Book Report: Managing the Learning Organization

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¶ … Learning Organization

The Skokie library (Illinois) is special in that it has won several awards including the 2008 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The library functions on the premise that it is there to assist its users in finding and gaining information and all of its ambits circuit around that purpose.

There is a special vocational counselor who attends once a week as well as an Employment resource Center where there is information on career development, job opportunities, and self-employment. Consumers are involved in presenting informative and entertaining lectures about their work. Competitions are held so that users of all ages, from teens upwards may compete and win prizes. Competitions include piano recitals, poetry and so forth. During the summer months, the library runs a range of different workshops categorized according to ages and featuring a wide selection that is sure to inform and entertain. Throughout the year, the library holds recitals or movies on the lawn where late at night families gather to picnic and watch particular movie.

Different to most libraries, the library adequately covers each and every subject running from neuroscience to sociology and archeology and beyond so that each regardless of profession and interest can find the fundamental material of his or her interest. To that end, the library has gathered a coterie of professionals from each specific field and consults them regularly regarding additions. Additions are often and well selected.

Earphones are strategically placed in the various sections so that users can hear prospective music. There are at least two movie screens where instructive documentaries are continuously played for children and adults education. The children's section is laid out with a puppet show, a Lego section, and computers for various ages that for the very youngest age showcase games and read-along books. There are chess sets for adults and children, and in the summer times and during various seasons special toys set up aligned with the particular season. The children and adolescent section is divided into three segments with furnishing reflecting the particular age: the very young, junior high, and adolescent. In each, computers, workstations, seating reflects the age and interest content of that particular age.

Computer resources for adults and teens are available throughout the library and free Internet access is available too. The library also loans out laptops. There is another station, the Digital media lab, where clients can produce their own movies, compose their specific music, and create posters. It has in fact all the trappings of desktop publishing. To help users acquire basic and advanced computer skills, the library runs regular courses for various levels, all free, besides which there is a special section with literacy material for ESL students

To ensure that clients are helped as thoroughly as possible, they also have a round -- the clock inquiry station (Information Services) where people can call, e-mail, or engage online with researchers.

I have, in this description, touched upon only the surface of what the library offers. Its credo is to promote lifelong learning, discovery, and enrichment through a broad spectrum of materials, technologies, and experience; it certainly goes far in providing that. When being asked therefore to provide a learning center, there is none that more readily springs to mind than the Skokie public library.

Outline of the framework used to examine the organization and justification of the attributes chosen as focus of the study

The outline here is community level learning where the library, centering in on its locality, focuses on the community in general, but also takes individual level learning into account by carefully inquiring into the needs and interests of individual members.

Although Cross and Israelit (2000) suggest that community and team levels of learning parallel each other, in this case there seems to be a distinction. Although in many organizations the differences between the two may not be so clearly delineated or so apparent, distinctions here are clear in that team-level learning generally represents learning organized or conducted within the perimeters of an industry in order to facilitate enhanced performance of the industry. The library is independent of any commercial profit and rather than focusing on employees who are central to its scheme, focuses on a clientele that is external to its 'industry'.

The framework that I choose here is the 'community of practice' where an organization becomes a learning organization by virtue of its teachers, support personnel; and administrators who interspersed throughout the organization actively practice and disseminate the training and knowledge (Orr, 1990; Lave and Wenger, 1991; Brown and Duguid, 1991; Wenger, 1998). The community of practice incorporates teachers, support personnel and administrators -- all practitioners -- who have similar workplace skills and knowledge.

Communities of practice can sometimes be cross-functional teams and their similarity in objective and skills, despite their differences in particular jobs, make for optimum problem-solving and integration of specialist knowledge along the wide swath of their field (Cross and Israelit, 2000). The practitioners in this community of practice need to nurture and maintain two kinds of knowledge: firstly their vocational knowledge, i.e. that they will pass on to others. They, therefore, must be current and knowledge on the subjects that they teach. Secondly, they have to upgrade their pedagogy, i.e. their skills that enable them to pass on their knowledge.

The effectiveness and resilience of the community for practice primarily depends on the team members successfully developing and retaining these two kinds of knowledge.

Furthermore, although most agree that the organizations themselves cannot learn but that they composed of individual learning that migrates to the organization (Kim, 1993), the larger organization can help -- and needs to help - by having supportive structures and mechanisms in place in order to assist both practitioners and their clients (the one in giving, the other in receiving). In this way, both consumers and practitioners themselves are learning as they impart (Brown & Duguid, 1991).

A synopsis of your findings with data examples that illustrate your conclusions

I chose the library as ideal instance of the 'community of practice' since its workers all constitute and indicate a 'core competency' centered around the enthusiasm for and knowledge of literature, music, cultural themes and anything that may serve to instruct others. All of its employees have different skills: some working as librarians, whilst others service the research section, work in the computer stations, direct workshops, catalogue the material, instruct children, or operate the machines but all have the one defining element in common: they all love and are interested in books. Secondly, all also optimize the two kinds of knowledge they are current and knowledgeable on the subjects that they teach -- the librarians are obviously informed about their books and current topics disseminate their knowledge and informing consumers about the most recent up-to-date reads whilst also guiding inquiries into available resources that can help them. Likewise, personnel who staff the individual computer stations are also well informed on their subject matter. Secondly, all also contain the necessary skills that allow them to impart their knowledge. Each is college or university trained in his or her specific expertise -- generally, although not necessarily, librarian skills, and the librarians who staff the children's section also have pedagogical / child-related skills.

Finally, the library, as a whole, through its generous and impressive range of resources enables the 'community of practice' to most effectively reach out to its consumers by provide them with the tools, supportive structures and mechanisms with which to do so.

4. A set of justified recommendations that address,

(i) to what extent the organisation is already a learning organisation

Hardly distinct from the concept of organizational learning in that the employees learn as they impart (Easterby-Smith, Araujo & Burgoyne, 1999), the organization is a learning organization in that it aims to present learning in the most effective and entertaining way possible and has this capacity to learn which Cohen & Levinthal (2000) term 'absorptive capacity'. Each and every one of its services is geared towards education from its workshops and competitions to its recitals or movie on the lawn.

The library adequately covers each and every subject running from neuroscience to sociology and archeology and beyond so that each regardless of profession and interest can find the fundamental material of his or her interest.

The library also features book discussions, films and film discussions, exhibitions of the performing arts in its 200-seat auditorium; and original programs, movies, educational fare, and listing of upcoming vents.

To ensure that clients are helped as thoroughly as possible and that all their questions are answered, they also have a round -- the clock inquiry station where people can call, e-mail, or engage online with researchers.

As one of its educational aims, the library directs readers to 'books of its choice' (including movies and cassettes that it thinks will entertain and most inspire the reader. In each category, certain material is selected and a brief summary describes the product. On its website too and catalogue, not… [END OF PREVIEW]

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