Presenting Empathy at Annual

I had a wonderful time presenting my Conversation Starter, “You Have My Empathy: What Does Empathy Look Like in the Library?” during Annual. I’m slowly becoming more confident at presenting. I spilt up my session into half overview in presentation form and half group work. I asked the audience these questions:

  • Should librarians be empathetic to patrons? Is this an additional role for us? Is it already a part of what we do?
  • What does empathy look like in the library? Some examples please! What are some of your concerns in being an empathetic librarian?
  • Describe a situation that might provoke a librarian’s empathy that could occur in a library. How would you respond? Is there a right and wrong way to respond?
  • Can empathy be taught? Could library staff be trained to be empathetic? Or are empathetic people naturally drawn to the profession? How are we taught to be empathetic in LIS? How could that teaching be improved?

In a sneaky way, the audience served as my informal focus group. Through our discussion, I wanted to get some insider knowledge about what role librarians believe empathy plays in the work we do. The Starter format worked well at getting us all thinking and talking about the “invisible” service of empathy. I’m planning to submit a program proposal for the next Annual and expand on this topic. Maybe even answer some of the questions I asked, especially regarding empathy training for library staff.

For me, this presentation helped reinforce my passion for researching empathy within the context of libraries. So often the dissertating process is a lonely experience. Sure you have a committee and advisors, but the dissertation work is all you. ALL ON YOU. No one knows the particular area you’re researching better or feels as intensely about your dissertation as you do. While dissertating, I’m sometimes overwhelmed by feelings of insecurity and doubt. But the wonderful feedback I received from the audience gave me a much needed boost!

If you missed my presentation or missed Annual entirely (poor kid!), don’t worry! Below you will find my slides, presentation notes, and a handout for recommended readings about this topic. One day I will figure out how to embed PDFs and other docs in my posts so they looks lovely and techy. But not today. Technology defeats me again! Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or just want to say “hello!”. You can always e-mail me at or tweet at me (@abigailleigh).

Empathy in the Library powerpoint
Empathy in the Library notes
Recommended Readings handout

What do you all think of my questions? Do you have a thought or two you would like to share? Am I leaving anything out?

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