Competency D: apply the fundamental principles of planning, management, marketing, and advocacy.
Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation. – Walter Cronkite
Much goes into running a library smoothly and effectively, and this can be boiled down into four fundamental areas: planning, management, marketing, and advocacy. All of these need to be approached equally, and they are not listed in order of primacy or importance. For the purpose of discussion, though, I will discuss each of these in the order provided in the competency statement.
There are several ways to plan for library operations, from planning the location of a new library, creating long-term strategic plans, putting together a collection development plan for a new library collection, and planning programs and services that will attract and help library users. The common thread among these examples of planning is the need for research. It is important to understand the situation and needs of the library and its users when developing plans that will impact the library to ensure that the impact is positive.
The quality of library service depends greatly on the quality of management. A good manager maintains appropriate involvement in the workflow without devolving into micromanagement, balancing the need to provide appropriate direction to employees against the employees’ needs for trust and space to get the work done. There are many theories as to how to accomplish this balance, but the end goal is the same: creating a healthy, communicative workplace that improves employee morale, because happy employees generally translate to happy customers.
The goal of marketing is to make sure that the target audience knows about the library’s existence, and more importantly, know what the library has to offer in terms of programs and services. If people don’t know about what kind of resources they can get at the library, how can one expect them to visit the library in the first place? Marketing is intertwined with planning, as both require research into the demographics and user needs in order to help people. Marketing also serves the dual purpose of advocacy, as discussed in the next section.
There are two main things that library and information professionals ought to advocate for. The first one is advocating for libraries, to ensure the continued survival of the library. It can be difficult to convince people to pay more taxes, donate more, or pay more fees in order to fund library use. However, as the above quote by Walter Cronkite says, the cost of running a library far outweighs the cost of an ignorant population. This is where marketing, as mentioned in the previous section, comes into play. Marketing is a form of advocacy. Marketing can help draw in users, who then recognize the impact of the library on their needs, and hopefully ensuring that the users continue to financially support the library.
The other type of advocacy, which is equally important, is advocating for the information needs of all library users. This can mean protesting censorship, defending users’ right to privacy, providing library access and services for the homeless, creating spaces where teens can feel safe, working to improve the talking book libraries for the blind, and so on. There are many distinct user groups that deserve free access to information, and it mainly falls to librarians and other library staff to work to protect their rights.
When I first started volunteering at a library in 9th grade, I had no idea how much planning went into developing story time plans and activities until I started helping the children’s librarian. I helped her plan different crafts based on our current stock of art and craft materials and the current story time theme. In a couple of jobs, I planned and carried out several shifting projects, which involved a good deal of measuring and careful planning to get the projects done without using more time and energy than needed. Other planning I’ve done includes weeding projects, displays, signs, and lesson plans (addressed in Competency K).
I learned management on the job in my first full time library job while supervising students, the same semester I took a management course. While it was useful to learn about the theories of management, and while it’s useful to observe what I appreciated and disliked about past bosses’ management styles, it came nowhere near close to actual hands-on experience with directing students’ work. For example, I learned how to be authoritative and how to give assignments. I also learned how to assign work based on a combination of student preferences, work quality, and whose turn it was to have a special assignment, and that this helps the students feel like I and the other supervisors truly cared about them. Most importantly, good communication is the key to any form of management. Talking builds trust and mutual respect, and that helps develop a healthy workplace.
Undoubtedly ads are a big part of marketing, but I’ve learned that there is much more to it. Marketing creates a sense of brand and community while ideally encouraging consumer involvement. For successful marketing, it needs to include employee training. When a public library I worked at unveiled their new logo and new website, they discussed it for weeks with us through email and in-person visits, explaining the rationale behind the re-branding. This training and employee involvement helped ensure that we employees were excited about the new logo, and that in turn helped make our patrons excited. It has been fascinating watching the rebranding’s effect on building public interest, and then watching as the library worked to retain the interest through Facebook and library events.
Facebook and other social media tools are a popular ways to market a brand. While I have not run a library Facebook page yet, I have been learning how to engage with users through a page I run for my union, and by observing what gets the most “likes” and comments from fans on other pages.
Being deaf has given me a personal perspective on the need for making information accessible to all. Perhaps obviously so, I focus on writing about library access for the deaf and hard of hearing. When I worked in a public library before I began grad school, I helped the culturally Deaf by providing very basic reference services in American Sign Language. I also would regularly remind staff members to be aware of deaf people who may not hear the library spoken announcements.
Another area of advocacy I focus on is making sure that the homeless and the poor have access to library services. The only impact I truly have in this area, though, is when I encouraged a homeless acquaintance who frequented a bridge near my apartment to get a library card. I told him it would help him be able to apply for jobs, and that the librarians would be able to teach him how to create an email address and use the computer. It’s just one person, but I feel like I made an impact. More typically, I encourage people to vote to preserve or increase library funding since it has a positive effect on the less privileged population.
I researched and planned an opening day collection of resources for the deaf and hard of hearing, specifically for the Chicago Public Library. The plan augments their preexisting holdings of materials for the deaf in order to allow the library to better serve their deaf patrons.
Similarly, I researched bibliotherapy and church libraries while planning how to organize and run the library for St. James Cathedral. This particular piece of evidence proposes additional research–surveying pastors and deacons–about recommended books that might help people who are going through a rough time of some sort. This survey will help determine whether the library already has sufficient materials people need, or whether additional books need to be procured.
In a short essay, I discussed the merits of positive reinforcement in management. I further addressed positive reinforcement in a longer paper, “Reflections of a Bookstacks Manager.” In this longer paper, I discussed the management skills from a large academic library’s bookstacks manager and compared it to the four management processes of preparing, planning, conducting, and reflecting.
Marketing involves a fair deal of research and planning. In one paper, I and my teammates put together a rough research-gathering draft for a grant proposal, marketing a new service for Seattle Public Library to fictional grants agencies in order to procure grant money. In this paper, I was primarily responsible for “Step 3.” Another paper examined the population makeup of the area surrounding the central library of Seattle Public Library using demographic resources. In this paper, I was primarily responsible for the first five paragraphs.
Advocacy takes on many forms. One paper advocated for a revision of DMCA and ADA laws in order to allow libraries to better serve their deaf and hard of hearing papers. Another paper took a more general approach, offering an overview of what it takes to provide library services to the deaf and hard of hearing.
As evidenced here, there is a great deal involved with each of the four areas of operating a library: planning, management, marketing, and advocacy. Each part relies on another. Planning involves management of people and resources, marketing involves planning the marketing campaign and researching the target audience, and advocacy includes marketing by making the library available to all users and by making sure people understand the value of a library. Taken together, it forms a strong base for running a library smoothly and effectively.
Library Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Updated October 15, 2012