library phantom

wow. this is neat!

building the global library field

I spent the last several days in a room with the strategic advisor network of the global libraries program at the gates foundation. It’s exhilarating to have the time and the space to sit with the collective intelligence of a dozen or so library professionals who are managing global library associations, building the most innovative public libraries in the world, advancing scholarship and practice, developing local economies with the public libraries they lead or support. Exhilarating, honestly, feels like it doesn’t do any of this justice.

By the end of our time together, the group came up with three priority suggestions for the team on where to invest resources in order to “build the global library field” (in my own words):

– human capital and leadership networks

– measuring impact and communicating value

– shared solutions and infrastructure

Implicit in all of these was the notion of “articulating a vision for the future of libraries” and a strong emphasis on “community engagement” and “partnerships” in doing so.

I left the meeting with a renewed, and still profound, sense that this team is the best positioned organization in the world to advance the field globally. They’ll do it with their continued deep engagement with stakeholders (our group is just one small way they engage inside the field) and their commitment to working with others to get the job(s) done. I also felt extremely grateful for my time there. I am so lucky to know every individual in this group; and am changed myself by my interactions with them whenever we have the chance to meet and exchange. I also left the meeting feeling that there should be concerted, coordinated effort to articulate the future of libraries – in context with how content and learning is changing. It certainly wasn’t missed in the discussion, but I would have traded “human capital” investments for more focus there.

It’s hard to prioritize, and really, working in any of these critical areas will do much to energize the institutional change we need now. If you were personally tasked with “building the global library field” – and you had significant resources to apply to this challenge – what would you do?

the curse of knowledge

I highly recommend Made to Stick.

Over the course of the last six weeks or so I’ve been working to get up to speed on a renewed area of responsibility at my day job: marketing communications. My boss brought in his marketing textbook, which I keep as a reference on my desk, but then he suggested that I read Say It and Live It: 50 corporate mission statements that hit the mark and Made to Stick. Both were extremely helpful and I wish I had read them before I wrote the chapter on community engagement. Ah well, it was the first book and there will likely be more chances to pull in all the things I’m bound to learn tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.

At home I’ve been working with Aaron on his new project at We set up his domain, used a word press template to set up his site and blog, and even hosted with LIS host (where Blake was again extremely helpful in getting our site set up when I was too bugged out to remember you have to load word press before you load the theme). But you would not believe how easily, relatively, the concept, brand, name, and even the tagline came to us. Because citycrops is new and we’re essentially building the concept into a brand from scratch, all it took was a little brainstorming over maybe 10 days and Viola! 

At work I came into an organization with an existing name and brand. We updated our brand to a more “grown up” and “professional” though some would say “corporate” look and feel last summer when we relaunched our platform. Now we’re working hard to *refine* our messaging in an attempt to crystalize and effectively convey what we do, why it’s different, and why it matters. My colleague Sharon Streams (WebJunction Content Manager) has been extremely helpful in this process – not only is she the kick-ass-est of copy editors but she keeps reminding me of the principles that underly those clear, consistent, and memorable messages. Michael Porter is also reminding me whenever he gets the chance – we have to be concise, or there’s too many words. 

The reason that I need these reminders, at almost every turn, is because I am the Czar of WebJunction Knowledge. And when it comes to “making it stick,” too much institutional knowledge is like a solvent. I’ve been with this organization since 2003, before we even launched our first website. What WebJunction is “about” is like oxygen to me. How we are different and why it matters is in my blood. But having passionate knowledge and interest in your project, turns out, doesn’t help you write a mission statement that’s worth it’s weight in bytes.

Which got me thinking about libraries. Libraries have been “what we do” for many hundreds of years and “why we’re different” and “why it matters” are questions that we can get defensive about when called upon to answer them. If I’m the Czar of Knowledge at WJ, and that’s more of a liability than it is an asset, then what when we’re all Czars of Knowledge (it’s part of the professional identity)? I’m thinking that this makes it even more difficult for us to get to what Made to Stick authors call SUCCESS in our messaging about library missions.

