Daily Archives: February 15, 2017

Opposite Squaredance

Stephen Calhoun, American Public Library

For the fourth year in a row, I was happy to work with Wadsworth Public Library’s fine staff on their staff day. We did a three phase exploration over the afternoon. First, we did a Taoist Walk in two snaking, quiet, single file lines. Second, we owned up to and affirmed one half of an opposite, taken from an inventory of polarities. Finally, we did some down-and-dirty scenario solving, where intradepartmental groups trained their expert attention on three very complicated, real-world scenarios.



From the squareONE: experiential toolmaker page on my work with libraries.

Working solo, or in partnership with Daniel Slife, squareONE formulates a brain trust focused on supporting leadership, and vitalizing visionary goals in public libraries.

We support leadership and ambitious organizational goals by helping build sustainable human capacity in organizations.

Our approach can be distilled: we use deeply intentional experiential inquiries to help leaders and staff and stakeholders interrogate the core propositional bindings, mission, and history of the institution. Then, we work to help the leadership and staff reinvigorate and reintegrate these necessary core bindings, build sustainable new initiatives, recommit to a collaborative culture focused on lifelong learning and care.

squareONE’s unique capabilities are the result of joining together Daniel’s expertise in daily, practical and humanistic institutional leadership in the public library, with Stephen’s innovative skills in guiding transformative learning.

Our developmental tools are not like those found in normative organizational and leadership development. Their fundamental appreciative thrust is directed toward leveraging self-awareness for the sake of sustaining and strengthening the library’s mission. Nothing ever gets pulled off any shelf. Everything is purpose-built and fit to address mundane and audacious objectives.

Alignment matters. To be aligned with squareONE’s approach, a public library has to be dedicated to the classical view of the American Public Library. This view broadly holds the library to be a civically engaged institution devoted to supporting the emancipatory power of the book, the written word, culture, lifelong learning, and, above all: devoted to deep care for the community and its citizens.

squareONE stands opposed to the turning of the American Public Library into a vending machine of services, for which the book itself is a receding resource.

contact: Stephen Calhoun (216) 269-5568


I began working with libraries in partnership with the late Kenneth Warren in 2014. Mr. Warren hired me and asked me to create an anthropology portfolio at Lakewood Public Library in 2005. I worked there until late in 2006. 

 

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