Cultivating a Practice of Reflection, Collaboration, and Conversation (and a Little Friendly Competition)

By Erin Downey

After reading The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg over the summer, I thought about whether there was a single practice I could adopt for the 2016-17 school year that could transform how librarians in our district worked together. Duhigg gave several examples of revolutionary business leaders who changed the way their companies worked just by implementing what sounded like a very simple practice, but created a ripple effect throughout the system, and I wanted to try it.

The lament I hear the most from my staff is that they feel isolated and overworked. My hunch was, by bringing everyone together into a shared learning space on Schoology, our district’s LMS, we could accomplish a couple of things:

  • Dissolve the feelings of everyone having to “go it alone”
  • Share great ideas and best practices
  • Explore the benefits of using the Schoology platform to better support teachers

But during the two years since I’d started the group, it was the same couple of people posting and sharing. After reading The Power of Habit, I realized that the problem was one of daily practice, that I needed to create a habit throughout the district of librarians sharing what they were doing. But it also made me realize there were tons of other benefits to creating a culture of increased sharing, from encouraging small, daily moments of reflection, to documenting their work in their school communities, to being able to quickly share photos and stories online.

The question was, how could I encourage the habit of regular sharing in Schoology? I needed some kind of payoff that would provide enough motivation to get through the initial reluctance and encourage regular use of Schoology.

Enter the Weekly Win.

I challenged librarians to post a Weekly Win–whatever small victory they were proud of–to Schoology each week. Anyone who posted 3 updates during the month would be entered into a drawing for $200 to spend in their library however they chose.

Librarians are often a competitive bunch, so several ears perked up at the mention of a monthly drawing. There was some nervousness in the room, several rumblings along the lines of, “but I don’t do anything spectacular, I just have time for regular library stuff.” I clarified at the outset that I was just looking for small moments, and made myself a habit of posting wins for myself that were things like, “I got a script on a spreadsheet to work after watching 4 different YouTube tutorials and tweaking the code,” or “Every purchase order I got today was paperclipped, not stapled!” Finding and celebrating our wins got a little less intimidating after that. A few brave souls even dared to share their “Weekly Fail,” some project that had started with such promise but failed so spectacularly that there was nothing to do but laugh about it and move on.

Eight months in, the Weekly Win is growing every month, up to about 75% of staff with some degree of participation, and a little more than half posting enough to qualify for the drawing. Even those who aren’t posting are still following pretty regularly, and even incorporating some of the shared practices into their own libraries.

It’s definitely helped at the district office, too. I now have access to a regular stream of stories and images of all the different kinds of activities happening in our libraries to share with building and district administration. I create quarterly reports with a combination of statistics and stories that reinforce our important role in our schools.

Most recently, we’ve helped librarians add a second step to their sharing habit by teaching them how to quickly and easily post their Weekly Win both to Schoology and somewhere else–Twitter, their school’s Facebook page, or in an email to their principal or the person who compiles the school newsletter. That’s helped get our stories out into more places, without adding what feels like a whole lot of extra work to our routine.

Erin Downey is the District Consulting Librarian of Boise School District in Boise, ID, and a Lilead Fellow. Follow her at and on twitter @ehdowney


Categories: Community, Supervisor's Corner

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