Monday, May 6, 2013
If you are not marketing, you are not communicating. If you are not communicating, the community knows nothing about your library. Interesting thought to ponder for library administrators today. Library directors are not thought of as marketing scholars but then again I don't believe any director, or assistant director ever thought they would have to be the Human Resources chief either. It's all in the vain of going with the what you have versus complaining about what you don't have. Which leads to marketing. Without ever having to take a course in business most librarians can do what comes natural Think about the costumer. Pin point what they like or want. Then always and it is imperative to remember this point. Post it on the office door or on the desk. It is simply this: always communicate the positive. Whether your library is big, as in a major city's library or small as in rural libraries, all marketing concerns and hurdles are the same. Finding cost effective means to get the message out. Thanks to the digital era, marketing programs and news about the library can be as simple as tweeting about new bestsellers that have arrived to the registration date of Summer reading programs. However, printed library newsletters that are mailed to every resident can still add value when considering that there are still those without an electronic footprint. Or as one patron once said in a library surgery, "getting something in the mail has a personal touch. Its a sign that someone took the extra effort to reach out to the recipient." Communicating to someone is very personal. One can argue that the old fashioned mail to every address is expensive. This is not that case anymore. The United States Postal Service has made it very affordable to mail business promotions to every address for a rate that is almost too good to be true. (check out Every Door Direct Mail at www.usps.com) As with any business, a library strives or dives by the image it has in the community If the image is negative, then the flow of patrons dwindles down. Which cab lead to losses in state aid. To keep the revenue flowing, all libraries become positive brand promoters. When enticing the taxpayers to visit the library often and offering positive value to the community, the library director has made the community a partner in the library's future. This is not an easy task to do because it is a very delicate balance to achieve. For example, situations can arise where libraries will remains "loyal" to a small portions of the community because this is the group that has always supported the library. This is costly to the library in the sense that they have risked the future of the library. It's good to reward the loyal diehards who always walk into the library. However, if the diehards are demanding that nothing changes, then communicating to entire community is a worthless task and the image of the library as being able to serve only a select few is ingrained in the community. The image of the public library should be that it is there to serve the community. All can agree that the best image of the library is that it is equipped to take on the challenges of the future and use public monies well. The difficulty of small libraries is that with limited funds sometimes it is hard to keep up with the changes. Larger libraries can project that image better. Even if that is the case, a positive image can make the challenges seem invisible. If a library director can create marketing and communications plans that focuses personal and positive messages. It is also important to remember to be persistent. This is another way of saying be polite when nagging. Consider the local dentists who sends out reminders every six months that it's time for a teeth cleaning. The persistence in getting the patient in doesn't stop there. It is often followed up with a friendly phone call to remind the patient of the need to get their teeth cleaned and how convenient is it that the receptionist can schedule that appointment right now? Libraries don't need to schedule appointments but they do need to get their patrons in the door. An email blast may not be enough to get patrons' attention. It may have to be a combination of methods to motivate them to come to the library. Whatever combination works, it is the libraries' best interest to do use it again and again. Marketing and communications is not a one size fits all deal. Every library will find a way to reach out in their own way. The key to being successful at this is to always being communicating with your community. Any opportunity to communicate to the public about what the library does and what it can do should not be wasted or overlook. Finally, don't be afraid to fail. Sometimes, failure is the best teacher.
