Having spent all day yesterday in the MLA MEMO legislative session planning forum, I found the Influencing Politicians blog post from the Changing Minds Blog right on. He says that politicians like things that make them look good — doesn’t everybody? Long ago, while working for the Air Force, a commander’s favorite line was “make me look good.” Great advice, and I’ve found it useful . . . concentrate on making my boss look good, whether that’s a middle-manager, a board of directors, or ultimately the stock holders or tax payers. Doesn’t matter as much how I look as how the boss and/or funders look.
Thanks to Stephen’s Lighthouse for pointing out ChangingMinds.org, which includes the Changing Minds Blog. Great common sense stuff, all pulled together in a neat package. Really useful index of topics on management, everything from job analysis to storytelling, two topics very close to my priority list lately.
Every once in a while it’s good to remind myself how good my job is, and how important and valued is the business I’m in. It would be tempting to lose heart with the daily battles that aren’t easily won because of inadequate funding or ill-informed news stories like the one in my previous post stating “. . . . libraries have slowly lost their place at the forefront.”
Then a blast of sunlight cuts through the gloom, and I am re-energized. Such was the case this week, when I was asked to travel north to one of my communities to join community members in touring a potential new library site. In that town, the much loved branch library is crammed into a space one quarter the minimum size that it should be. While everyone has agreed that the library needs more space, it looked like it would not happen for a good long time.
Then a property went on the market and it appears to be a strong possibility for a new home for the library. So I joined the group of community movers and shakers that included the mayor, city council, library Friends and board, county commissioners, and city and county officials. Even a representative of the Congressman’s office came and presented her personal check. We toured the facility and then sat down to talk about how to make this happen. It was one of those pinch-me-this-is-a-dream moments. While there were healthy questions and resolute plans to research potential pitfalls, the over-riding attitude was we can make this happen.
It was a wonderful afternoon. This town values their library and the role it plays in the community culture. I was reminded once again why we’re there, and in every other community in our region.
Here’s a great idea from Marylaine Block’s weekly e-zine (#299, 22 June 2007). In her newsletter article today, Knowledge Pushers, Marylaine says that libraries are more than books. She cites the value of the knowledge of librarians. She says:
We know how to get grants, how to track our ancestors, how to digitize precious historical and family photos, and how to entice children to read. We know how to find trustworthy factual information on political candidates and important public issues. We’ve done the research and can tell anxious parents about the capabilities and limitations of various internet filters; we can also suggest other ways to keep kids safe as they explore the net.
She suggests that the reason the public doesn’t know is that we don’t tell them, that libraries wait for people to come to us, when we could go out to the community. Marylaine says that as the director goes out (I hope that’s so, but I fear too many times it’s not), so could other library staff.
All this reminded me of Rochesterfest — where I’ve found wonderful food the last couple of days (why cook?). At Rochesterfest, there is a row of food stands, run by our great local restaurants. People who go to the festival find great food from vendors whose restaurants they may never have thought to try.
So, just like the restaurateur, who comes to meet new customers where they are, the library will bring valuable information to people where they are through the library speakers’ bureau.
While I don’t work in a library that provides direct service to end users, I do get the chance to speak to groups (as do most of the librarians I work with) – and really get charged up when I invited to do so. I’ve spoken to church libraries, Rotary, groups of teachers and librarians, led a book discussion for a tea, and am looking forward to this fall when among other meetings I’ll be doing a presentation for the Friends of the Mabel Public Library.
Kathy Dempsey, editor in chief of Computers in Libraries posted this to the PR Talk listserv this morning: posted here with Kathy’s permission
. . . when someone wonders why America still bothers with libraries, refer the un– informed person to Bill Gates. you have to admit, he’s one of the country’s richest and, likely, smartest men. so if libraries are useless, why does Gates continue to support them with millions of dollars? if he sees that much value in them, they must be worthwhile, and still necessary, right? especially considering Gates is all about technology! yet he champions libraries and helps bring them up-to-speed technically. therefore they must still be worth using.
Kathy also recommended an article in Educause Review, If the Academic Library Ceased to Exist,Would We Have to Invent It? by Lynn Scott Cochrane, Director of Libraries at Denison University. It could apply to other types of libraries, as well. Ms Cochran relates a fictitious college which quit supporting the collections and staff of the library, and instead gave each student the prorated amount of money spent on their behalf for the library – $1,230. The college did leave the library doors open, without management or staff and only kept a cleaning service.
The article relates how a typical student spent their money and how inadequate other sources of information were, the public library with its typical collection or a nearby academic college which had made a similar decision regarding funding. It reminds me of the disturbing trend I’m seeing in the libraries I serve where funding is cut by cities, counties, boards, administrators, etc. with the rationale that the patron or student can just go use other libraries in the community. Situations like this are really happening — such as the case in Jackson County Oregon, where all 15 libraries are closing at the end of their normal business day on April 6th. See my posting on SELCO Librarian, 10 Reasons for Public Libraries.