People come to libraries with a desire to learn or know something — to satisfy their curiosity.  Library staff facilitate this process by offering information, resources, and personal assistance.  Indeed, libraries value and cultivate a spirit of inquisitiveness in their communities and strive to meet these needs in the best way possible.

But how can library staff focus curiosity inward for the purpose of organizational development?  How can libraries translate the natural curiosity of their staff into increased community impact?

I found some inspiration in a recent Super Soul Conversation podcast.  I’m a bit of a late podcast adopter and have never had much time for Oprah’s Sunday show (too busy making pancakes and catching up on household chores), but I’m thrilled that these conversations are now accessible during my daily commute.

Oprah is a naturally curious person (imagine a reference interview with her!) and her conversations hold juicy bits of information that apply to libraries, especially her conversation with Hollywood producer Brian Grazer.  (Clips from the original Super Soul Sunday episode here.  Podcast on iTune here.  Or find on your favorite podcast app.)  

Centered on his 2015 book “A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life,” Granzer describes how he uses curiosity for connection. This is what libraries do!  They connect with people (in-person and virtually) through curiosity.

But Grazer takes curiosity one step further, using it as a framework for personal improvement through a series of regular “Curiosity Conversations.”  It is his personal mission to meet new people and talk with them about their lives.  The conversations go in many directions, letting curiosity take the lead.  The result is a deeper connection to the person and the world around him.

What a great program idea for libraries!  Imagine a series of “Curiosity Conversations” for people to learn about each other as a way to cultivate collective connection in the community.

But beyond programming, “Curiosity Conversations” can be a powerful tool for library staff (and their boards!) as part of strategic/annual planning or as a step in an evaluation process.  Libraries sometimes gloss over evaluation (it takes time and resources!), but it is a critical component to measure improvement, celebrate success, and then set new goals.  Using curiosity as the framework for an evaluation dialogue puts everyone at ease and allows questions and data to flow.

Start by focusing on a particular service or program and ask:

  • What’s working?  How do we know we are achieving our goals?
  • How can we improve?  What would increase use, attendance, or satisfaction?
  • What other information do we need to gather?  Who else needs to be involved?

Spend time reflecting.  Take some notes.  And then talk about it again.  Use curiosity as a vehicle for improvement at your library.

Beyond internal reflection, “Curiosity Conversations” work as a framework for personal improvement, too.  I worked in a hospital system as a performance consultant for a short period of time and I learned so much about libraries.  Yes!  I learned about libraries by working at a hospital.

Maybe you don’t know anyone at a hospital or are skeptical that someone working in manufacturing has anything to say that’s applicable to your library work.  That’s ok, start with your library colleagues.  Ask them what’s going well, what they are learning, where they think they need to improve, and how they plan to do that

Then think about what you want to learn.  So many aspects of library operations and management parallel other nonprofits and businesses, why not reach out for some creative ideas that might provide a different point of view?  You might be surprised at what a new connection yields (and think of the program possibilities!).

Curiosity opens doors and creates connection! Want to have a “Curiosity Conversation?”  Let’s talk!