If your library is revising your mission statement, or you think you need to look at it again for accuracy and effectiveness, I’d recommend going back to those three questions that Sharon reminded me sit at the core of any mission and vision: 

-What do we do?

-How is it different?

-Why does it matter?

And again I say, read Made to Stick. I’d love to hear what you think and if you’re applying it in your library.

American Libraries, page 38

If you receive American Libraries (in print) and flip to page 38, you will find an article written by me that is mostly an excerpt of the first section of the book “inside, outside, and online”.  I’ve received quite a few comments via all the various channels (fb, twitter, email, f2f) and they have all been thought-provoking or conversation-starting – thank you! Still hoping that I can soon provide a link to the article on the Am Libs website.

Also, I received word yesterday that the book now has a binding date: April 27, 2009. Doesn’t that feel lovely?

In the meantime, I’m still learning how to re-write mission, vision, and elevator pitches for my updated role at WJ. It’s hard. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

living on layoffs

I admit that watching the Seattle layoffs take place, along with those around the country, has been sobering. The last two months have been particularly difficult (huge understatement) because as my management team was trying to “right-size” our organization for the resources we have and the work we have to do, Aaron was being laid off himself, along with hundreds of other architects in the Seattle area.

Word on the street? There’s nothing going on out there.

So, what’s an itgirl to do? First thing I’ve done is tried to acquaint myself with my new role at work, as I’ve taken on new responsibilities in areas that I’m familiar with but don’t have a ton of formal experience or expertise.  You guessed it: MarCom.

Truth is, I love strategic marketing (now that I know what that is). I’ve been reading Made to Stick and Marketing Straight to the Heart and Communities Dominate Brands and Mission-Based Marketing. I’ve been cleaning out the cobwebs on my social marketing RSS feeds, and thinking more about social media, word-of-mouth,  community-based brands, and viral marketing. I am anxious to have some authority to work from in these areas and have been flirting with the differences between “dominate” and  “lead.”

Bottom line: I may be becoming a business-person. This has become very handy for Aaron as he’s reacquainting himself with his real interests in architecture, and finding new ways to articulate why he’s interested in his projects, and why they matter. Now he’s reading Made to Stick.

So while I’m living the manager side of the lay-off dream, Aaron is living on unemployment. But it’s not as bad as that sounds. He’s way less stressed about it than I would be, I can only imagine, and so it has given me a better understanding of who he is (amazing) and who I am (neurotic). Not exactly the way that I had planned to spend my first six months post-writing on a new “self-care” plan.  In a word, this has been good.

I am very blessed to realize that hard times help you get to know yourself and your partner better. Very blessed to recognize that my good fortune (so far) makes it relatively “easy” to tighten my belt and just focus on paying the damn mortgage. (Thanks to Sallie Mae’s pay-back policy, student loans can wait – although this does make me feel a little cranky on certain days.) But the most wondrous thing about all these circumstances is that you realize what’s most important: people and how their lives can be impacted by what you do and what you don’t.

I’m still searching for a purpose for my blog post-production for the book that started it. Speaking of, here’s an update on the book: it’s in final proof, the cover-art is in production, and there’s an American Libraries article coming out next month that’s primarily an excerpt from the first chapter. I’ll post when it’s available…and/or when I better understand what the blog should be for in its next iteration. Until then, I’ll share tid-bits of things I’m learning from personal and professional life as it goes on.

Hope y’all are doing ok out there amidst all this craziness.

Putting Patrons on the Map

I’m back into the final push for finishing the manuscript and have also been connecting with a number of my original contributors to make sure I have bio lines right, details updated, etc. Thanks again to all of you who’ve worked with me on these sidebar views into the real stories that make up the entire project. (There’s still time if you have not told me your story – it’s a short online survey.)

