THE DOCENT COUNCIL OF METROPOLITAN SAINT LOUIS ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION 2002 Since 1989, The Docent Council

of Metropolitan Saint Louis has provided an excellent vehicle for problem solving and continuing education for Docents and Staff from Saint Louis area cultural institutions. The Docent Council sponsors Symposiums, Tour Exchanges, Roundtable Discussions and other educational opportunities. Below is a condensed version of the thoughts and ideas that were discussed at the Council’s 2002 Roundtable Discussion, “How Can Staff Be More Helpful To Docents?” The event was a lot of fun! The participants divided up into groups of six and after getting to know each other, they learned brainstorming and consensus building techniques. Then, they got down to work! The following were some of the St. Louis area institutions represented at these discussions: The Campbell House, The Saint Louis Zoo, The Saint Louis Public Library, The Saint Louis Art Museum, The Repertory Theatre, Missouri Botanical Garden, The Missouri Historical Society, Laumeier Sculpture Park, Cahokia Mounds, Saint Louis County Parks, Museum of Transportation, The Humane Society and Tower Grove. HOW CAN STAFF BE MORE HELPFUL TO DOCENTS? Information and Training Provide a basic but comprehensive set of information on the collection and institution. • Provide both on site and off site training. • Encourage personal development and renewal (fight docent boredom). Provide enrichment education. Enhance skills through presentations, workshops and storytelling. Provide guest speakers and regular opportunities for improvement. • Provide continuing education on all new acquisitions and installations, as well as changes that have occurred or will occur. Constant updates are needed.

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Use the Internet for training, communication and research. (Provide basic computer training to those that need it). Offer security training and information, as well as safety and first aid information. Provide a Handbook or Training Manual. Allow new docents to shadow staff or more experienced docents until they are comfortable. Provide videotapes and other extra resources. A docent library would be wonderful. Offer training on all different learning styles and diverse audiences. Train docents for all audiences. Training materials should be age appropriate. Be sure to include training for docents on accommodating visitors with special needs.

Positive Staff / Docent Relationships
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Foster mutual respect. Emphasize the Team aspect of staff and docents. Staff should provide an open door policy for concerns. Willingness from staff to listen to suggestions or problems and to facilitate problem solving is appreciated. Good communication is vital with all departments. Keep docents informed of what is being planned for the future. (Even if you can’t give details yet or it isn’t finalized. This keeps down rumors.) Keep communication open and equitable through monthly newsletters, meetings, e-mail and calendar of events. Have an opportunity at least once a year where both staff and docents can get together socially. This is good for bonding and communication. Make learning fun and enjoyable. Docents need to know that staff is available to help deal with difficult visitors. Staff needs to allow for flexibility in scheduling the time and place of docent service. Docents should be acquainted with all staff whose work affects them.

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In larger institutions, use Lead Docents or Docent Chairs and Docent Boards to work more closely with staff. Make sure public tours are well publicized so docent time is not wasted and is appreciated. Docents should be involved in scheduling tours. Site Director should show interest in docent volunteers. Help provide the necessary name tags and uniforms. Staff should provide the docents with comments and letters from their tour groups and group leaders.

Recognition of Docents

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Plan lunches, dinners, parties or receptions to honor docents. Keep track of the number of years of service and number of tours. Give certificates or pins to commemorate, making sure that recognition is based on solid criteria. Enhance the reward or recognition events by inviting spouses or other special guests. Provide public recognition of docents’ contributions. (Writing articles about them in the Institution’s magazines from time to time. The public always appreciates the docents, but they would value them even more if they see that the Institution values them as well.) Regular verbal affirmation of a job well-done is really appreciated. A handwritten “Thanks” placed on top of a tour assignment sheet when a docent makes a special effort or goes out of his way to help, means so much. Take photos recording services and recognition. Free memberships, given to docents after a certain number of hours served, is a good reward. Discounts are also appreciated.

Evaluation • STAFF MUST USE DIPLOMACY AND ENSURE PRIVACY! • Both oral and written evaluations can be used. • The public can be used for evaluations by filling out surveys.

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Have docent fill out an annual survey, follow up with a one on one interview with staff and finally have staff use written documentation of this whole process. • Staff should not criticize without providing help for improvement. Keep things positive.

Docent Peers
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Encourage peer cooperation. Encourage docents to share information and plan tours together. Provide opportunities for docents to socialize. Provide mailboxes for docents to help them to communicate with one another. Provide a bulletin board for the docents. Have a docent room or space. Encourage docents to have a newsletter to share personal happenings. Set up monthly meetings for enrichment, socializing and to encourage recruitment of new docents. Build a sense of unity.

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