Friday, October 02, 2009

For New Yorkers: Have you asked?

On Tuesday, I attended a short workshop given by Libby Post of Communication Services on the ways public libraries in New York State are organized and funded -- association library, municipal public library, school district public library, special district public library. It was very educational and I wish more people had been there to hear her. This is stuff that you don't learn in library school or in some work situations.

Post is big on communication and branding. She believes in getting the conversation started early when a library is thinking of having residents vote on its budget, etc. And of course the more people who hear, understand and back the message, the better.

As a side note, one of our local politicians was also at the workshop (Al Stirpe) and he was impressed with Post's political savviness. Did I hear him say he'd like her to run his campaign?!

Promo for the State Librarian's visitOn Wednesday, Bernard Margolis, the New York State Librarian, visited the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. Margolis attended several meetings with faculty and give a lunchtime (brown bag) talk to 30+ people including many MSLIS students. I think it was a very productive day for Margolis and those who met with him. I suspect that students were surprised at the breadth of things and concerns under his purview.

State Librarian talking to library-focused faculty in the iSchoolSo what does "have you asked?" (in this blog post's title) have to do with this week? In several of the conversations was this idea that we need to ask people (patrons, funders) to get to know us and for their support. Unfortunately, asking can feel uncomfortable, but it can be amazing what will happen when you ask. People will engage you in conversation, listen to your concerns, find ways of supporting your ideas, and perhaps go out of their way in order to help you succeed.

So who should you be asking? The sky's the limit:
  • Ask your local and regional political leaders to attend an event at your library, museum or archive. Even if they don't come, they now have an awareness of you and that is a good thing.
  • Ask members of the Board of Regents to attend an event or speak at an event. They definitely need to know who you are.
  • Ask the State Librarian or members of his staff to interact with you on an idea or attend an event.
  • Ask anyone of the above to be on a panel, provide a keynote, talk to staff, etc.
  • Ask them to intercede on your behalf, when appropriate.
  • Ask if you can visit them or their staff.
  • Ask other members of the cultural heritage community to visit and interact with you. Don't assume that they know your circumstances and how you all might work together.
  • Ask your patrons/users for their support. Get them to interact with your political leaders on your behalf. As constituents, they have powerful voice.
  • Ask...whomever else comes to mind.
Addendum (10/4/2009): An iSchool news article about the State Librarian's visit is here.

Two conversations occurred afterward:
  • Are libraries services or stuff? Libraries are both. When discussing libraries, the conversation may lean more towards stuff (e.g., databases) depending on who the conversation is with and what the need is. For example, legislators may fully understand the services aspect of libraries, but not be as cognizant of the materials that libraries need in order to provide those services, and thus not be as willing to fund the "stuff".
  • What is the broadband speed that is being advocated for in libraries? Looking at my notes from the Opportunity Online Summit, the

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