. I don't know if any of you who are listening are parents, but if you invite one friend over and so you have two kids, that usually works well. If you invite three kids over and you have four kids, that usually works well. But when you have an odd number, such as three, somebody inevitably gets left out. So, that was a real point of focus in her curriculum that year was to assign projects in groups of three, and I think that's a big win and I'm glad that our kids are learning that as early as they are.
Jim Heuer [00:07:42] That is really interesting. So, one of the things, talk about asking people more questions. One of the nice things working at a book vendor is that I often get books given to me. So, I got a book called Thanks for the Feedback, a book that came out a few years ago. One of the things that often stayed with me in that, is the author talked about yes, we all have that little voice in our head that is talking to us while someone else is talking to us, and they gave strategies for dealing with your own voice. To me, the one that I thought was the most effective was to where, kind of, "nuttily" I have a conversation in my head where I validate the voice and what it's trying to tell me and say that yes you might be right, but let's give this person who's talking a chance. So, I think what we're saying is that there's lots of different strategies to being nice to everybody. Every once and a while as I'm walking by the TV, I see the end of the Ellen show, and I think that's her sign off is being kind to everybody. That seems like it should be the fortune in every cookie for at least, certain, next little bit. So, any other thoughts you ladies have on this idea, any last books that you would toss out there as a recommendation?
Donna George [00:09:03] I have a library story.
Jim Heuer [00:09:03] Yes, please.
Donna George [00:09:05] We'd be remised not to mention this one. Found this while browsing the web, the Sarasota Library, and this was patterned after a bigger, kind of nation-wide initiative apparently. But the Sarasota Library lets you check out people, and I think we probably all have heard about this, but they've gathered a collection of people in the community who are interesting and different for many different reasons. They've got perhaps a Muslim, or a solider with PTSD, or a single mother, or an alcoholic, just people with different life experiences that you can check out and get to know. And I think doing those kinds of things really says a lot about the roles that libraries can play with kind of driving civility in our communities today.
Tricia Bengel [00:09:51] What a fantastic concept! I used to work at a major urban public library, and one of our city councilman called the library the "civic living room" of Nashville and that always stuck with me that we were the "civic living room". Which really makes you think that you need to be on good behavior, and you need to be kind to each other, and you need to foster conversation, and there's not a lot places in our communities anymore where you can foster conversation in a more neutral, nuanced way where you behave appropriately and be kind to each other. And so, I really think that we all need to remember that we can be that place in the community and we can be that outlet for people who do want to go beyond the talking heads and have good discussion and are willing to listen to different points of view. As I go around libraries all over the country, I've been picking up all of their event’s calendars and it's been really fun to see how many libraries are taking on that role much more actively in their communities. And so, we would love to hear more about that as we talk to you all.
Jim Heuer [00:11:16] Excellent, and that little voice in my head is telling me that it looks like Episode 3 of this podcast is just about over. You can check out our blog to see some of the books that we talked about. Once again, you can subscribe on iTunes or your app for the Apple podcast. Tell your friends if you're enjoying this, we'd love to see more folks listen to what we have to say. You can like us on Facebook, comment on Twitter, use #TheLibraryLife. We'll talk to ya next time on Episode 4, when we'll look at when things in the library go a little bit unexpected and you find yourself embroiled in some controversy, when that was not necessarily your intention. All right, thanks everybody, we'll talk to you soon. Bye bye.