Opening Doors and Minds with a "Yes!"

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Photo: Assistant Director Cindy Prather, Executive Director Kathy
Zappitello, and Administrative Assistant Amanda Smith

This article is published in collaboration with the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) and features ARSL Vice-President/President-elect, Kathy Zappitello. Read previous articles in the series here.

"Yes!" That’s what Kathy Zappitello, Executive Director of the Conneaut Public Library wants her staff to be able to say to patrons, to colleagues, and to new opportunities. The library, which serves a community of 12,841 residents in northeast Ohio, recently closed to for a day for staff training. As part of the training, Zappitello shared with staff that she was interested in helping everyone go beyond the "nuts and bolts of their jobs" to achieve a greater understanding of the community. She outlines a few of her reasons for encouraging all of us to say, "yes!"

  • It opens doors to unknown opportunities. The next opportunity might be the one that changes your life forever. So do everything possible to say YES. Taking your first library job, taking the second, building partnerships, conducting webinars/speaking engagements etc. That all started with a YES.
  • It forces you to go beyond what you think you’re capable of. When you say yes, it exposes you to new ideas, new people and experiences. Don’t stay in your comfort zone! Try something new! Don’t be afraid to fail! Remember to be antifragile!
  • It shows people you are helpful, hopeful, and willing to listen. Positivity attracts positivity! Who would you rather work with? Wait for a bus with? Share a meal with?
  • It’s true - no one likes a negative Nelly! Don’t argue for limitations and don’t hold on to negative emotions! Find outlets to relieve stress and recharge. Even when having to express something negative, use positive phrasing to convey ideas and intentions.
  • It helps you form a better community including family, friends and even co-workers. This can push you out of your comfort zone and allow to you embark on the unknown. Saying yes is also saying, “I’ve never done that, tried that, experienced that, have a point of reference for that, understand that, or expect that, but, I’m open to trying.” We learn when we try, we grow when we try, that includes mistakes and misstep; it is all part of the process. YES will help you build a wide network of other positive colleagues, community boards, committees, and even library services.

Zappitello is the Vice-President/President-elect of the Association for Rural and Small Libraries and is enthusiastic about both increasing and demonstrating the value of the public library. As part of the staff training day, she had new t-shirts made up for everyone to introduce the YES model. The staff also walked through an exercise to look at their performance goals for the coming year.

The exercise had staff explore a series of questions including:

  • By saying YES and using a positive frame, how will the library benefit? Where do we want to be as an organization? What has changed within the library by the end of 2020?
  • Think about your career and the work you personally do at the library. What could be different if you say YES more? What would have to change?
  • What tools will you need to better do your job? What tools will the library need to succeed with embracing a YES theme?

By asking staff to consider the year ahead, and what they need to be successful, Zappitello aims to help the staff strengthen both the library and themselves. The worksheet she designed is available for anyone to repurpose and explore how to get to YES!

What are you ready to say YES to?

Learn more about the Association for Rural & Small Libraries