I had the extraordinary pleasure of working with the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library (WTBBL) staff this week. I facilitated their staff meeting and helped them come up with new ideas. It was an excellent session and incredibly fun.
I used Liberating Structures to facilitate the meeting. Since a couple of their staff members are blind, I kept that in mind while designing the meeting. My friend and colleague, Leslie Boyter, Essential Explorations, was my partner in crime on the design.
I was rewarded at the end of the session with the complement, “This was really blind friendly!” As a trainer and facilitator, it is always rewarding to know that something worked well.
Being the first time that I used Liberating Structures in this manner, I wasn’t sure what would work and what might be a bit challenging. Thanks to a wonderfully supportive group, I received good feedback and have ideas for future trainings and facilitations using these methods.
I always love working with WTBBL staff because they are so passionate and dedicated. My mom used their services for years and I know that it truly increased her quality of life since she was an avid reader. Being able to borrow tapes of books by her favorite authors made her very happy. Working in public libraries, I told patrons about WTBBL and the amazing service that they provide. WTBBL serves many people. Yes, they serve the blind, but they also serve others who have difficulty using traditional print materials.
I’ve enjoyed watching WTBBL add new technologies over the years and continue to offer stellar service. WTBBL has been facing substantial budget cuts over the years and they currently have a very small staff compared to their patron base. Their secret to survival is their volunteers. Volunteers are instrumental in keeping WTBBL up and running. The staff provide great leadership to their volunteers and this partnership really works.
WTBBL also has a very active and vital Patron Advisory Council (PAC) who help them in many ways including advocating for funding. The staff and PAC work closely together. It is so empowering to see the customers taking such an active role in such an important service.
And guess what….WTBBL services are FREE! Yes, they do not charge for their services and there are no overdue fines. The materials are shipped directly to the patron or made available as a download. WTBBL has gone digital and now circulates digital audio books that can be downloaded either onto a special WTBBL device or to a person’s personal device. If you are interested in learning more about WTBBL, check out their website at http://www.wtbbl.org/; they even have a great video on their website with patron testimonials.
To me, WTBBL truly embodies leadership, innovation, technology and life-long learning. That’s probably why I love them so much.