A teenaged girl, Mary, enters the Ellendale County Public Library with a small dog and heads to the “teen books” area. She sits down at one of the tables, opens up her backpack, and takes out a textbook and piece of paper. Her dog is next to her, on the floor.
At a table next to Mary sits Ron and his mother, Alice. Ron’s mother is helping him with research for school. She notices the dog, gets up, and looks for a librarian. Upon finding one, she says, “My son is allergic to dogs and that girl brought a dog to the library. He’s not going to be able to study with the dog around. Can you do something about this?”
Susan, the librarian, knows that the library has a “no animal policy,” except for service dogs. The policy also states that the library cannot directly question patrons if the dog is a service dog. Susan looks over at Mary and does not see any visible reasons for why the dog should be there. She heads over and tells Mary that she cannot have a dog in the library.
Mary does not understand everything the librarian says because she is hearing impaired. She needs the dog to alert her to things she cannot hear. Mary responds, but Susan does not understand Mary’s speech patterns.
“I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to leave,” Susan says with finality.
Later that day, Craig, the director of the Ellendale County Public Library system, receives a phone call from Mary’s father, Joseph, who informs him about the situation. Craig’s been in his position for 3 years and with the county library for 10 years. As he listens to Joseph, he realizes that there needs to be some changes to the library’s policy and training for the librarians. He is going to bring up this issue at next week’s management meeting and have a conversation about strategies that will resolve these issues in the future.
To help Craig prepare for his management team meeting, use the cultural intelligence principles to help him analyze the situation that has occurred. You may use the following questions to guide your thinking:
- What does Craig need to help him think through this situation?
- What is the culture of the library? The culture of librarians at Ellendale?
- What behaviors can you identify? What can Craig and his management team do differently that will change this behavior?
- How can Craig and his team use self-efficacy concepts to improve their cultural intelligence?
There are several items at play in this situation that Craig needs to understand when speaking with his staff:
CI Model in Action
- Acquire: Craig received information only from a patron, Joseph. He is disturbed at what he hears and jumps to his own conclusions about what needs to be done. It would be appropriate to hear from the librarians and others at the library about the situation. Moreover, Craig and his team need to evaluate their own cultural intelligence when working with people who have disabilities.
- Build: Cultural strategic thinking can help them assess what gaps exist in their knowledge and understanding of people who have disabilities. As a result of the assessment, they could identify organizational goals that would be beneficial to all staff, whether these goals are related to training, policy changes, behavioral changes, or customer service improvements.
- Contemplate: The mindfulness aspect of contemplation will be useful to Craig and his team. Mindfulness opens up possibilities in what seems like a closed ended situation. Using mindfulness as a tool, it is apparent here that there is a need for cultural sensitivity training for the librarians. But there is also a larger issue: the policies for patrons with disabilities need to be reviewed and reconsidered. It would be helpful for the management team to discuss how long ago the policies were created, what changes in the environment the library can expect (in terms of demographic and economic changes) that might impact their policies, and what the protocol is for addressing issues that are not included in the library’s policies.
- Do: For Craig’s team to be more adaptable, it would be helpful for them to understand their self-concepts, including the organization’s self-concept. How has the organization come to understand who they are based on their expectations and responses to their patrons? How have policies been developed as a result of these responses? Where does our organizational self-concept restrict us and create barriers to a successful change? Asking these learning questions can help them shift their thinking to a different perspective.