Are you really doing anything in your library?October 3rd, 2008 by infomancy
What are you telling people that you are doing in your library? This might be a better question to ask yourself. Now, more than ever, it is critical to remember that there is indeed a difference between what you are doing and what others know you are doing. Libraries of all types need to spread the word about what they are doing. We need to take ownership of the expertise that we possess and the valuable services we provide.
But isn’t all of this just some marketing mumbo-jumbo? Does it really matter?
Recently, my team and I presented at a small conference for our region’s School Boards Association. We all grumbled a bit about there being 8 presenters and only 17 attendees, but what we failed to realize at the time is that those were the right 17 people at the right time (and that makes all the difference). Our presentation focused on our game library – a national model for gaming in school libraries that presents games as another type of curriculum aligned (pdf) instructional resource for libraries to offer to students and teachers. We addressed the direct connection between games and 21st-century learning skills, and highlighted a few games that reinforce or extend New York state learning standards. While this was well received, it wasn’t the most powerful part of our presentation.
What truly captured the audience’s attention, what has already had a direct impact on library programs, was my highlighting success stories from our region. As a school library system director I am able to travel to libraries to see the incredible teaching and learning taking place because of our exceptional school librarians. More importantly, I can share these stories. Stories have impact; told correctly, they connect on an intensely personal level. In all humility, I told those stories rather well!
A few days later, I got a phone call from one of our member librarians. The superintendent of her district had come to her and asked the dreaded question “Did you hear what happened at the board meeting last night?” While thoughts of library budgets being slashed, programs eliminated, the librarian waited for the axe to fall. Only it didn’t. One of the board members had been at the workshop and had heard us talk about this district, this librarian, as a wonderful example of gaming in libraries. The board member had come back to the district board and spoke up about what she had heard. Others on the board and in the school administration also spoke up to note that this librarian is a passionate member of the school community who is involved in many activities. In other words, this librarians many contributions were finally recognized and given the credit they so richly deserved…and all because of a little marketing.
But wait, as they say, there is more. The superintendent wasn’t just stopping by the library to share the news, but also to let the librarian know that the new furniture she had been trying to get for the library for the past four years had been approved. New chairs for all the tables and computer desks and two sitting areas with four comfortable chairs and a coffee table in each! Pure coincidence? I think not! This was a direct result of the libraries story being told – a direct result, to be perfectly honest, of marketing.
It is often said that librarians are a humble group not given to self-promotion. I don’t suffer from this at all (Vote Chris for ALA Council 2009) and in general think it is as dated a library stereotype as many others. It isn’t negative to promote what you are doing – it is a job requirement.