Friday, May 3, 2013
Michael Kelley, editor of Library Journal posed a very interesting question in his editorial (published May 1, 2013) about the education of a librarian. In particular, is a Master's Degree really necessary for the profession. Should we do away with the requirements? Is it time we had the discussion about why the degree is no longer needed. Gee, Mr. Kelley from your own arguments in the editorial it would seem apparent why the degree is needed The fact that your own experience in acquiring the degree was less then stellar or helpful does not negate the need for the Master's Degree. Quite the opposite, it may be that some MSLS programs are not quite as good as others. Perhaps what is needed is a review over which schools should get a more rigorous review in their accreditation process. For the sake of being open minded, let's review the reason's why Mr. Kelley feels the degree has out lived it's purpose. The profession would be better served if there were an apprenticeship process instead of going to a university to receive the degree. Well, sure on the job training is always a good thing but would people be comfortable going to a doctor whose background in surgery was only based on an apprenticeship? Would they wonder if the doctor he apprenticed with was one of the best or a quack? Before arguing that librarians are not doctors and this isn't a fair example. Consider this: as a society we are constantly looking for checks and balances to validate a person's expertise. If there is a job that does not require an specific degree, the assumption is that anyone can fill that job. The example of a doctor not obtaining a medical degree is a valid one. Not everyone can be a doctor. Which is why the medical profession requires that one not only complete a medical courses to earn a degree but also complete an internship, which is similar to an apprenticeship. Has Mr. kelley considered that maybe a library program should require an internship program to complete the requirements of librarianship education? For the record, there are accredited Library Science programs that make it a requirement for their students. The editorial blatantly looked past that consideration. Secondly, the excuse that currently, the profession's wages do not match the level of education, is poor. Across the board, many professions are feeling the effects of a lagging economy. Salaries and benefits were not what they once were ten years ago or twenty years for that matter. If that is the case, then perhaps a four year college education is not worth the time or money to invest. Perhaps, technical schools or community colleges would serve the purpose just as well, if not better. As a matter of fact, In a recent survey conducted by Gerogetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, nearly 30% of Americans with associate's degrees now earn more than those with bachelor's degrees. Should the conversation about the value of any advance degree be up for discussion? Mr. Kelley is quite right that many libraries are now hiring non-degreed librarians to run the library as in the rural areas and in bigger cities they are hiring non-degreed personal to cut costs in the budgets. Stating that the profession should not require a MSLS is conceding that it is not necessary to hire a professional librarian. Thus delivering a close to knock out blow of the value of the profession. If the degree were no longer a requirement what would be the consequences on librarians' salaries as a whole? An honest and educated guess would be that salaries would continue to decline. Finally, we are in the most exciting times of our profession. Librarians have opportunities that can extend outside of the boundaries of the traditional library. The digital era has brought about new ways of communicating, sharing and finding information. This isn't your grandmother's library. Far from it. If anything, the MSLS can help new librarians explore all the options of this brave new digital world. Yet, the editor of the trusted journal of the profession muses about how the value of MSLS. Pardon being so blunt, but this is not only damaging to the image of the librarian but also disheartening. If there are many others who believe as Mr. Kelley does, then there is little hope for the profession to survive. It will be a slow slide into mediocrity. Which eventually leads to the demise of the profession. That would be a very sad thing to have happen.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
The past couple of weeks have been filled with nostalgia. That happens when a librarian looks around and witness incredible changes in our library and technology. It is absolutely stunning at times to remember where we have been and where we are going. The technology that we have today will seem like child's play in fire years or so. Among all the changes some things will never change. The power of a story. The absolute pure joy and thrill to share that story with young ones. Story time programs are the first library doors that are opened to children. It's an amazing task for a good librarian to introduce children to the library world and help them grow to love everything about the library. There are moments in a story time when the children's librarians know that the half hour will be a good one or a bad one. The veterans in the field know the tell tale signs of a child who does not want anything to do with story time, the other children or the library. They cling to mom or dad. They cry. They will do anything possible to not participate. Those times can be difficult. Sometimes, the only option it seems is to have the child leave. That's the very last resort. The best thing to do is to cut the story time short a bit and allow the children time to explore the library with their parents. They may end up finding a favorite corner to hare books together. However, when the magical moment happens, and all eyes are glued to the book that is being shared, there is no amount of technology that can take the place of the one on one experience. From the moment the story begins to the very last page, its as if everything has stopped. the world outside the children's room keeps bustling about. The children and the librarian on the other hand have "virtually" left the building. Entering another world where words sweep them in and pictures absorbs the group into their world. It seems as if nothing can penetrate this shard world. Not even a video game, which seems almost impossible these days. Every children's librarian seeks and craves for this moment. It is an absolute joy. It's one the one joy that should never be taken out of the library. Not even for budget cuts. Why share this idea of the perfect moment in story time? Perhaps because this world is so filled with noise, distractions and static that it is good to reflect on what the library does best for the young ones. A quiet place to escape and visit another world with friends. The imagination is so much better than video games. Perhaps we should as library professionals continue to reinforce that in our every day encounters with patrons of all ages.
