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Keynote Address: Better Libraries and Stronger Communities through Kindness, Empathy and Love
Lance Werner, Kent District Library Director (Comstock Park, Michigan) and Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year

This presentation will focus on the value imbued into all aspects of life, leadership and librarianship through the daily practice of kindness, empathy and love. Libraries work every day facilitating peoples’ efforts to become the best version of themselves. We will be more successful by delivering transformative service by working from a place of kindness, empathy and love.

1. What things are you taking away that you heard or do you think are most important?  

  • It takes guts to be gentle and kind.
  • Stop striving to be comfortable; strive to be uncomfortable.
  • Don’t tell a company story, tell a personal story.
  • You are in the people business, not the book business.
  • Amazon, Google, etc., can’t take away the warmth you get at a public library.
  • Customer service changes people’s lives; it lifts people up.
  • As you go through life, everyone hands you a balloon or a stone; and you are free to take one or the other, depending what you believe about yourself. It is your choice to grab the stone or not.
  • Learn lessons from the tough times. There is wisdom to be gained in loss and pain, just make sure you are listening and paying attention.
  • It takes guts to be gentle and kind.
  • People who cannot experience kindness, empathy and love should not be in public service.
  • Don’t be a chicken; throw it out of the park every day.
  • Life is too short, do not wait. We have today, and each day is a gift.

2. Were there any key websites the presenter shared or things people should check out?
No websites, journal articles or books were referenced.

3. What was the audience reaction to this session? What kind of feedback was given?
My overall impression, and from the feedback I received, was that the topic was a good one to open a conference. Excellent customer service is critical to a library’s success, and Lance made several comments and shared several stories that either directly or indirectly emphasized that philosophy. Many of the points mentioned above were talked about at different times during the conference, so I think some of Lance’s comments resonated with people in a positive way. A few colleagues did mention that they were not champions of some of the “mushy” stuff he presented.
Submitted by Marla Sepnafski