Guest Blogger

Yes, and you CAN do improv at #alsc22

So this was an unlikely session for me. I’m a bit of an introvert and I don’t think quickly on my feet. But at #alsc22, it’s a safe space, so I’m willing go outside my comfort zone. I know to learn, I need to spend more time exploring new and different things. And I’m so glad I did! Librarians Chelsea Condren and Jessica Espejel led “Applying Improvisational Skills in Public Librarianship,” sharing how and why the training developed.

As the training happened during the pandemic, one of the goals at the time was releasing anxiety of uncertain circumstances and connecting with staff. Goals included learning to adapt and be flexible in unexpected situations, modelling open, positive communication with caregivers, families, and staff, developing interpersonal skills that assist with Reader’s Advisory and Early Literacy programs, and engaging colleagues as a community to build trust and confidence. All of these goals have relevancy today.

Why improv? What if I’ve never done improv? No worries. The presenters emphasized that delivering information is primary, while performance is secondary. Improv is a low risk situation they assured us, there is no wrong answer when you’re playing an improv game. It can increase confidence as you learn to trust your own skills. And it’s okay if you mess up — you can ask for help or suggestions. This was demonstrated in both whole audience and smaller group games interspersed though the session. The Watch and Move game was a fun alternative to a traditional icebreaker. The “Yes, and” storytelling game related directly to customer service. When you negate a question or statement from a patron, be mindful of the result of the interaction, as it shuts down engagement. Rather than saying no and leaving it at that, can you explain, no, we don’t have the book, but we can get it from another library? or they can suggest a purchase? By the time we got to the Categories game, most of us wanted to play! I can see how these activities could be great for team building and for releasing stress, as well as improving customer service and interactions with patrons. I look forward to putting some of these ideas into practice.

Guest contributor Robin Gibson (she/her/hers) is the Youth Services Manager at the Westerville Public Library in Westerville, Ohio. She is looking forward to reconnecting and making new connections with colleagues and gathering new ideas to share with her team. She loves to travel and is excited to be able to do so again!

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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