Monday, April 29, 2013
It goes without saying that there is never a dull moment in a public library. A reference question can either cause a librarian to go on a wold goose chase or leave one scratching their heads wondering what really is going on in a patron's mind when they asked a particular question. Let's face it anyone who has spent anytime on a reference desk will have wonderful stories that they retell over and over again about their most memorable patron. Here's a few to get a few smiles on a Monday as we start the week. As a fresh out of grad school librarian working in a mid-sized public library on a Saturday the typical reference questions are expected. Like the homework assignments on the plants or the latest book by Dean Koontz. On this particular saturday a woman in her late fifties maybe early sixties comes up to the desk and inquires about books on medical surgeries. As a young librarian eager to help, the reference interview goes as follows: Young Librarian: "Is this pertaining to patient health information, to help you decide if you want to have the surgery done?" Patron responds, "No. I want to know how to perform the surgery." Young librarian: "I see. Books of those nature are not normally found in a public library but you may want to consult a medical library. I would be more than happy to direct you to the health information center or the area where books on the human body can be found." Patron looking perplexed, " You don't have books on how to do surgery?" Young librarian, smiles and answers politely, "No I'm sorry we do not." Patron responses, "Well, I just want to do the surgery myself. I don't trust the doctor to work on my husband." With that the patron walks away. As the patron walks away, the librarian can't help but wonder who to be more sorry for, the wife or the husband. Phone calls coming into the library are a cross between the super easy to the I'm not sure why you called category. Most of the times patrons calling in are asking non reference questions such as "What time do you close?" or "When is the teen program starting?" Simple. Direct. No brainer questions right. Then there are times when patrons call in with spelling questions. Again, no brainer for the most part. Unless the patron not only questions the librarian's ability to look up a word but also the authority of the author of the dictionary. This is too weird to even make up. A man called up his local library to inquire how to spell apprentice. As all well trained librarians know, the best source to use is a Webster's dictionary. After looking up the word, the librarian then proceeds to spell the word to the patron. Patron replies, "Are you sure? That doesn't look right." The librarian quotes her source that she is using the Webster's Dictionary copyright 2010. After a brief pause, "Is he an expert in English grammar and spelling?" The librarian not knowing if this is a prank or not, reassures the patron that Webster has been established as "the source" on spelling since the beginnings of American's history. The man then replies, "Well there must have been a typo in the printing of this dictionary that no one caught, because he got it wrong. You may want to find another dictionary to buy next time, He probably got other words wrong too." With that he hung up. Hmm. Poor Daniel Webster, he's been dissed and can't even defend his work! Last but certainly not least of the examples here, is a story of a child who loved her library so much that she didn't want to leave. After a story time, a little girl and her mother go to the children's room to browse through the stacks to find books to take home. After about twenty minutes, the mother informs her daughter that they have to leave. The little girl looks up and says, "but I'm reading a book." The mother responds that they can check out the book and the girl can continue reading it at home. "No." says the little girl and continues to read her book. The mother decides a couple of more minutes at the library will not hurt anything, so she informs her daughter that she is going to look for a book for herself. When she returns the little girl should be ready to leave. The girl does not even look up and acknowledges what her mother has just said. She continues to read and looks totally absorbed in the story. The mother than leaves the room and after fifteen minutes she returns to find her daughter right where she left her. Busy with her nose in the book. "Honey, it's time to go." she gently nudges her daughter, to which the daughter responds, "Nope. Not ready. I need to finish this book." Mother clearly getting a little upset, " Don't be impossible. You can check out that book and finnish it at home." To which the girl replies, "But I don't have a library at home and it's the best place for me to read." The mother pauses and says, "Well, you can pretend you have a library at home and read in your bedroom where it's nice and quiet." Without blinking an eye the daughter says, "In my bedroom I sleep. In the library I read. You just want me to nap instead of reading." The girl continues on with reading her book. The mother uses one last attempt to reason with her daughter before she is forced to close the book and pick up her daughter, forcing her to leave. "If you don't get up right now, I'm going to leave you here all alone." the girl with big blue eyes, finally takes her eyes off her book, and says "Go ahead. I'm safe here with plenty of books to read." With that last statement, the mother takes the book for the child, puts it in her library bag to check out and picks up a the girl who is now wailing and letting everyone within the library know, "I LOVE MY BOKKS! I WANT MY BOOKS" Aw, if only that could be captured in a PSA for libraries! Everyday there is something new to talk about in the library. What makes libraries wonderful are the patrons who visit them on a regular bases. Without them, the libraries' story would not be interesting or inviting. Perhaps, the American Library Association should promote a National Library Patron Appreciation Day. AFter all without them, libraries would have no reason to exist.
