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Libraries

Sushila Mertens

Questions? Want to start a Living Room Conversations effort in your local library? Write to Sushila at the form below.

Welcome!

I’m Living Room Conversations’ Libraries Partner. As a retired librarian, life coach, and civically active citizen, I discovered Living Room Conversations as a tool to improve my personal listening skills and to engage my community in talking about subjects that are important but usually not discussed. If you are connected to a library as an employee or supporter, or would like to ask your librarians to host Living Room Conversations, this page is for you.

I have invited people into my home, cafes, churches, and libraries to share their experiences around Living Room Conversations topics. I have introduced the format and facilitated larger groups at conferences, a high school, and even on a cruise ship! There is nothing like allowing people to talk uninterrupted in a safe environment that builds trust and community in so short a time.

 

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I was happily surprised when I found out people hosting Living Room Conversations were encouraging their libraries to offer the format and topics to their communities.  Since I have over 25 years creating library programs, I realized what a perfect match this could be.

Libraries are a neutral place that welcome everyone in the community. Librarians need programs to engage their readers.  All Living Room Conversations materials are a free, open-source resource.

Living Room Conversations offer an easy to replicate format with questions for over 100 topics. The program can be facilitated by librarians or staff, Friends of the Library, or volunteers.
A quick “Nuts & Bolt” slideshow answers most of your questions about getting started.

We’ve learned a lot about best practices, and I’d like to share with you what we’ve learned, as well as encourage you to share with us and others working with libraries. We would love to hear your stories and what topics you would recommend—please send them to me so that we can inspire other libraries.

There are great resources on the Living Room Conversations webpage including the Helpful Links that describe “healthy conversations.”  Below are a few more gems related to libraries.

  • A list of libraries currently offering Living Room Conversations:
    • Arlington, TX
    • Bayfield, CO
    • Charleston, SC
    • Nevada County, CA
    • North Kingstown, RI
    • Richmond,VA
    • Salt Lake City, UT
    • Santa Cruz, CA
    • Tiverton, RI
  • You can find sample PR announcements and flyers linked a little further down on this page 
  • Our guide for Planning a Community Living Room Conversation will lead you through the process of gathering a large group for small group Conversations
  • Suggestions for Unpacking the Conversation Agreements, which is helpful when introducing this practice to new participants

I am happy to share suggestions adapted for libraries from Reverend Linda Taylor, LRC Faith Partner:
As you consider trying Living Room Conversations in your community, I encourage you to keep four things in mind:

  1.    Safe, honest and loving conversation has the power to change the dynamic in a community. The three-round format of all our Conversation Guides + our Conversation Agreements are what ensure the quality and safety of Living Room Conversations. We strongly encourage you to observe them!
  2.    The Guides and Agreements also mean that Living Room Conversations are easy and even self-facilitating to do—whether 6 or 106 people are gathered. No matter how large the group is, breaking into small groups of no more than 4-6 people provides space for conversations that can help people grow in understanding and bridge the divide that may exist in our community.
  3.   Living Room Conversations are designed to be self-facilitating, but call on me (Sushila)! I’m available to help with any questions or concerns you may encounter.
  4.    We will keep building resources to support your work. You’ll find them on this page and throughout the website as you explore it. As you engage in Living Room Conversations, I hope you’ll share what you learn with all of us.

We meet monthly 2nd Thursdays, 1:00 PST online. Join us whenever you can! Contact me to receive the Zoom link, or with any questions you might have. You can do so by filling out either the form underneath my picture or the one at the bottom of the page.

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Getting Started

Interested in starting a Living Room Conversations community in your local library? Have other questions? Feel free to reach out to Sushila Mertens through the contact form below.

Read more about how to have your own Living Room Conversation – including best practices and a step-by-step process – by clicking the button below.

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