The 360 Librarian: A Framework for Integrating Mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence, and Critical Reflection in the Workplace

The 360 Librarian cover

ACRL announces the publication of The 360 Librarian: A Framework for Integrating Mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence, and Critical Reflection in the Workplace by Tammi M. Owens and Carol A. Daul-Elhindi, outlining a five-step framework that can help you apply calm awareness, contemplativeness, and engaged communication to your work.  

Learn more about The 360 Librarian in this excerpt from the introduction.

Upon starting a new career or changing places of employment, there are often romantic notions of how this new journey will proceed. We hope that our coworkers will be kind, thoughtful, generous, and supportive. That we will make a difference while making meaningful connections with others. We want to be successful, effective, fulfilled, and appreciated. But what actually happens after we start a new career or a new job? The challenges. The trudging. The true, tough journey. We have to understand the official and unofficial mission of the organization, maneuver within the political landscape, mesh with colleagues’ personalities and roles, and most importantly, learn how to do our job well. As we move through our careers, similar struggles may also be experienced when there is a change of management or mid-career burnout rears its ugly face. For many of these challenges, we are seldom given a guide on how to proceed. Without on-site mentors or a collaborative environment, it can feel as if we are walking in circles, lacking a compass that shows the way forward.

For both of us, this was exactly the case when we met as early-career librarians. We wished many times for a how-to guide to get us through interpersonal challenges, professional ups and downs, and moments of fear, doubt, and anxiety. This professional compass, we thought, would lead people just like us to the tools and practices needed to create their own authentic path. These tools would teach people how to respond to even the trickiest work situations with mindfulness, empathy, and compassion. Ultimately, we wanted a framework to show people like us how to sit back, reflect, refocus, and renew.

Building on concepts learned in multiple ACRL Immersion courses, personal practices of mindfulness, and professional lives dedicated to service and intentionality, we created the 360 Framework to articulate our vision for practicing critically reflective librarianship with mindfulness and emotional intelligence at the forefront. Developing this five-step framework allowed us to become more purposeful in our daily interactions with students, faculty, and staff and created a way for us to signpost our efforts at authentic engagement. We curated or developed practical activities for our minds, bodies, and spirits to enhance and practice each step of the framework in order to become what we eventually defined as 360 librarians. The activities (“Do the practice”) were greatly expanded in this book to include the many questions we wish someone would have prompted us to reflect on years ago. To contextualize these practices, we’ve included semi-autobiographical case studies from our own work along with practical essays from librarians and educators in universities around the country.

The 360 Framework Ideals

An engaged library practice consists of continual give-and-take, careful assessment of others and oneself, and 360-degree, full-circle situational awareness. The five ideals a 360 Librarian should incorporate into their daily lives in order to provide a purposeful practice of service and engagement are:

1. Mindful Practice, or remaining in the moment in order to respond authentically and nonjudgmentally as situations arise.

2. Emotional Awareness, or noticing, assessing, and reacting accordingly to one’s own and others’ emotional states.

3. Engaged Communication, a combination of the awareness of nonverbal communication, the practice of deep listening, and deliberate two-way communication.

4. Empathetic Reflection and Action, a continuous state of learning about situational context and reacting in a considerate and appropriate manner.

5. Reassurance, the intentional act of bolstering one’s own and others’ confidence.

The 360 Framework ideals are built on three pillars of practice: mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and critical reflection. These skills allow us to acknowledge what is happening in the moment, observe our own and others’ emotions, and calmly choose how to act or react in order to honor our commitment to our students and to the profession.

Applying the 360 Framework

This book was written by academic librarians and, in its strictest sense, is focused on applications for and in academic libraries. This narrow focus allows us to bring our research, expertise, and personal reflections to bear on the 360 Librarian ideals. We have also been able to incorporate ideas and reflections of colleagues in college and research libraries in the 360 in Practice essays found throughout the book. Despite this book’s focus on academic librarianship, we believe the 360 Framework ideals and the pillars of mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and critical reflection can and should be practiced by librarians and library staff in any professional situation at any time. The universal nature of the 360 Framework ideals also means they can be applied interdisciplinarily to the workplaces of archivists, curators, museum workers, and educators alike.

360 librarianship takes advantage of a flexible framework. It can be a personal and reflective practice, a team-oriented networked practice, or both. When practiced by multiple members of a team, the 360 Framework ideals can create a dynamic, integrated, and collaborative workplace. Awareness, communication, motivation, understanding, and synergy among team members will improve. On a personal level, practicing the 360 Framework will cultivate a new sense of self-awareness that can translate into improved leadership and conflict management skills.

The 360 Framework in action can have far-reaching impacts on your students, your workplace culture, and your entire organization. The combination of mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and critical reflection is a potent antidote to unhelpful interactions with colleagues as well as students, as it sets aside the fear of confrontation in the workplace and allows 360 Librarians to engage in positive practices to engender change. It is important to note, though, that some 360 practices are best completed in a safe and supportive environment. For example, honest one-to-one feedback among colleagues would be difficult in a competitive or aggressive workplace.

After reading The 360 Librarian, you may feel it is too overwhelming to practice everything all at once. Our first and continual reassurance is that 360 librarianship is a practice and, as such, we have ensured that the five steps of 360 librarianship complement and build on one another. You may choose to become comfortable or proficient in one step before adding another, or you may apply the Framework as a whole 360 practice continually until you become comfortable with all five steps at once.

You do not need any preparation to begin your 360 Librarian journey. An open, introspective mind and a positive attitude are helpful, as is a willingness to change. A new journal, a dedicated document on your laptop, or a private space online in which to record your reflections chapter by chapter may help you articulate nascent ideas and create connections among the five 360 Framework ideals. A truly confidential journal allows you to record your responses to the do the practice prompts in each chapter with barebones honesty. This, in turn, promotes deep reflection and lasting transformation.