Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Learning in a Living Library

You go into a Library, you take down a book. You read its contents and you get some ideas, you think to yourself, and you ask a question (or a few).
What would happen if the library, and all the books in it, talked back?
It’s probably safe to say that we all belong to at least one professional network. We might go to periodic network meetings where we sit, contribute and talk to a few people. But what do we do to maximise the value (to ourselves and others) of these networks?
What if we thought of our networks as living libraries? And each member, the author of their own rich story of thoughts, reflections, learning and tips on the theme of our community?
I embroider here a bit on the story told on the first day of the start of the annual meeting of one of my own cherished networks, the Balaton Group.  A fellow Balaton Group member, Any Sulistyowati, described her perception of the group as a “Living Library”.
Whether at the face-to-face annual meeting, or virtually through the dynamic listerve discussions or other bilateral interactions, whatever question she has, idea to be developed, or reflection she wants to bounce off someone, she can go to our living library to query it, talk to one of the story-holders there, and go back and implement her learning. No matter what her question, there will be an authoritative voice or at least informed opinions ready at her request.
Now our network has some features that make this particularly true; we have built wonderful trusting relations, deep respect for diversity and perspective, and the unquestioned willingness to be helpful to each other. That is by design, and we are bound together, quite literally, through these shared values.
This group, in particular, is full of people with amazing stories, every one a page turner. 
Do you have a living library?