Thursday, February 14, 2008

Worthington's "World Café"

Last Friday, I spoke at the Worthington (Ohio) Libraries' Board, Staff, and Community Retreat session. Worthington is a wonderfully progressive suburban library system Library Journal's 2007 Library of the Year, in fact), and the director, Meribah Mansfield, has put together a young, enthusiastic leadership team that seems to effervesce with new ideas. (Full disclosure: Meribah and I go way back as friends and colleagues. I live in her library district, and she serves on OCLC's Members Council.) I was delighted to speak in Worthington for another reason---I love any speaking engagement I can drive to.

The point of this post, though, is to talk about the structure the organizers of the meeting used to get the discussion moving. They called this session a "World Café," which has no relationship to the NPR radio show of the same name.

There were about seven tables of eight people each at this event. Lisa Fuller and Kristin Shelley, the organizers of the discussion, had four questions they wanted discussed. They gave us the first question, then asked us to spend about eight minutes discussing it. At the end of the eight minutes, Lisa and Kristin raised their hands to end the discussion, and then they told us all to change tables and sit with a different mix of people for the second question. We worked through this for all four questions, changing tables and getting to meet new people each time. There were no assigned recorders or discussion leaders.

When all the questions had been discussed, they asked us for key "Ah-Ha!" moments at each table. So in about 45 minutes, we had a terrific discussion, and the board had several flip chart pages full of good ideas to take into the second day of their deliberations.

If you are running a meeting seeking broad based input, this could be a good model.

Incidentally, for years, I've been saying in my talks that library web sites can be called many things, but they can rarely be called fun. Here is an exception.

18 comments:

Mandy said...

Thank you for coming! I really enjoyed your presentation.

Susan Allen said...

You are partly responsible for making it such a fun and engaging experience! Thanks so much for being there and sharing the findings of the OCLC reports with us!

Kara said...

Thanks for the inspiring presentation!

Astrid said...

It was an energizing evening and your presentation & OCLC report gave us a lot to discuss and ruminate over. Thank you for sharing your energy and humor with us!

Michael said...

Thank you for joining us. Your presentation had many "A-Ha!" moments of its own and gave us much to think about. It will be a challenge for libraries to go beyond merely enhancing their Web sites and start pushing library resources to users.

Lisa said...

Thanks for giving us so much to discuss. Your presentation was terrific!

Dan Lacey said...

George, your presentation at the Worthington Libraries' retreat was very informative. As a board member of a progressive library trying to stay ahead of the curve on technology, I found the information you imparted very useful.

Janet ID said...

Thanks for your participation & your own excellent presentation, George! One of the attendees at the WL session is an elementary school principal who had recently organized a World Cafe session for his teaching staff, parents and other interested community members. From that conversation they have moved forward in researching several innovative ideas including multi-age classrooms, balanced calendar, and curriculum changes. The school staff's creativity, enthusiasm for potential large-scale change, and outside-the-comfort-zone thinking are wowing. The World Cafe approach seems to generate a lot of energy and enthusiasm, though for me the term is totally "taken" by the NPR show already, sorry.

Also gee, thanks for the example of a fun library site. :-)

Mandy S. said...

Mr. Needham, thank you for presenting at our Board Retreat! I'm glad to read that you enjoyed it as much as I did. I too have a love-hate relationship with PowerPoint :o), but found your presentation incredibly engaging and thought-provoking! Thanks again and I look forward to hearing about more exciting things OCLC is doing to keep current.

laverne said...

George, I appreciated the opportunity to hear you first-hand! I enjoyed your report of 1947-50 libraries, reminding me of my early library daze in Chicago's regional and branch libraries, and your updates on current/future library perceptions and realities.

Anonymous said...

Hi George,

I have heard your presentation before and every time I hear it I glean a new nugget. I am thrilled to be working in a profession that is a true benefit to society. It is important that we stay relevant as demographics change and society changes. I love the World Cafe model for brainstorming (as a facilitator and a participant). I hope your passion for libraries never lessens. Thank you for helping Worthington Libraries be progressive. --Kristin

Joenna said...

Mr. Needham, thank you for such a wonderful presentation and your insight on the future of libraries.

Jeff Regensburger said...

Thanks for sharing your insights and the work of OCLC with us at Worthington's recent board retreat. It was an informative and thought provoking session!

Anonymous said...

George - I found myself sending notes to myself via my blackberry during your presentation. Your insights are much appreciated. We take great pride at Worthington Libraries in being an innovator and leader. Your role as a partner (and a patron) is appreciated.

Gwen said...

Thank you so much for your inspirational presentation! I'm glad that you found our World Cafe as engaging as I did.

Amy said...

Your presentation was insightful and thought-provoking. Thank you for sharing this information with us!

Monica said...

What a wonderful presentation and lively discussion. Thank you so much!

Kim Gales said...

Mr. Needham thank you for your presentation. In looking at the results of the full study I was very intrigued by some of the cultural differences from other countries that participated. It is such great "food for thought" and nice to know that we are not alone in many of the issues we are facing.