About Us

"It's about bringing your whole self to the table."

Ann Kowal Smith

Founder & Executive Director, Books@Work

"Books@Work gives voice to individuals at every level of the organization and in all corners of the community. Too often, people define themselves and others by the roles they play or the educational credentials they carry. But life experience is a powerful form of wisdom that we rarely have the safe space to explore or share. By inviting participants to examine the human condition and compare perspectives, Books@Work creates that space. It's about bringing your whole self to the table."

Our Mission: Human Connection

Books@Work builds communities of openness, respect and belonging by creating the conditions for genuine human connection at every level of the workplace. Human connection is the bedrock of healthy organizations, permitting us to fully recognize each other and to build the bridges to explore the ideas that unite as well as divide us.

Books@Work invites everyone – from the shop floor to the c-suite – to develop these connections and co-create these communities. Through facilitated conversation rooted in carefully chosen narrative literature, Books@Work encourages participants to challenge assumptions, reflect on life’s essential questions and deepen interpersonal relationships.

Why literature? Because stories invite us to connect to characters and reflect upon our diverse perspectives. In discussing them, we consider other views and step into each other’s shoes. Narrative unlocks the conversations we don’t often have at work, helping us to make sense of the world we share – individually and together.

Facilitated by That Can be Me, Inc., a 501(c)(3) public charity, Books@Work tailors and prices programs to reach individuals across the entire organization, from hourly to management. We also partner with generous donors to bring Books@Work into community settings. Interested in learning more? Start here.

 

One Books@Work participant reminded us so eloquently, “Steinbeck says it best. ‘You can’t hate a man once you know him.’ Getting closer to the people you work with makes working easier.”

By creating the conditions for colleagues – at every level of the organization – to share and explore each other’s stories, Books@Work celebrates difference but eradicates division.

About Us

Our History

In 2009, we piloted Books@Work with food service employees at AVI Foodsystems and professors from Hiram College. Participants found a common language and set of experiences through the books, and professors learned from the perspectives of non-traditional learners. Supervisors found that participants “asked better questions” and were more engaged – with each other and their customers.

Today: We partner with companies in healthcare, manufacturing, distribution, technology, professional services and non-profit. In several companies we have expanded the program to natural teams and cross-functional groups across the organization. Our evidence overwhelmingly indicates that participants enjoy new ideas and gain a deeper appreciation for their colleagues. Companies appreciate increased contribution and collaboration from participants.

Tomorrow: Books@Work aspires to make a measurable contribution to building lifelong learning and critical thinking in society by supporting a more creative and productive workforce in our partner companies. With philanthropic support, we continue to extend our reach through programs with veterans, urban parents, police-community groups and others to cultivate a sense of connection and collaboration within neighborhoods, schools and families. Our goal: 100,000 participants a year across the nation.

Our Reach

Books@Work continues to expand in breadth and depth. As of late September 2018, we have engaged with:

5,999

participants

685

titles

693

professors

110

colleges

56

organizations

343

programs

22

states

9

foreign countries

Our Community Work

Public School District

Public School District

Auxiliary staff across an urban school district (including custodial, transportation, clerical, administrative and other employees) gather to participate in Books@Work.

Parents

Parents

Parents from an urban school meet once a week to read and discuss literature, building a stronger, more connected and resilient community.

Veterans

Veterans

Veterans in a residential treatment program read short stories to connect to each other and compare their personal journeys, with creativity and confidence.

Auxiliary staff across an urban school district (including custodial, transportation, clerical, administrative and other employees) gather to participate in Books@Work.

Parents from an urban school meet once a week to read and discuss literature, building a stronger, more connected and resilient community.

Veterans in a residential treatment program read short stories to connect to each other and compare their personal journeys, with creativity and confidence.

Why support Books@Work in the community?

Books@Work strives to build community well beyond the walls of the workplace. In our work with nonprofits and other service organizations, we reach into local spaces, cultivating a sense of connection and collaboration within neighborhoods, schools and families.

Our community work focuses primarily on school staffs, parents and veterans, though we work in other areas of the community on a case-by-case basis. We partner with donors – individual, companies and foundations – to enable our programs and expand our community reach.

Watch the video to hear Sergeant Kim Watkins share her experience participating in a Books@Work veterans’ program.

Selected Partners & Professors

Amazon
Boeing
Swagelok Company
MAGNET
Fairbanks Morse Engine (EnPro Industries)
Calfee, Halter & Griswold
DaVita Healthcare Partners, Inc.
Mallinckrodt
GGB Bearing Technology (EnPro Industries)
Cardinal Health
Sierra Monitor
Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center
Saint Luke's Foundation Community
Cincinnati Bell
Veterans Domiciliary at the Wade Park Veterans Affairs Medical Center
The MetroHealth System
Beachwood City Schools
Lincoln Electric (The Harris Products Group)
City of Hudson (Ohio)
Lorain City Schools
Chautauqua Institution
Jewish Federation of Cleveland
Laurel School
Maple Heights (Ohio) City Schools
Florida Avenue Grill
The Intergenerational Schools
The Centers for Families and Children
AVI Foodsystems, Inc.
Washington University in St. Louis
Beloit College
University of Pittsburgh Johnstown
Kent State University
Seattle University
Case Western Reserve University
University of Missouri St. Louis
Bryn Mawr College
Dickinson College
Howard University
University of Pennsylvania
Arizona State University
Haverford College
Oberlin College
Hiram College
University of Akron
Denison University
Swarthmore College
University of Texas El Paso
Cleveland State University
Rutgers University Camden
Baldwin Wallace University
Notre Dame College
Philadelphia University
Miami University
Duke University
Pennsylvania State University Brandywine
Cuyahoga Community College
University of Cincinnati
Cleveland Institute of Art

Our Impact & The Science

Find out more about our impact in workplaces and the community and the science behind our work.