Monthly Archives: November 2010

Libraries Aren’t Special…and neither are their marketing plans.

I’m doing a presentation tomorrow for a marketing class in the BA LIS program at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany.  Here’s my resource list…

http://is.gd/hXhkD

And here’s a link to the presentation (which looks a bit more sexy when it uses the original font of Sketch Rockwell). 

http://www.slideshare.net/cayar/libraries-arent-special-and-neither-are-their-marketing-plans

The Power of Change: Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should

At Evanced, my job is to work with other librarians who are implementing our software in their library.  Usually, this goes pretty smoothly, but there is the occasional call that goes something like this:

“I’m implementing your software, but I don’t have the time right now.  We’re experiencing a lot of change,” they say.

“Really?  Budget crunches do that, can I help?,” I respond.

“No, our budget is okay.  We have a new director.  EVERYTHING is changing.  It’s exhausting.”

It’s exhausting.  That was the exact phrase I was told recently.  I was a library director once.  I went in, and I changed everything.  Oy.  It must have been exhausting for my staff then too.

I look back and with my glaringly clear 20/20 hindsight, I realize that in any management role I’ve ever been in, I could have done things differently.  I wouldn’t call them regrets, but definitely valuable lessons that I keep in mind now.  If I could do it all again, I would have…

…sat back and watched for a few months before jumping in and creating change.
…listened carefully to understand the background of “why things are the way they are.”
…dropped the “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” attitude.
…integrated major changes over a span of several months, instead of implementing them in a week or less.
…built-in “downtime” from change for both my staff and I so that we wouldn’t burn out.  Which we did.

How have you managed change at your library or organization?  What lessons have you learned?  I’m interested in hearing others perspectives on this!

Ya gotta have standards, y’know?

Today my friend Sara tweeted this from the Michigan Library Association Annual Conference:

And I was like “YES – standardized practices!”  Except I said it to myself in my head, not outloud.  I talk to myself a lot at work and people look at me weird.

BTW – Sara is funny, charming, intelligent and an amazing librarian and I highly recommend you follow her @sarabethw

Anyways, this made me think back to an interesting conversation I had with Christie Brandau, the now-retired state librarian of Kansas.  It wasn’t about business reference standards, but overall service standards.  But it got me thinking about this conversation: I was interveiwing her over a year ago about best practices for library service in rural areas.  And the way the state of Kansas approached service standardization was really fantastic.  They didn’t say “Every library will have at least ten computers” or “Every library will have 150 parking spaces” because really, that’s not practical.  In Kansas, the gap between tiny libraries and huge libraries borders on hyperbole – the difference in library types is significant.  There are libraries that serve 2000 people spread over a 700 square mile area.  And there are urban libraries that serve people a very dense population center with multiple branches.  All extremely valuable, but all reaching out to patrons in different and unique ways.

So, the librarians in Kansas started with criteria like the following (and these are not exact, so don’t quote me, kids…)

  • A library patron in the state of Kansas should not have to wait longer than ten minutes to access a computer
  • A library patron in the state of Kansas should be able to easily access a bathroom. 
  • A library patron in the state of Kansas should be able to find a parking space within reasonable distance from their library.

So, easy access to a bathroom.  That sounds silly, right?  Okay, but think of all your patrons.  Do you have a bathroom that’s easily accessed by a five year old?  What about a bathroom that’s easily accessed by the elderly?  The handicapped?  A mom or dad with four kids in tow?  Ohhhh…it’s not so easy now, is it?  Hint – if the door is really heavy and hard to open, it’s not easily accessible.  If the toilet is very high up or doesn’t have a child-size toilet seat adapter (and they do exist) it’s not accessible.

The thing I like about this is that the standards expand and contract based on the library being discussed.  Forcing a library to have ten computers because that’s the state standard is silly if the library only sees 150 patrons a day and 125 of them are just in for reading materials. 

Thanks for the reminder about that conversation Sarah.  I love your business reference standards concept.  Maybe elements of the above service model can somehow be applied?  I don’t know…just thinking out loud!

Nice is a cheap budget item

In my home state of Michigan yesterday, two public libraries in affluent neighborshoods were closed because their ballot items didn’t pass.  It was heartbreaking because it wasn’t so much a reflection of the libraries themselves, but a reflection of city politics and politicians who used the libraries as pawns in their minor battles. 

In many states, library budgets are being slashed on all levels.  Whole state libraries are being closed, entire library systems dismantled, and staff members are told that they are being let go.

This isn’t news to you, I know.  So yesterday, when I walked into my local library, I was irritated by their attitude.  We’re talking about a library that charges $1 if a patron doesn’t have their library card.  Not because they need the money, but because it’s an incovenience to the staff.   When I asked to have my items renewed, I looked at one of the titles and said out loud “Oh crap!!!” To which the clerk replied, “Did you LOSE one of the LIBRARY BOOKS?!?!”  What type of assumption is that?  I said “Oh crap” because I had left it on the coffee table at home and had made a mental note to bring it with me. 

My point?  Nice is a cheap budget item.  It doesn’t cost you anything.  And I will tell you this – congratulations if your budget is secure, your library well-stocked, your patrons all well behaved and friendly – but  our institutions are under threat and nice means a lot – now more than ever.  I could go through a list of “best practices” but you know what they are.  It’s the action and the doing that takes energy.  And if you have staff members who aren’t friendly or enforce necessary policy in a rude way, then you need to stand up to them.  You can stand up to them gently but you must stand up to them.  That is hard, but it is needed.  Nice is needed.

I hope that most of you escaped this election season intact and with political leaders who support your organizations.  Whether you did or didn’t, I hope that you’ll make the commitment that no matter what, your library and staff will be dedicated to a culture dedicated to “nice” and the limitation of unnecessary and rigid policies.