TMC6 Mallen Whalley

Collaborative Professionalism: Participatory Learning within the Ontario Library Association (OLA) By-Law 2 Consultation Committee

By Kasey Mallen Whalley, MI(LIS)

This paper relates the process of using an integrative thinking framework with a stakeholder consultation committee, the Ontario Library Association (OLA) By-Law 2 Consultation Committee. The committee was representative of the diversity of staffing models in Ontario school libraries, and the process reflected and modeled collaborative participatory learning practices central to the library learning commons approach for students as modeled in a professional endeavour.

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Kasey (Mallen) Whalley has been working in and with libraries for over ten years. Her path to libraries has not been conventional, and after completing her undergraduate degree in English from McMaster University, she immediately enrolled in and completed Seneca College’s Accelerated Library and Information Technician program. She completed her Masters of Information (Library and Information Sciences) from University of Toronto while working full-time as a Library Technician with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic DSB. She’s endeavored to stay hip and with it by working with technology and book selection committees, teen library programs, writing articles, instructing workshops, speaking about anything library related, and leading her own after school club for writers. She also collects book-themed socks and has an insatiable love for astronomy and pizza.


  1. Kasey, I cannot begin to thank you for documenting the process that the OSLA By-Law 2 Committee undertook. All cards on the table, as the 2019 OSLA President, the importance of helping all members of the OSLA community recover from the years of tension that culminated at the 2019 OLA AGM has been at the forefront of each thought and action that I considered and proposed during my 1 year tenure.

    Your thoughtful and detailed description of the huge amount of work that you, alongside your fellow committee members, put in to rethinking the approach to this complex issue is an important artifact for future OLA and OSLA leaders and members to consider. The repeated essential messaging for me was the value of diverse voices and creating a truly safe space for those voices to be heard. It’s often very easy to surround ourselves with those who are already like-minded or have similar lived experiences to our own. I believe stepping outside of this comfort zone is going to be the key to the survival of the school library learning commons community moving forward.

    I hope that you will consider chatting with me in person when we connect at TMC6 and maybe consider future work with our current OSLA Council as well.

    Thank you again for this important documentation,
    Jenn Brown

    1. Kasey Mallen WhalleyJanuary 22, 2020 at 1:45 PM

      Hi Jenn,

      Thank you so much for your comment! Working with the dedicated professionals of the Consultation Committee has not only been a privilege, but, honestly, one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. The tension I mention in this paper (and that was evident at the 2019 OLA AGM) is not new to many of our members. When the consultation committee first sat down in the conference room at OLA, I think we all wanted to address the metaphorical elephant in the room that had been plaguing our industry for some time.

      A large portion of our discussions were centered on ensuring that we were open and fair to all school library professionals – even if we didn’t agree with each other, all perspectives were counted and considered. Part of the beauty of this committee is that we were a representative group, intent on being inclusive. I think you’re right in that sometimes we can get caught up in our own worlds (with the good, bad, and somewhere in-between), and start to think that all spaces are similar. Stepping outside our comfort zones, as you mentioned, is something so important – not just for us as individual library professionals, but as an industry as a whole; school libraries should be inclusive spaces for innovation, acceptance, and change. We, too, are going to have to change with it, I think.

      I will be in the OSLA Sandbox on Friday, but I will try to meet up with you during the conference at some point, if possible! I would love to be a part of the council and continue working with other school library professionals to make school library learning commons strong and impactful.

      Thank you,
      Kasey Mallen Whalley

  2. Hi Kasey,

    You made what was a huge challenge so clear and almost natural in your paper - I love how you structured it with challenge / framework / process / result / path forward.

    I love how the question "How might the OLA ensure all roles are collaborating in service of being a strong, united voice for school libraries?" was so useful in keeping the team focused. I guess that's why it's so important, whether it be in student research or professional learning, to have a solid inquiry question to guide learners at all ages and stages.

    I kept coming back to page 5, where you mention some of the sources of the tensions within the school library community: "restrictive budgets ... a misunderstanding of the explicit and tacit knowledge bases of school library professionals. ... task division ... role overlap ...". You are right and it is so true. I'm going to apologize in advance if I use the narrow term teacher-librarian when I should be using words like school library professional. Forgive me but correct me if I mess up during TMC6 or OLA SC 2020.

