Concerns and Challenges for Libraries in a Rapidly Changing Environment

Apr 26, 2021
Concerns & Challenges for Libraries in a Rapidly Changing Environment - Conversations Worth Having

Monday Kickstarters is a working session designed for everyone on the call to figure out how to have conversations worth having when faced with a tough situation, challenge, or problem. The process is based upon the book, Conversations Worth Having.  You can listen live to this session on Vimeo.

Monday, April 26 we discussed two topics: the challenge of making university libraries relevant in today’s world and the growing problem of homelessness.

Concerns and Challenges for Libraries in a Rapidly Changing Environment

The issue presented was: “CMU is revising the campus master plan. I am anxious about other folks’ interests in library space.”

  • Name it: People want to take over library space and we’re not ready to lose it.
  • Flip it: People don’t want to take over library space and we won’t lose it.
  • Frame it: We are collaborating to optimize the library for students and other stakeholders.
  • Other possible frames that were suggested:
    • Best use of library space.
    • Collaborative use of library space.
    • Let’s get together to discuss different ideas for optimizing the library space to benefit the students.
    • Libraries have always been multi-use spaces. It’s exciting to imagine new ways to collaborate.
    • Maximizing library space and service.
  • Additional Generative Questions:
    • What aspirations do you have about the future of library spaces?
    • What libraries have you visited and/or worked in that meet our vision of a library for students?
    • How can we introduce new/alternative media to benefit future innovation?


Consider substituting the word ‘might’ for ‘can.’ ‘Might’ invites more than one answer, making it safe to brainstorm. ‘Can’ may cause people to screen their ideas before suggesting them, which may mean a great idea or idea that might inspire a great idea is never shared.


  • Name it: More and more homelessness due to the pandemic and we can’t address it because of the pandemic.
  • Flip it: Less and less homelessness because we are able to address it.
  • Frame it: We can address homelessness by identifying the root cause and collaboratively create an action plan.

Insight. Appreciative Inquiry is one way to avoid a standard root cause analysis for a complex human system challenge. The questions below are all great questions to foster a conversation worth having about homelessness– it is as if we all assumed the frame was “We have a plan to support the homeless.” There’s not a single question about root cause analysis. Instead, Appreciative Inquiry searches for the root causes for  success or desired outcome. For those unfamiliar with it, the goal is to find positive pathways forward. AI suggests we spend our time looking at positive deviance, best practices, and opportunities to meet the diverse needs of the homeless population (rather than fixing what got them into the problem).

Other possible frames that were suggested:

  • Ensuring that all folks’ housing needs are met.
  • The homeless in our community have homes and services.
  • People have access to housing.

Additional Generative Questions:

  • How do we meet the diverse needs of homeless people in our community?
  • What systems do we currently have in place to support the homeless community?


Someone pointed out the importance of including the homeless population and doing so on their terms. Going to where they are. For example, getting permission from them to host meetings in their small “tent communities” making sure a diversity of stakeholders shows up to those meetings.


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