Hope is not a strategy

March 27, 2012

 The above phrase has been around for many years (Rick Page, Benjamin Ola Akande, Rudy Guiliani, and my husband have all used this phrase), and the reason it resonates is that it is so true.

Hope is a necessity in life.  Without hope, it is difficult to move forward or to feel inspiration.  As librarians, we hope:

  • that people will utilize the librarians’ expertise
  • that people will evaluate their information so they are truly getting the truth
  • that we are offering valuable and useful programs to our patrons
  • that we are offering the materials our patrons want
  • that we are spending our money wisely
  • that our services are easy to use and seamless for the user
  • that we are appreciated and recognized for the services we offer to our community

However, this isn’t a strategy.  What are we, as librarians, doing to fulfill the above hopes?

Marketing and advocacy are two valuable ways that we can start changing hope into reality.

We can take steps to research and evaluate where we are leaning too much on hope in order to fill the gaps that may exist.  For example, maybe we need to do some market research on our patron base and work to provide specialty services that these patrons could use.  This may involve focus groups, interviewing, surveys, and going OUTSIDE of the library to reach a broad base.

We can also take a good, hard look at our library website, which is our gateway to our resources.  Have we structured it to reflect librarians, or our users?  As I read the other day, “only librarians like to search; everyone else wants to FIND.”  By assembling a group of patrons from all levels and ages to analyze the website interface and suggest better organization, we can really help improve ease of use.

Advocating for our libraries and our librarians is also important.  Again, get OUTSIDE of the library and into the community.  Go to various community meetings, churches, or other gatherings and offer a service or an information point (a good example of this is the Occupy libraries that have sprung up across the country.)  Show off!

The easiest course to take is to just keep doing what we have done.  That is probably what is expected of us.  If you ask people what they think when they think of  when they hear the word “library” or “librarian”, you will likely get the stereotypical answer.  Although there is nothing wrong with how we have served our public for the past hundred years, we are now being bypassed. Information isn’t in the building anymore–it is accessible everywhere.  Staying the course isn’t an option.  We cannot hope that by having our patrons’ best interests at heart and by doing our jobs well that they will know and appreciate it.  We need a strategy that includes marketing, advocacy, and support from the community to be the best we can be.

This takes a mind-shift, and yes, a lot of time and work.  However, research and people are our forte.  We need to have hope that we can make the changes necessary.  A good strategy will help get us there.


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