Interview Questions: Discovery

July, 2018

In 2018, shortly after taking a new library management position, I led most of my direct and indirect reports through an appreciative inquiry exercise. The exercise was intended to establish a culture of openness--one in which creativity and excellence could emerge organically from employees who were free to create the shape of the library's future success. Participants were asked to pair up with a co-worker and have one person interview the other, asking three questions. Interviewers were then asked to share with the whole group what they had learned from each response. As a follow-up to this exercise, participants were given the opportunity to submit an anonymous suggestion that, if enacted, would enable the library organization to achieve its highest potential.

  1. Looking back on your work experience in this organization (or elsewhere), remember a time when you felt most alive, fulfilled, or excited about your work. What made it engaging? How did you feel? Were others involved in the situation?

  2. Without being modest, what do you value most about yourself as a person and as a member of this organization? What are your strengths? Similarly, what do you appreciate most about this organization? In what ways does it excel?

  3. How would you like to see the organization’s health and vitality enhanced? What are your aspirations for its future?

Questions were re-used or adapted from the following sources:

Doyle, B. (2013, January 31). Appreciative inquiry: Identifying your library’s existing strengths [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Kelly, T. (2010). A positive approach to change: The role of appreciative inquiry in library and information organisations. Australian Academic and Research Libraries, 41(3), 163–177. doi:10.1080/00048623.2010.10721461

Sullivan, M. (2004). The promise of appreciative inquiry in library organizations. Library Trends, 53(1), 218–229.

Sullivan, M., & Spencer, G. (2008, June 30). And now for the good news: Appreciative inquiry. Workshop presented at the American Library Association annual conference, Anaheim, CA. Retrieved from

Want to learn more about appreciative inquiry and related topics?

Click the buttons below to see relevant entries in my bibliography, SmithFile.