Benefits of prioritizing proactivity

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The difference between being proactive and reactive has been swirling for me recently. It can feel empowering to be able to get ahead of something instead of having to respond in the moment. By prioritizing proactive measures—including training—we can create a more stable and sustainable future for our organizations and the communities we serve. And hopefully, minimize stress for ourselves, our staff, and our stakeholders.

Helping library workers do just that was part of the motivation for our recent update to the REALM project, an effort funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and led by OCLC.

Proactive measures for crisis management

Although the original research for REALM was designed to help cultural heritage institutions respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the lessons and findings extend beyond a public health crisis. In fact, one of the research activity outcomes has been to identify training opportunities that meet common needs across libraries, archives, and museums.

These organizations often share common goals and face similar challenges in managing and providing access to collections, adapting programming and services to meet changing user needs, supporting the development of customer service and communication skills among staff, and responding to crises such as disasters or public health emergencies.

Conversations from a forum on crisis management held in January 2022 helped inform two new on-demand courses that look at the components of crisis communications.

  • Introduction to Crisis Communications for Libraries, Archives, and Museums. This course focuses on the fundamentals of crisis communications, helping participants understand and define the different types of crises. With real-life examples and expert insights, this course helps evaluate your organization’s crisis preparedness.
  • Crisis Communications Planning for Libraries, Archives, and Museums. When a crisis strikes, clear communication and strong leadership are key. From identifying stakeholders to building a dedicated crisis communications team, this course provides practical strategies to handle any situation. A customizable template empowers you to craft a crisis communications plan that suits your organization’s unique needs.

The content and exercises in these courses support proactive steps to be prepared for future crises. Each course takes approximately one hour to complete and provides you with practical tools, knowledge, and resources to strengthen your communication processes.

Managing staff burnout and de-escalating conflict

Two other prevalent concerns during the pandemic were staff burnout and the ability to de-escalate conflict. Taking time to explore these themes and develop skills can help staff navigate immediately challenging situations and long-term concerns. And, building the skills before it’s a critical need can help promote both mental health and safety.

  • From Burnout to Balance. This course provides insight to identify burnout causes, manage stress, and boost emotional resilience. There’s something for everyone here, but managers at libraries, archives, or museums can develop and enhance skills to promote teamwork, communication, and mutual support in the workplace.
  • De-escalation Strategies for Libraries, Archives, and Museum Staff. De-escalation skills can help when conflict occurs between staff and those who are using the facilities, attending programs, or visiting our spaces, as well as between staff members. Learn how to intervene in conflict effectively, enforce policies proactively, and promote an environment where everyone feels secure and valued.

In each of the four new courses, there’s a group activities guide that can be used to lead a cohort of learners through each course together. The guides also include questions designed to help with discussions about the content and extend the learning beyond the course.

A step forward to be more prepared

The topics covered in these new courses are challenging, but it’s also increasingly important for staff to be able to address them. For 20 years, OCLC WebJunction has helped library staff build the skills they need to serve their communities, from offering storytimes, to shelving books, to marketing the library. Our Course Catalog is filled with courses that include pragmatic ideas and examples that can be replicated, modified, and customized.

The pace of our professional and personal lives can take a toll. And carving out time for training often feels like a luxury in the face of competing priorities. But what’s clear is that it’s critically important to apply the lessons we’ve learned to help ourselves and our organizations more effectively deal with change, reduce stress, and manage uncertainty. These are proactive steps that help us prepare for the next crisis, support the sustainability of our institutions, and build resilience in the workplace.

To learn more about this and other WebJunction on-demand courses, visit the Course Catalog.