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

Books@Work bridges the growing educational divide by offering meaningful workplace-based learning to individuals of diverse backgrounds and world views. Participants share the wisdom of life experience through respectful conversation rooted in narrative and human stories. Books@Work celebrates difference and eradicates division.

The majority of American adults spend most of their waking hours on the job. The most effective organizations create space for employees to bring more of themselves to work. By offering literature discussions to all employees – including adults typically excluded from personal development initiatives – we invest in the broader ecosystem of learning, empowering individuals to step into each other’s shoes, deepen relationships and contribute deeply at work, at home and in the community.

Books@Work is facilitated by That Can be Me, Inc., a 501(c)(3) public charity. As a nonprofit organization, we are able to develop and price programs that reach individuals from the front line to the C-suite, and everyone in between. We also partner with generous donors to bring Books@Work into community settingsInterested in learning more? Start here.

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 May 2018, we have engaged with:

5,227

participants

619

titles

581

professors

95

colleges

52

organizations

294

programs

20

states

7

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.