Labels: American Library Association, Patrons reference questions reference interview children reading surgical surgery Webster dictionary
Monday, February 4, 2013
In an anti-tax environment libraries across the United States are going to have to do some soul searching. Especially in states where the economy is not doing well due to high unemployment and soaring cost of living expenses. It seems that prices are going up on everything, which means that libraries are feeling the same pinch. Once again, many libraries are turning to the tried method of mileage proposals on the ballot to raise the revenues they need. In the past couple of election cycles, there have been many success stories of libraries passing their mileages. However, if the economy takes another downward turn, as many economic indicators predict, the mileages won't mean a thing if taxes can't be paid. It is very likely that the anti-tax voice will get stronger and louder. Libraries must be bolder than just going after the tried and true money box of mileages. It may be time to consider privatizing libraries for profit and secure a future. Before the naysayers raise their objections, consider the following points. Publishers are in no hurry to help out libraries as it relates to ebooks. Frankly, it is probably the moment they have been waiting for all their proverbial lives. The chance to squeeze out not only libraries but booksellers too. Why else would three out of the six major publishers refuse to sell ebooks to libraries? The other three that are willing to sell to libraries overprice the books to capitalize on profit. It's not "fair" that libraries lend out books to readers, who thus get to enjoy the book for free. Here's a crazy thought: avid readers love to share the books they read with others. Electronically or in print they will find a way to loan their friends a copy of their book. It's a fact of life. Publishers need to realize that libraries are as part of the society as apple pie and Chevrolet. Not matter what form the libraries take, there will always be libraries serving an important role in the community. Having said that, there needs to be an effort to encourage publishers to lower prices and sell to libraries. For once and for all, it has to be proven that it is a win win situation for both parties. Especially with indepent publishers pushing their way into the market and making an impact that could be comparable to when paperbacks made their breakthrough in reading habits. The problem with the publishers is only a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to library survival. The digitization of our culture is another battle that must be won. Libraries can talk about the digital divide and how it is important to bring everyone on board to the new digital reading world until they are blue in the face. The fact of the matter is, when push comes to shove the haves and the have nots in this world will not matter one iota when paychecks get smaller and everyone is grumbling about the cost of everything. Start asking for more tax revenue and it may make th4 ecommunity begin to question do they need a library. Forbes did a wonderful two part article on why libraries matter. The basic premise is that librries are needed as an insstitution where reading is promoted. The Library also acts as a gathering place for informtioan and meeting. Wonderful. What they fail to address is the promotion of librareis as a return of investment (ROI) for the community. If this can not be provem, a community will look a the library as a dinosaur and unable to change. If the discussion is going to turn to practical usage of taxpayer dollaars and community benefits it might be time to consider consolidating or communities sharing resources. For example, many cities have found ways to share police and fire resources to help the finacial bottom line of both communites. While it is always a nice idea that every community deserves a library, perhaps a better way to view it is that every community dsserves access to a library. With the digital age and downloading capabilities there is no reason why communities can not share one library building and serve multiple communities. Returning to the origianl idea of privitizing libraires. The question becomes is there a "product" that libraries offer. yes. It's called information in any form a patorn desires it and for any purpose be it educational or entertainment. Those agains selling or using information as a commodity fail to remember that the first public library in the United States was not free. It was supported on a subscription basis. think of it this way, if the population valued their libraries as much as they say do they do, they won't be mind paying for it like they do for cable or cell phones. It is a servcie that is wanted, therefore it is not rolled into a tax. Libraries have relied so heavily on the tax systme that it may very well be to their demise. Perhaps they are are afraid it will be harder to fund a private library becasue they do not see a commitment from their own communities to their libraries. If that is the case, then shame on librarians for going along with the status quo and not even trying to venture out to something new. Clinging on to old ways is a recipe for disaster. Time to look at new revenues, new challenges and finding the solutions to make it work for the future. Stay tuned this is a discussion that will be reviseted in the months to come.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
