Challenging. Time-consuming. The first semester of this academic year has been…well, just that. I can’t remember a more busy time in my career as a librarian since 1998/99. (That’s another “perfect storm” story altogether.) And most of what I have been entwined with recently comes from outside my typical sphere of duties. Our institution is currently involved in the re-accreditation process, and I have landed on several self-study committees either as a chair or a resource person. Anyone who has been through the re-accreditation process (this is my 2nd go-around) understands what that means.
Honestly, most of my work energies over the last 3-4 months have been devoted to something outside of the library, and I kinda miss my job. (I should also note that I lament being socially MIA on Twitter, etc. with my peeps.) Special activities like re-accreditation are beneficial and much-needed. Nevertheless, at times I feel like a school kid wandering the streets in the middle of a weekday looking over my shoulder for a truant officer. (Am I abandoning my post?) Other times, I feel like Cinderella must have felt to be left scrubbing the floors while her sisters went out to the big event. (Am I missing the fun?)
I’m ready to be a librarian again…and in more ways than one. I’m ready to get back to what I know and love best. At the same time, I have been reflecting on just what it is that I know and love best.
Perhaps one of the benefits of this time away from my normal duties has been the ability to step out of the mix somewhat and reflect. I have been doing some soul-searching, or–more precisely–some mission-searching. Actually, I’ve been reflecting on “mission,” “purpose,” and the like for about a year now. Maybe this semester was the match to throw on the charcoals that I have been soaking in lighter fluid. When I heard from some of the library staff that they had a good conversation this week about the library’s purpose and identity, I knew that I was onto something.
So here’s what we as a library staff are going to do. In January we are going to hold an informal library staff forum to talk about our library and its role in our institution and higher education in general. We will reflect on:
- Who we (the library) are.
- What we do.
- How we do it.
A family meeting, so to speak. Who knows? We may even invite the academic dean and the president. (Open communication is golden.) The plan is simple: Talk, listen, and respond and then see what happens.
New year resolution. Spring cleaning. A first step. Utter nonsense. Call it what you will. We’re going to talk and listen, and hopefully we’ll come out on the other end all the better for having done so.
Time to go. I’ve got more re-accreditation work to do before breaking for the holidays.
I love the idea of collaboration. It broadens the creative knowledge base, creates a richer planning environment, provides opportunity for improved productivity, and fosters a broader sense of ownership.
Lynne Bisko and Rebecca Pope-Ruark (Elon University) have published an excellent article in the October issue of C&RL News entitled “Making the Video: Tips for Successful Library-Class Collaborations.” The article describes a collaborative effort between Elon’s Belk Library and a class supported by the University’s Center for Undergraduate Publishing and Information Design (CUPID). Bisko and Pope-Ruark conclude the article with some practical advice for other librarians considering similar collaboration with students. This is worth the read.
Opportunities for collaboration abound. Most recently on our campus, the library…
- Worked with some students in graphic design on logo concepts
- Coordinated with Student Services during the 2010 Census to educate students about the U.S. Census and provide information about Census jobs
- Also with Student Services, shared information about career-related resources and will be crafting a plan for embedding library resources on the Student Services website
- Is considering a collaborative effort between our library and a marketing class
- Has begun a conversation with the Art Department about a partnership involving the creativity of some art students, paint, and library walls. The students are loving the idea. I’ll be walking through the library with an art professor later today. Exciting stuff.
Does your library have any stories of collaboration across campus? Successes? Learning experiences?
About 8 months ago I wrote a post offering kudos to one of our library staff members. It struck a cord with a fair number of readers. Now, with some new introductory material, it has been re-published in the October issue of OCLC Cooperative eNews.
I did not agree to this because it would be something to add to my curriculum vitae and pat myself on the back. Rather, I did this because I saw an opportunity to use an available channel to cheer a well-deserving library staff member AND spread the word about the value of libraries and those who work in them.
May we all continue to collect our “success stories” and use them to advocate the value of libraries every chance we get. Whether it’s in a newsletter, newspaper, board meeting, YouTube video, or on the street corner, talk it up with anyone who is willing to listen.
Later today I will be heading toward the coast to attend the South Carolina Library Association Annual Conference 2010 in Myrtle Beach. This year’s conference is entitled, “South Carolina Libraries: Advocacy from the Ground Up.” Keynote speakers include:
- Roberta Stevens, President of the American Library Association
- Lynne Bradley, Director of the Office of Government Relations of the ALA’s Washington Office
- Walter Edgar, Southern historian/author and Director of the Institute for Southern Studies at the University of South Carolina
The slate of concurrent sessions includes some interesting topics, and I have some good friends among the presenters. It promises to be a fun and productive time.
