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Janie HermannJanie Hermann
Program Coordinator at Princeton Public Library
Janie writes at Library Garden

Libraries are vital and relevant institutions in this global, digital era that provide access to a variety of materials, services, and programs. If you are reading this, it is very likely that I am preaching to the choir when I opened with that statement. Those of us who work in libraries know just how needed we are to so many people in our communities — but do others always know all that we have to offer?

Library staff work hard to provide new and innovative services that adapt with the times — everything from “books by mail” initiatives and museum pass programs to mobile apps for smart-phones and providing access 24 hour access via online reference sites. We spend hours planning and executing programs that are crucial to the education and well-being of the community we serve. It is not just the “shiny” stuff such as mobile library apps that are important. In the past year alone countless libraries have helped thousands and thousands of job seekers with programs on writing resumes and interviewing skills and been a place where many without a computer could access the equipment and programs needed to be competitive in today’s job market.

We need to make sure that our value is known and not just to the people that walk daily through our doors. We need to make sure that policy and decision-makers as well as those who contribute to the funding of libraries know our worth. Being an advocate for libraries is one of the most important tasks that library staff can undertake at this time when library budgets are increasingly coming under attack during tight economic times — a time when we are needed more than ever.

Every single library employee can be a library marketer and a library advocate. Really all it takes is never missing a chance to promote what your library does or who you help on a regular basis. It can be the little things, such as:

  • If you are at a social event or business meeting, share one or two good programs that you have coming up if you think it will be of interest.
  • Post an event or story about your library to your Facebook profile or other social networking sites every once in a while.
  • Build up a repertoire of “feel good” library stories that you can share in any networking situation if the occasion arises.

For library employees who have the opportunity to influence decision-makers, brush up on your public speaking skills so that you present a polished and poised presence at the table. Library workers need to become as savvy as possible about the way the business world works and apply those lessons to their organization. One Business Week post that I read recently that should be required reading for all library administrators is Marshall Goldsmith’s Effectively Influencing Decision-Makers. I will get off my soapbox now and finish with my favorite quote from this extremely quotable article that really states my point quite succinctly:

A key part of the influence process involves the education of decision-makers. To again quote [Peter] Drucker: “The person of knowledge has always been expected to take responsibility for being understood. It is barbarian arrogance to assume that the layman can or should make the effort to understand the specialist.” The effective influencer needs to be a good teacher.  

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