There are many polls and stats that label certain professions as being the most stressful or the least appreciated. Librarians is hardly ever on those lists. There's plenty of reasons the omission on these lists. One very important one is that it almost always ranks high in job satisfaction. As the year draws to a close and a new one is just beginning, it's time to consider as John Lennon asks of us each year around htis time, "What have we done?" Librarians have been at the forefront of the information age when it began in the late 80's and zoomed into the 1990's with the Internet taking society on the virtual road trip. The places we have been and yet to go on this information highway is surreal at times. The internet has made patrons comfortable on finding things out on their own. It should have been a wonderful moment for libraries, yet the potholes on the information highway proved to be more troublesome than anticipated. For example, too much information, too little attention to accuracy and too much time spent on gaming, chatting and other time wasters. Librarians continue to struggle with copyright issues and validating a persons' work. In the era instant gratification it seems that the Internet has created he illusion that real research is as easy as a few keystrokes. In reality, research on the internet requires boolean searching skills, patient to go beyond the initial first searches to validate data and a professional librarian who can help and teach how to find the back roads of the information highway. There has been much done on teaching about the information highway but there are still problems that continue to nag the profession. The constant need to prove the value of libraries in a digital era is just one out of many that pops into mind. E-readers and tablets like iPad have significantly changed the way librarians deal with the printed word. Many librarians believed that the day would never arrive when patrons would prefer downloading a book to checking a hard cover out. Thankfully there were librarians who saw the opportunity to serve other patrons by providing online databases and digital contents. With all opportunities there are some strings attached. First and foremost the many different brands of e-readers. Librarians are finding that on a daily basis they are working more with electronic gadgets and becoming techie geeks whether they want to or not. Putting that aside, which is really quite a small detail when considering digital content is chewing up more budget dollars than any library director would like. There continues to be a battle for the library to provide patrons with quality information sources while still holding down the bottom line. It is with fingers crossed that librarians are hoping that a compromise can be reached between publishers and libraries. Could authors jump into the fray of the conversation and defend their library friends? Once could hope. One last note on what has been done this year is the role of the librarian in each library. It is a sad to see many young grads coming out of library schools without the opportunities to work in libraries. Budget are tight to be sure but there is something else that is happening that is being ignored entirely by the profession. There are too few full-time jobs and to many part-time positions. On top of that, many of the smaller to mid size libraries are quite comfortable with clerks and non-graduates with a Bachelor's Degree or less do the work required of a librarian. It is dismal and disheartening. While these libraries who follow this practice may not have the funds to pay a professional and mean well. However, for the people that they serve this is a disaster. It cheapens the profession, library services and libraries in general. It would be far better if state libraries and library associations withhold the credentials and state aid of these libraries until they have at least one Library Science graduate on staff. This may seem harsh but in the long run it will strengthen libraries across the board. For those who would argue that every community deserves a library, the response should be that every community deserves access to a library. It's not the quantity of libraries that's important, its the quality. There is good news for the library professionals in the way of finding opportunities to work. Librarians are realizing just how versatile their education has helped them to become. A librarian is at the core knows the value of the commodity called information. Bring people and information together is done at a public library everyday. Yet, that's not the only place this can happen. Not only that, with a little imagination and creativity, there's no telling what librarians can conjure up to help our fellow man and child. Yes, the good news is that we have accomplished much this year. The better news is that the world is waiting for librarians to take charge in navigating the digital information maze. The best news is that there are so many talented librarians who can take this challenge on successfully and creatively! Here's to an exciting 2013!