    So much of the positive results of this team (OSLA By-Law 2 Committee) seem to come from this work with the integrative thinking method and I-Think model. (This tells me I need to re-read my copy of "The Opposable Mind" by Roger Martin.) How might we be able to heal the rifts of decades of mistreatment and misunderstanding when many people have not been exposed to integrative thinking (or have but emotions cloud logic and self-interest destroys empathy)?

    Looking forward to talking more,
    Diana M

    1. Kasey Mallen WhalleyJanuary 22, 2020 at 2:44 PM

      Hi Diana,

      Thank you for your comment! I wanted the structure of the paper to be rooted in the committee’s progression; I’m glad it was helpful and clear.

      Our guiding question was something that Nogah helped us with, and, I agree, was something so integral to our work. It kept us focus without limiting us, and gave us a touchstone to which we could return if we felt off-track. This is something that, like you say, is very important in all inquiry-based learning!

      The sources of the tensions I mention were informed by our discussions, and I think each of us could name a few that most affect our work. Some of these sources could also be universal in the sense that there are probably other libraries, educational sectors, and industries that are feeling similar tensions. It provides us with a chance to be introspective of our own workplace practices, while also looking outward to other industries and sectors for solutions. Language is important and speaking about each other with respect and inclusivity can only lead to a stronger, more unified school library industry.

      One of the biggest things I learned with this committee is that change is a process, and the work we did is a solid foundation on which to enact progress. OSLA members who aren’t familiar with integrative thinking models are still skilled and dedicated professionals that (I hope and assume) want the best for their schools and our industry. Focusing on our similarities and the positives in our industry is a really important way for us to move forward. Healing these tensions can be done through respect, discussion, and inclusion, even if we are at odds with one another. We don’t always have to agree, but we should always be working towards creating safe and inclusive workspaces for our colleagues and our students. It may take a change in perspective or a reevaluation of priorities, and it isn’t going to be easy. However, listening and responding thoughtfully to each other in big and small arenas is always a great first step.

      There are, of course, many other ways we can alleviate some of the underlying tensions in the school library industry, and I’d love to hear as many perspectives on the issue as I can! Hopefully, despite not being able to attend TMC6 (as I will be in the OSLA Sandbox), this discussion and the work the committee did can continue to grow.

      Thank you,

      Kasey Mallen Whalley

    2. Good news - the OSLA Sandbox won't conflict with TMC6! (Sandbox is 12:30-2:30 pm on Friday and most of TMC6 will occur Friday evening after 6:00 pm and then Saturday from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm). You may be too exhausted to add in the Saturday, but I hope you'll be able to attend some of the TMC6 events.


    3. Hi Diana -

      I like to take two different approaches when using Integrative Thinking. As we did with this group, everyone agreed to using the process. Everyone doesn't have to be an expert, but is open to using this process. We see this a lot when someone has done PD with us and brings Integrative Thinking back to the their teams. The team isn't sure what they've gotten themselves into, but they're willing to give it a go. They might still challenge aspects of the process, but my experience is that what they are doing is sense making why the process is the way it is, instead of not being willing.

      The other way is more comment when others aren't aware of Integrative Thinking or aren't open to such a structured process. In this case, I find that it's about shifting your facilitating style and never calling it Integrative Thinking... until people ask. With this route, it's much less structured, there may or may not be as much chart paper involved, but the intent of levering tension by looking at the benefits of models is the core experience.

      Roger Martin and Jennifer Riel released Creating Great Choices in 2017, which more closely reflect how we use and teach Integrative Thinking now. It captures a decade worth of lessons since the Opposable Mind.

      Happy to share more if you are interested!


  3. Kasey it sounds like your work focused a lot on merging ideas and values. Was there a nature to your work that either felt or was deliberately restorative? Will there be a big love-in in the future for all school library professionals or will we continue to operate in solos defining by funding and education? What are the next steps for this committee?

  4. Hi Alanna, I was part of this committee. The work of the committee is now complete as it directly related to the OLA By-Law 2 resolution that passed at the AGM.


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