Osmosis in the Office

Have you ever wondered what other people in your library actually did? Have you ever wanted to explain to your coworkers how your work, well, works?

Osmosis in the Office

View more presentations from Marliese Thomas

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Be willing to learn new things. You might be able to suggest a new solution to a workflow problem simply because you have fresh eyes and a different perspective. Similarly, once your coworkers understand a little more about your responsibilities and accomplishments, they might have another approach to a common issue. Those committee meetings might not look so bad, after all.

Here are a few tips on how you can start breaking down those departmental walls, whether you’re an administrator or just seeking some individual awesomeness:

At your office/library/school:

  • Hold a mini-conference. Present to each other or have a poster session gallery to explain your own accomplishments to each other. Make sure everyone is involved, from faculty to student workers.
  • Build a building-wide “toolbox” of ideas and lessons learned at conferences. Let these events benefit the whole employee group, not just those who can attend.
  • Cross-train (as appropriate) for interdepartmental skills. Is there a librarian who has shown interest in systems skills? An archivist who appreciates metadata and cataloging? What about a tech services librarian who would love to assist with instruction classes? You can open the lines of communication and help distribute the work load.

On an individual basis:

  • Find training opportunities in a skill not familiar to you. Preconferences, webinars, self-guided tutorials, and on-campus classes can be great opportunities. Check out the links list below for resources.
  • If you can, attend a conference not affiliated with your main division. Or, at least, if you’re at ALA, attend some meetings sponsored by another division. So, if you’re a reference librarian, check out LITA or ALCTS. If you’re a cataloger, find an instructional group sponsored by RUSA or ACRL. If you really want to get out there, all academic librarians could attend something on children’s programming by PLA. The point is to be open minded.
  • Ask someone from another department to lunch, just get to know them. People skills are skills, too.


  • Code Year – Self-guided lessons in JavaScript for the beginner. Companion group in ALA Connect and LITA Interest Group for support and assistance.
  • Tech Crunch: for webcasts, news, and more on technology today.
  • JoeMurphy, LibraryFuture: Talks and slides about incorporating tech library in the library… realistically.
  • SkillCrush: For those completely new to technology, this site is women helping women learn technology.
  • I’ve gotten great ideas from y’all this past week (2/27) through Twitter, Facebook, and at the Alabama Library Association, so this list will be continually updating.
  • The Scholarly Kitchen: This blog focuses on scholarly publishing, but I think it has good insight into the needs of tenure-seeking faculty, the difficulties of those involved with acquisitions/collection development, and where those areas intersect with developing technologies.
  • Umm…. what else? Add your suggestions below. All learning is collaborative.


  1. […] The most entertaining session I attended was a free-for-all about librarian stereotypes that devolved into a heated debate over the merits of the TV show “What Not To Wear”. The most interesting session, led by Marliese Thomas, was on how libraries can overcome internal stereotypes between departments (e.g. between Reference and Technical Services) in order to improve communication. Marliese’s slides can be found here. […]

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