Competency M

Demonstrate oral and written communication skills necessary for professional work including collaboration and presentations

Introduction

The ability to communicate well either orally or written will serve any worker well, but it is especially important in a role as a librarian. Not only must librarians communicate effectively with their coworkers, but with the public, patrons, and any governing bodies such as local officers and members of the board. Ultimately, solid communication skills will enable librarians to better serve and advocate for their community and its members.

For many information professionals, reference work will be a regular part of their career. Reference interactions may take place in person, over the telephone, or through electronically written messages such as in email or chat reference. Especially when reference questions and answers are complex, communicating clearly makes all the difference in ensuring a productive interaction with a customer. When responses to customers are unclear or communicated poorly, the value of the interaction for the patron decreases significantly. An answer they do not understand is worth far less than one they do understand, and it is the librarian’s burden to supply a response that is easy to understand. When clarity is challenging due to the subject matter or the mode of communication, the librarian should ask questions of the customer to determine the best way to explain the answer in alternate ways. Each reference interaction should always end with a question about whether the customer is satisfied with the answer or if the customer needs more information.

A good set of communication skills will also enable library professionals to field complaints and challenges from patrons. While much of fielding complaints and challenges involves knowing library policy, being able to communicate this policy clearly and affirmatively will save an information professional much trouble in the course of responding to patron complaints and challenges. Learning strategies to stay calm during these interactions is one effective way of improving the communication technique in these interactions.

Although information professionals often communicate with customers, communication amongst employees will be an equally important facet of the work environment. Maintaining effective, productive, and professional communication with coworkers provides the foundation for a healthy work environment. With honesty, directness, and respect, communication within a staff can make all the difference to fostering a comfortable environment of teamwork and customer service.

Another crucial direction of communication is that which is pointed at funding bodies such as local government or boards of trustees. Such communication often occurs as a group, such as in presentations in which the library staff requests funding for specific projects. Communicating the desires of the library clearly, providing sufficient evidence for the petition, and appearing confident in the interaction, among other strategies, are key to being successful in these instances. These interactions and presentations could be the difference between longevity and death for an institution in extreme cases.

Depending on the kind of library in which an information professional is functioning, various forms of communication may be more important than others. In general, being able to speak and write well will take a professional far. Ross and Nilsen (2013, p. 21) point out that communication is not only the conveyance of information but also the acceptance of it. They write, “Good listening is the foundation of all oral communication among people.” Listening can, for many, be a far easier task than speaking or writing. The forms used to communicate material can range from writing emails, to writing letters, to creating slideshows, to presenting those slideshows, to speaking to groups of people, to giving verbal answers to reference questions. Each form requires specific skills. The best way to improve these skills is, simply, practice.

Evidence

LIBR 261A Correspondence Scenario

This assignment responds to a fictional email which poses a conflict between the public middle school and the library. As some of the suggestions in the original correspondence were restrictive to a section of the population in favor of another section of the population, I acted as a diplomatic advocate for the population on which the restrictions were to be imposed. Both emails are explicated in further detail, detailing the reasoning behind choices in the response in general as well as more specific elements like tone. This particular assignment takes special consideration into the addressees and the goals I wished to accomplish within the emails. As both a demonstration and discussion of communication, this assignment fulfills Competency M.

 

INFO 250 Learning Activity 4

Learning Activity 4 demonstrates online instruction communication through an audiovisual demonstration of the online slideshow tool, Prezi. This communication is intended for a larger audience, though the audience would be spread out over time and space, as opposed to a live, group audience. The demonstration, then, could be effectively presented as a one-on-one, but one-sided conversation. Posting the material on YouTube allowed for discourse between instructor and student as well as among students. As a demonstration of verbal communication skills, this video serves as an example of my grasp of Competency M.

 

LIBR 286 Listening Techniques Group Presentation

In this group presentation, we discuss various strategies to improve listening as a vital part of the communication process. We divided content by topic and presented information individually on VoiceThread slides. In the timing leading up to the completion of the project, we worked both independently and as a group to research, compile, and script our presentation. This assignment accomplishes Competency M through several angles – the topic in and of itself is regarding communication, the presentation is a kind of communication, and the group work required to create the presentation was largely built upon communication in various formats. Slides presented by the author include slides 1 and 2. The presentation can be viewed at the link below.

http://voicethread.com/share/6939823/

 

Conclusion

Communication, regardless of its form, is the foundation of any good customer service. Whether directly or indirectly, communication affects the library in big and small ways. Botched communication may cause problems of all sizes, so being prepared to present and receive information in all forms is crucial to the success of the library and the information professional. Practice and continued evaluation and effort will lead to improved communication skills, particularly when the communicator reaches out for feedback. As an inherent part of library service, communication is an invaluable skill.

 

References

Ross, C. S. & Nilsen, K. (2013). Communicating professionally. Chicago, IL: Neal-Schuman.