What You Say AND How You Say It, Part 1: Consider the Job Ad

“Words are important.”  This is a phrase I’ve uttered many, many times – both in my previous position as Marketing Director and my current position as Library Director. Whether we are using words to demonstrate the promise of our brand or choosing words to describe our strategic direction, words matter.  This will be the first in a series of posts that illustrates that it’s not just about what we say, it’s also about how we say it.

words have power

Let’s consider the job ad.  Here are a few that might sound familiar:

Public Services Manager, Any Town Public Library (ATPL)

A highly responsible professional administrative position, the Public Services Manager will be a part of the ATPL  Leadership Team and coordinates the work of the Public Services Department, including but not limited to: reference, readers’ advisory, programming, circulation, outreach, and services for teens, adult, and seniors. The Manager supervises departmental subordinate supervisors and other employees, determines work schedules, recommends personnel actions…

Library Director,  Any Town Public Library (ATPL)

Under guidance and direction of the Board, the Library Director performs administrative, supervisory and professional work in planning and delivering library services. Implements Board policies and recommendations; manages  the daily operations  of the library; hires, trains,  and supervises staff; oversees library collection; prepares annual budget and associated financial reports, compiles monthly and annual statistics…

Sound familiar?  In a certain sense, there’s nothing wrong with these ads – they most likely served their purpose. ATPL probably hired people into both of these positions.

But do these ads reflect the culture of ATPL?  Do they make ATPL stand out from any other library out there?  Do they address the softer skills needed in these positions?  Do they serve as an initial touch point for the library, signalling the direction they are heading and what types of people they need to get there?  I don’t think so.  I think that these are missed opportunities to do all of the above. They miss out on the essential nature of the job ad:

“Remember that a job ad is still an ad. A lot of people forget that. You should be thinking like a marketer.” 

That quote is from Michael Overell, co-founder of RecruitLoop, a marketplace for independent recruiting, and included in a very good article from Inc, titled 9 Steps to Writing Job Ads Top Candidates Can’t Resist. 

Words aren’t the only important thing.  People are important – those we serve and those we employ to serve them.  Personally, I want to attract and employ people who are engaged, creative, strategic, and customer-focused.  If the words I use in job ads – often the first impression potential employees receive of the organization – are formal, bureaucratic, and impersonal, then chances are I’m not going to attract the folks I’d like to. And attracting and hiring the right people is incredibly important.  After all, personnel costs make up the majority of any library budget.

hiring meme

As Director at Chapel Hill Public Library, I’ve had the opportunity to advertise several key positions and hire great people into them.  Each time, in addition to carefully considering the nature of the position, the skills and experience needed, and rewriting the job description, I also created a job ad that would attract great candidates, signalling who we want, what we want them to do, and where we are heading as a library.  Here are few examples that have worked:


If the acronyms ILS, RFID, and PCRes excite you, then consider applying to be our Library Systems Manager.  Chapel Hill Public Library opened a newly expanded and renovated facility last year which includes state of the art technology for the public and our staff.  We are looking for someone who will effectively manage this technology and help us realize the greatest ROI on it. 

Here’s what you’ll need to be:

–          A tech geek and a people person
–          A strategic thinker and creative problem solver
–          A team leader and a team player
–          A skilled project manager who can guide an initiative from idea to execution
–          A future-focused professional with an understanding of emerging tech trends 

Sound like you?  Learn more about the position and how to apply here…


A/V production.  DIY crafts.  Homework help.  Cooking competitions.  Reading recommendations. Cartooning.  Personal finance.  College prep.  Health Information.   Videogame tournaments.  Book clubs.  LGBTQ issues.  Job prep.  Tech skills.

The youth of Chapel Hill have spoken!  Tweens and teens in our community want more responsive programs and services based on their needs and interests – in the library’s Teen Room, at our Parks and Rec facilities, and all around town.  We are looking for someone who can help us meet this demand and grow the Town’s slate of engaging, entertaining, and educational programs and services for youth.

Here’s what you’ll need to be:

–    Teen advocate, aficionado, and admirer
–    Innovative, out-of-the box thinking, 21st century librarian
–    Strategic collaborator, skilled communicator, and expert project
–    Enthusiastic and energetic lover of our library and our community
–    Cool (so that kids respect you) and professional (so that parents trust

Sound like you? Read more about the position and application process here…

Can you book talk ‘til you’re blue in the face? Do you know how to engage a Regency Romance reader, even though you’re a Sci Fi buff? Do you constantly pin, tweet, and post reading recommendations? Is Nancy Pearl a personal hero of yours? If this sounds like you, consider applying to be our Readers’ Services Coordinator.
Chapel Hill Public Library has a strategic goal of better serving adult readers – in the library, online, and out on the community. This new position will lead this effort and develop innovative services and engaging programs that will get even more adults in our community excited about reading. This position is a part of our newly formed Library Experiences Division and will supervise 6-8 Library Experience Assistants and Specialists.
Here’s what you’ll need to have:
– Subject matter expertise on all things RA, including best practices and emerging trends
– Creative strategies for merchandising and marketing collections, in house and online
– Ability to collaborate with others to provide great services and programs
– Ability to effectively train others to provide great RA service

 You’ll also need to have an MLS, at least three years of RA experience, and we’d prefer some supervisory experience as well. 

Sound like you? Read more about the position and application process here…

In each of these, we link to the more formal job descriptions, which generally must exist within the confines of HR and use the associated language (stooping, bending, lifting, squatting are some of my favorite aspects of a job description).