I’ll be on Twitter (@jkennerly) and using the hashtag #scla10. Send me a tweet if you would like to connect.
Over the last few weeks, the maintenance crew has been preparing a large portion of our campus grounds for re-seeding. There has been a flurry of activity: tilling, aerating, leveling the soil; removing large obstacles of debris, rocks, sticks, etc.; selecting the seed to be used; and before all of that, planning and more planning.
Seeing this happen today, I thought of an application for my job. I wonder:
Am I planting any seeds now that will bring future benefit to my library users?
The outcome of the maintenance crew’s hard work to sow the seeds on our campus lawn is uncertain. A person drops a seed and hopes that it will make contact with the soil, germinate, take root, and transform from that simple beginning to a beautiful creation that paints a lush green on the landscape. One thing is for certain though: If the seed never gets planted, don’t expect the grass to show up later.
Are we making efforts to deliberately do things now that may come to fruition only after some time has passed? If you believe something to be of benefit, don’t give up on it simply because you don’t see results right away. Granted, sometimes we try, fail, and simply need to cut our losses and move on. The seed simply isn’t going to grow. At other times, however, the seed just needs time to make contact, germinate, take root, and transform from a simple idea to something beautiful and useful.
I don’t consider myself to be an expert marketeer. While I understand the purpose, value, and need of promotional efforts, marketing has never been one of my strong suits. I continue to look to others for guidance and training in this area.
That is what drew me to the book Marketing Today’s Academic Library: A Bold New Approach to Communicating with Students by Brian Mathews. What I found was an engaging, well-crafted text with a clear thesis and a fresh approach to marketing in academic libraries. A quote from the publisher’s description best describes the purpose of the book:
Most library marketing intended for undergraduates promotes the collection, reference and instructional service, and occasional events such as guest speakers or exhibits. The guiding principle of Marketing Today’s Academic Library is that marketing should focus on the lifestyle of the user, showcasing how the library fits within the daily life of the student.
Bottom line: In all academic library marketing efforts, the student–the library user–should always be front-and-center.
The book flows well from chapter to chapter and is filled with valuable insights and advice for anyone interested in employing marketing strategies for their library. And, yes, while the book is specifically targeted towards those in academic libraries, there are useful nuggets of information to be found for those working in any type of library. I would even argue for its benefit to other departments on the academic campus or anyone serving students in general. If nothing else, Mathews’ insights on understanding today’s student are worth reading.
Mixed in with philosophical discussion of marketing to students, you will find plenty of practical advice and examples of how to engage in the various stages of marketing efforts. As a result Mathews has presented an excellent resource for those wishing to engage in library promotion and, more importantly, improving the student experience.
A few quotes from the book…
My objective in not to persuade you that libraries should embrace marketing methods, but rather to demonstrate the possibility of creating a richer library experience. (p. 1)
Promotional efforts must be social in nature, aimed at starting conversations instead of simply treating our users as a captive audience. (p. 2)
…instead of simply focusing on generating awareness or even just increasing use of resources, we should approach…our marketing as a chance to elevate the role of the library in our student’s minds. …We are not just providing more books, more journals, more computers, more staff to help them, but rather more relevance. (p. 141)
A basic outline of the book…
Chapter 1 — Making a case for marketing/advertising in libraries
Chapter 2 — Understanding the characteristics and activities that help define today’s students
Chapter 3 — Understanding student “need states” (that is, what they need in the academic setting)
Chapter 4 — Understanding and identifying those things that the library has to offer
Chapter 5 — Techniques and tips on ways to conduct marketing research in order to guide your advertising campaign
Chapter 6 — Realizing the importance of building relationships with library users and ways to go about doing so
Chapter 7 — Strategies and techniques for branding the library and its products
Chapter 8 — Presentation of practical “building blocks” that can make up the various pieces of a promotional campaign
Chapter 9 — Advice on designing the promotional message to be shared
Chapter 10 — Measuring and assessing the promotional campaign
Chapter 11 — An offering of practical lessons learned along the way by Mathews as well as a collection of promotional campaign examples
Work in an academic library? Looking for ways to effectively promote your resources and services to students? Want to “elevate the role of the library” for your students? I recommend Mathews’ book.