Cynthia Berner Harris – Librarianship in Tough Times

Cynthia’s giving us her wonderful reflections about making the best of a bad situation.

  • Make Advocacy a priority – you’re doing good if your elected officials come asking to make a their own READ poster!
  • Be Active in the community – outreach to trainers, for example
  • Be Visible –
    • ‘earned media’ – Have events that bring people who will write about the event on their own! (court bloggers)
    • Newspapers are struggling, so if you send them pre-written articles in a press release, they’ll often print it word-for-word!
    • Write a press release for EVERYTHING – a lot of what happens in a library is significant, we’re just too close to see it.
  • Listen and Respond
    • Set up Google alert – find out what folks blog about their library experiences
    • Cynthia keeps a thank you letter for a response she gave to his initial letter! – Simple courtesy
  • Understand
    • [Insert the books she plugged]
    • Price of Government – as costs go up, there’s a point where resistance begins.  When gas hit $3, we changed our behavior, for example.
    • As service declines to a certain level, you will hit the unacceptable level where complaints increase and people stop coming (to the library)!
    • In the middle is the sweet spot between the two barriers – costs are lower and service is high enough to maintain satisfaction!  Where is that?
  • Use DATA drive decision making – use numbers and thought behind decisions
    • Not just door counts and circ stats, but quality measures and outcomes that you’re producing
    • The stories come from the Outcomes and those stories lead to Advocacy!
    • Able to tell the stakeholders what specific outcomes will result in an investment
    • LET IT GO – if you say you’re going to have to let a program go (juvenile detention visits), do it. Otherwise you jeopardize your credibility.
  • Budget Wisely – is it better to do many things with mediocrity or fewer things with impact and quality?
    • Depends on situation and community.  If there’s another agency duplicating a service, either develop a partnership or let it go and redirect those resources to a hole in service.
  • Our Unexpected Opportunities
    • Do Just in Time, not Just in Case processing – quit overprocessing materials (change easier to make at this time)
    • Refocus
    • Simplify
    • Eliminate barriers – WPL’s paper processing for library cards was simplified
    • Encourage self-sufficient users – Do it on your own (reserves, renewals, etc.)
      • Shelving back logs – so, implemented self-serve holds and the branch had more time to catch up their shelving problem!
  • Avoid Complacency
    • The library’s greatest challenges aren’t the economy but kindle and twitter and iphone and red box!  Patrons can get what they want quickly.
    • Example – talking books need to be iPhone friendly for the younger generations to use it!
    • They installed an AV-friendly drop box, so patrons can return that DVD at 10:30 pm
    • New library in 2011!  Woot.

Have Fun and Tell our story in a new and exciting way!


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