Action Learning Drives Rebuilding of Community LibraryHurricane Maria devastated the Caribbean country of Dominica in 2017 and particularly destroyed all libraries. Of significance is the library in the Portsmouth community because it serves several villages, that even prior to the hurricane did not provide the best home settings for learning.
The Chief Librarian, Ms. Vernanda Raymond, brought the problem to an Action Learning group comprised of senior public officers from five other Caribbean countries. Working through five Action Learning sessions over a period of about three months, Ms. Raymond was able to reframe her problem towards improved stakeholder relations. Actively canvassing stakeholders to learn their needs and to gain support yielded gains that far surpassed her initial expectations. She was able to rebuild the community library with a new design that better serves the various categories of users and which is better able to withstand future storms. The library holdings and subscriptions have been increased. A voluntary committee was formed to safeguard the library in the event of future disasters, and this committee has also been actively involved in the interior design to meet the needs of different users. Ms. Raymond gives the following account:
“The diversity of the probing question sessions provided the avenue to reflect more deeply on the real and critically complex problem of restoring library services at the Portsmouth library post-disaster. Being committed to learning and exploring the alternatives through the perspective of my fellow team members drove my rehabilitation efforts. Stakeholder engagement is a major aspect of the rehabilitation of the Portsmouth Library. The main goal is to facilitate collaborative efforts for the development of sustained partnerships that can provide continued support to the library service. Through discussion with stakeholders the following actions were taken:
Additionally, through stakeholder engagement a financial contribution of 150,000.00 XCD dollars was contributed towards the restoration of the physical building.
- a safe concrete-covered space within the library
- re-design of separate computer sections for children and adult users
- a children’s reading corner
- introduction of shorter shelving to provide ease of access to materials
- establishment of pre and post-disaster teams made up of members of the community
- donation of books through regional and international book drives; donation of computer equipment
My Metaphor – A Swing – that provides the strength, support, and latitude for positive action.”