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
This is the season where wishes and dreams come true. Where little ones hop onto a jolly old man's lap and give a list of all the things they dream about all year long. Librarians are no different. Yes, its true many may be older and wiser. The case can be made that librarians share the same child like curiosity and wonder as those little ones who sit in storytimes. Of course, the "real" Santa does not normally grant wishes to grown ups but perhaps this might be the year where the jolly old man from the North Pole might find it in his heart to grant a wish or two from the dozen presented here. (By the way for the little ones who are wondering who the "real" Santa is, here's a hint: He's not at your local mall.) So Santa, for librarians everywhere who are hoping for a little Christmas miracle in their libraries, here is a list of Christmas gifts that is sure to put a smile on every librarians' face and for their patrons too. 1. A big spacious library that offers everything for everybody. A spacious children's room for youngsters to explore or find a quite spot to read. Plenty of study and meeting rooms for group discussions. Programming facilities that provides good views from any seating area and comfortable seating to boot. 2. Two great conferences for the library professionals to grow, exchange ideas and bring back to their communities a whole host of exiting ideas that will help their patrons receive the very best library service possible. 3. Three wise and wonderful library advocates that represent the community either locally, statewide or nationally. Yes, librarians would love community leaders such as mayors, state representatives, and congressmen to not only understand the challenges of libraries today but also be the voice needed to represent libraries on every level. It would be wonderful if the entire legislature were pro-libraries but at this point, librarians aren't greedy. Three to start with would be wonderful. 4. Four more hours in the day to read all the wonderful books that stir the imagination and make reader's advisory a joyful part of the profession. As it is now, reading book reviews are the closest that librarians get to reading the actual books. As the saying goes, so many books so little time! 5. Five incredibly awesome Author visits that can make any dull book discussion group rock! Many authors are the best advocates for libraries. Having them visit libraries is like having Madonna go to a music store to promote music appreciation. 6. Six publishers (and they know who they are) who finally see the light that libraries are not their foes. Libraries are indeed their friends. The gift that would be best here relates to e-books and pricing. If all six publishers would re0think their pricing for libraries and make it economical for everyone involved what a much nicer world it would be to see print and electronic text coexists in the library. 7. Seven generous philanthropists who would not only donate funds to help libraries meet the demands of a changing digital information driven world but help in annual fundraising campaigns also. 8. Eight weeks of Summer Reading Programs that are wonderful, creative, inexpensive and suited for every age. Who wants to cut summer short because the funding was not there? Rhetorical question but if anyone is still trying to figure out the answer they are not a true library lover. l 9. Nine teens leaping to get to computers that have all the resources plus the opportunity to "like" their favorite library on Facebook. Maybe they might even retweet a librarian or two? 10. Ten year millage that is renewed every ten years without fail and with full community support --- and that would be for every library in every city in every state. Well, that may be extreme but perhaps settling for our own communities would be acceptable. 11. Eleven pipers who daily sing the praises of libraries and help with free positive PR that every library needs on a daily basis Social media has made getting the positive word out about what libraries offer. Get those eleven pipers pipping away in the real world as well as the virtual one 12. Twelve months of library programming that keeps the patrons begging for more. Which in turn, will inspire the librarians to come up with twelve more months of wonderful programming for the the next year. Without a doubt, Santa can handle these requests. As Christmas Eve approaches, librarians will hang their stockings with care, snuggle up with a good book and wait for Santa to arrive at their library. Hopefully with at least one of these big items in his bag.