#LibraryProblems

You’re probably familiar with the popular site Librarian Problems and the hashtag #librarianprblms.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about LIBRARY problems.  The essential question I’ve been asking when faced with an issue to address, a decision to make, a resource to allocate, or a problem to solve is this:

Are we solving a library problem? Or are we helping solve a community problem?

At CHPL, we’ve had the great good fortune to work with Aaron Schmidt on a year-long LSTA grant to assess and improve the user experience on all fronts. It’s transformative work that will have an impact long after the grant cycle ends.  In one of our earliest workshops with him, he brought up this idea and it has stuck with me.  I can’t even recall the context or the slide from the slide deck, but the message was this – Let’s make sure we are solving a community problem and not a library problem.

library problems

It’s simple, right?  This is the essence of the business we are in, right?  We are problem solvers!  Whether helping a job seeker with a resume, a student finish a project, or making our space available for free tax help, we solve problems for and with our users and communities.

However, sometimes we lose perspective on the problem that needs solving.  Sometimes we get overly invested in solving problems of our own creation and we forget to ask the essential question – “Whose problem is this?”

Here are a few refrains I often hear:

  • “How can we increase program attendance?”
  • “We have to get our circ numbers up.”
  • “How can we get more people to use the databases we pay so much for?”

I think that these are all library problems.  Libraries do something – plan a program, acquire materials, subscribe to databases – and then solve the problems that arise from those things.  The solution to these problems isn’t a better program flyer or more displays or ordering promotional materials from the database vendor.   Continue reading “#LibraryProblems”

50 Shades of Change

I have never been change-averse.  Over the course of my career, I have taken the Change Style Indicator several times.  It’s an assessment tool that measures a person’s preferred style in approaching, addressing, and managing change.  Your score puts you somewhere on the change style spectrum of Conserver, Pragmatist, or Originator:

Conservers are cautious, deliberate, and prefer incremental change that does not significantly disrupt the existing structure or system.  They may appear resistant to change but they are also thoughtful about all the details and consequences.

Pragmatists are open to necessary, functional change and help facilitate it  by listening, mediating, planning, and carefully considering all of the issues as they seek common ground.  They are the practical project managers who actually make the change happen.

Originators are the disruptors with big ideas and a high tolerance for risk.  They prefer change that is fast and radical and paradigm-shifting.  They may appear to be unfocused, unorganized, and undisciplined, but they are more focused on the big, unconventional ideas than the details that surround them.

Seemingly unfocused, unorganized, and undisciplined?  Check, check, and check.  I have taken the assessment three times over the past 8-10 years and each time, I move even further along the Originator end of the spectrum.  Last summer, as part of a Leadership Institute, I took it again and actually maxed out my score.  Does that make me better or worse than others who are more conservative or pragmatic about change?  Nope.   Continue reading “50 Shades of Change”

Rethinking the Rules of Behavior: Part 2

“A policy is a deliberate system of principles to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes.”

Wikipedia 

Last week, I wrote about how we ditched the rules and came up with a set of Expectations for Behavior at Chapel Hill Public Library.  This approach represented a pretty radical departure – both in the wording of the policy and the mindset at its foundation – so we knew that engaging staff on this approach would be critical to success.  Here are some of the ways we did that:

We made it easy.

We created a three question test to use when faced with a situation:

Is the situation at hand illegal?

Is it unsafe?

Is it making others uncomfortable?

If the answer is yes, then staff should act.  They don’t have to remember all the words of the policy, just these three measures to apply.   Continue reading “Rethinking the Rules of Behavior: Part 2”

Rethinking the Rules of Behavior: Part 1

“We’ll work it out as we go along. Let our practice form our doctrine, thus assuring precise theoretical coherence.”                       

 – Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang

No running.  No stealing. No smoking. No staring at staff.  No rearranging furniture.  No interfering with the free movement of any person.  These were just a few of the 21 specific, line-itemed behaviors prohibited in the old Rules of Behavior at Chapel Hill Public Library.  You can hop in the Wayback Machine to see the full list and the old policy here.

It might look familiar, as lots of libraries approach patron behavior in this manner.  The policy may have started out with just a few things called out, but over the years, as someone did something that wasn’t on the list, it got added to the list – that’s the Monkey Wrench Gang approach mentioned above.

That’s also how things like “Harassing staff or patrons, including but not limited to staring at or following individuals around the building.” ended up on the list.  That’s also how the default staff response became “What’s our policy on staring?” instead of a response that deals with the person and the situation first and responds accordingly.  This policy approach isn’t necessarily bad, but it wasn’t working for us.   Continue reading “Rethinking the Rules of Behavior: Part 1”

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.

Continue reading “What You Say AND How You Say It, Part 1: Consider the Job Ad”

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.

Hoth_battle

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

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!

postcard

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 “Greetings from Seattle!”

Oscar, Grammy, John Cotton Dana

It’s awards season!  If you and your library are doing some stellar marketing, consider submitting your work for an award.  These awards show off the “Best Dressed” of the library PR world:

  • The annual LLAMA/PRMS Best of Show Awards recognize the very best public relations materials produced by libraries in the past year.  Deadline is March 16, 2012.
  • The John Cotton Dana Award is the most prestigious award of the American Library Association.  It honors outstanding library public relations efforts – from rebranding to community partnerships to awareness campaigns.  Deadline is March 15, 2012.
  • And there’s a new award on the scene – sponsored by Library Journal and NoveList/LibraryAware.  Only two things are known right now – it’s worth $10,000 and full details will be announced at the LibraryAware Launch Party on March 15 at PLA.  If you need a ticket to the festivities, email Nancy Dowd, Library Aware’s Project Lead, at ndowdebsco@gmail.com

I’ll be in Philly and have my ticket to the LibraryAware launch – hope to connect with some 658.8 readers while there!

Ten Ideas for Public Libraries in College Towns

From issuing library cards for freshmen to advertising in the college newspaper to partnering for programming, here are ten ways to leverage your library’s position in a college town:

For Marketing & Outreach:

1. Reach out to students and welcome them to your community. Social media is a great way to do this – engage student organizations on Twitter, “like” the college paper on Facebook. Reserve an information table at a student orientation fair and pass out community maps, library pens, or library card applications.  Invite the Student Body President, Pan-Hellenic Council, and other student leaders to come into the library for a tour.  Continue reading “Ten Ideas for Public Libraries in College Towns”