However, in each of these, we lead with much more engaging language that telegraphs what kind of person we are looking for (enthusiastic, energetic, innovative) and what kind of organization we are (future-focused, strategic, collaborative).  And in each of these, we had great candidates (many of whom commented on the refreshing tone of the job ad) and ultimately, great new hires.

The next time your library has a chance to recruit, whether for a part time library assistant or a deputy director, consider the opportunity that the job ad presents – and don’t forget to think like a marketer.


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Lessons to Library School Grads – Don’t Be Vader.

Today, I’m posting the text of the commencement speech I gave yesterday at the December graduation of the UNC School of Information and Library Science.  Lots of folks have asked me for it, so I thought I’d put it here.  Enjoy – and see you in 2015.


From Manning Hall to the Ice Planet of Hoth: Lessons for SILS Grads from The Empire Strikes Back

There are many books that graduates often receive as gifts – Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, The Tao of Pooh.  They all have some sort of deep and meaningful message for grads as you start out on the next stage of your life and career. But there’s another story that I think resonates just as much for you today. One that is also full of deep and meaningful messages as you start out on your careers. And it’s not a book. If I could, I would give you each a copy of The Empire Strikes Back.

Why this movie? I think it’s a treasure trove of wisdom – right up there with Dr. Seuss and Winnie the Pooh.  And it’s got AT-AT Walkers and the Millennium Falcon and a Wampa, so it’s even better.  Continue reading

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OMG! We got a JCD!

Recently, I received two great phone calls within a few weeks of each other.  The first was from Chapel Hill, NC, offering me the position of director at the Chapel Hill Public Library. The second was from the John Cotton Dana Award committee, letting me know that a project I spearheaded at Lawrence Public Library was selected to receive a 2013 John Cotton Dana Award.  If good things come in threes, I hope that Publisher’s Clearinghouse pops up on my Caller ID next!


The John Cotton Dana Award is called “the most prestigious award of the American Library Association.” Here’s a little more about it:

“The John Cotton Dana Award, provided in conjunction with the H.W. Wilson Foundation, the American Library Association and EBSCO Publishing, honors outstanding library public relations, whether a summer reading program, a year-long centennial celebration, fundraising for a new college library, an awareness campaign or an innovative partnership in the community.”

LPL received the award for our Banned Books Trading Card project, which we summarized for the judges:

“With seven collectible trading cards featuring art inspired by banned books and created by local artists, Lawrence Public Library’s Banned Books Trading Card project sought to raise awareness of Banned Books Week in a unique way, engage the local arts community, and bring wider exposure to the talented artists living and working in our community.  The project achieved these goals, garnered national media attention, and resulted in a few surprising outcomes that have given the project an extended life, long after the end of 2012’s Banned Books Week.”        Continue reading

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From Tarheel to Jayhawk to Tarheel….

I am thrilled to announce that I will be the next director of the Chapel Hill Public Library in Chapel Hill, NC. Almost seven years ago, my family left Chapel Hill to come to Lawrence, KS and we are pleased at the chance to return to a town that we love and a town that loves its library. I’ll spend the next few weeks wrapping up my marketing duties at Lawrence Public Library, and will take the helm of CHPL on May 20. I’ve had a great time and amazing opportunities here at Lawrence Public Library, where I’ve helped position the library as a deeply engaged community anchor and essential destination. I look forward to helping CHPL do the same!


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Better Book Displays

In my newest column for NoveList’s free newsletter, RA News, I update this older blog post about book displays. Hands down, this is *the* most popular article I’ve ever posted here – even beating out posts about social media and content marketing.

Why is this? Clearly, lots of libraries are doing book displays and lots want to do them better. And why are book displays important? I offer this answer in the conclusion to the article:

“And if you are wondering why displays are important at all, I have just two words for you – book discovery. It is the buzzword of the moment for libraries, booksellers, and publishers, with conferences devoted to the concept and new products that aim to make it easier. There are some librarians who will lament that this fancy new buzzword reflects what we have always done – help readers find their next book. However, in an era where readers can find discover books in the supermarket, on their iPhone, via Amazon, and from social sites such as Goodreads and Pinterest, we need to make sure that libraries are engaged in book discovery and consider it a priority. Better book displays are just one way of helping readers discover great books.”

Read the full article here…

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Six Questions with Kathy Dempsey

TheAccidentalLibraryMarketerFor this edition of  the 658.8 Interview, I reached out to Kathy Dempsey, library marketing consultant and author of The Accidental Library Marketer.  I’m a longtime follower of The M Word, a blog co-written by Kathy and Nancy Dowd.  Kathy’s consulting business is called Libraries are Essential and if you aren’t already following her on Facebook, stop what you’re doing and go do it!  You’ll get lots of great ideas and information every day.  Done? Okay, now you can read her answers to my six questions.   Continue reading

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Greetings from Seattle!

alamw13I’m in Seattle for the next few days, attending ALA Midwinter 2013.   There’s lots of good stuff for marketers on the schedule – I’ll live tweet from as many events as possible and post a roundup of the conference next week.  I’ll be at the PRTalk gathering this afternoon and if you are here in Seattle and want to connect, shoot me an email at 658point8@gmail.com or find me on Twitter at @658point8.

Also, I’ll share how I got here.  I was awarded a sponsorship by the the fine folks at EBSCO and ALA.  The competition asked for 250 words in response to the question, “The conversation starts here: How would you lead the discussion in your library to bring about meaningful change to an existing process, service, or procedure?”  Here’s what I wrote:   Continue reading

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