I’m especially excited about being able to print this story from Molly Rodgers. I saw a short description of her library in an article a long time ago on WebJunction and I’m really glad she agreed to tell me more about her library for the book. Molly’s story reminds me that we don’t need to have a big complicated project in order to have huge impact for the community. And check out her bio line! A kindred spirit? I think so!

Thanks Molly for your insights. It has been great working with you.

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collaborative writing

my colleagues at WebJunction published this wonderful article about Rachel MacNeilly’s fabulous children’s programs at the Mission branch of the San Francisco Public Library. they kept my name on the article because I met Rachel last fall, was so impressed with her work in the branch, and blogged about it here back at that time. this article is based on that post.

let’s give credit where credit is due: rachel (herself), along with jennifer, emily, and tim at WebJunction made this wonderful success story much better than i could have done on my own. here’s to collaborative writing, and editing, and all other forms of contribution!

tweets for teams

You may remember that I once said that the most important piece of information in the lives of my peers is “what are my friends doing?”

Enter twitter, which I’ve been playing with for about a week now. It’s fun! I have four “friends” and four people following me (not sure what I’d do with more!). One is a colleague that I work with at the WJ, another is a colleague that I’m writing with on this blog, another is a colleague that is a friend of a friend, another is someone I’ve never met – they added me so I added them. So, I’ve got four distinct channels coming into a single feed to my treo by txt, and on the web (when I check it, which has been about once every other day). After about the first or second day I realized that it would be most beneficial to be able to aggregate particular individuals into their own twitter channels, so that all my WJ tweets come into one stream, all my other library pals into another, all my friends into another, and so on. Then, yes, it could be extremely useful (and still fun!). I didn’t do /much/ investigating, but it does seem that twitter doesn’t support said “channels” and other people have been vaguely complaining about this a bit on their blogs in the OC space. (Does it? If you know something I don’t know, pray tell!) In short, if you have a large group of friends who don’t know each other and you can’t really compartmentalize your interactions with people, it’s sort of annoying.
Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered this link (hat tip to Nancy White) on how to create a custom group in twitter. I haven’t tried it yet, but this could get (more) interesting.

you had me at library

I swear I have this radar for people who say the word library.

I’m on a plane last week and I hear a pair two rows ahead of me talking about the library they work in. Drama this, drama that. I tuned in and out for the rest of the trip. (Should I have made my presence known??) Last night I’m at dinner and I hear someone across the restaurant – it was small, but still – say ‘library’ and I immediately say “Shhh!,” to my companion, “someone said ‘library.'” My friends know this about me. They roll their eyes. Sometimes it’s a soccer mom talking about taking her kids to storytime. Sometimes it’s a frustrated information-seeker talking about the stuff they couldn’t find there. Sometimes it’s my friends or neighbors talking about how much they love the library, but why they don’t go there much, or co-workers talking about our day’s work inside, outside, and around libraries. Nevermind, I’m always riveted. Regardless of how peripherally, or how deeply, connected you are to libraries, there’s a universal sentiment around them. People generally feel good about them. From those “library saved my life” stories all the way down to “I love the library, it’s just not for me,” I revel in the fact that there’s a feel good thing underneath it all.

Now, how can we leverage that to create a universal understanding – far beyond sentiment – about what libraries do and who they are for? And is it up to us?

interview with Jill Stover

Jill S. Stover is an Undergraduate Services Librarian at the James Branch Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University. Her role there is to create and promote library services for undergraduates, but she also runs the rockin’ blog Library Marketing-Thinking Outside the Book, which I found while I was doing the chapter on marketing and communications. After talking a bit by phone and email, Jill agreed to this short interview for a sidebar — something I’ll be getting back to now that I’m, well, getting back. Here’s an excerpt. (Check out Jill’s blog for more

Chrystie:How did you become interested in marketing and libraries, and what does your blog offer libraries struggling to learn about and apply marketing principles to library practice?

Jill:I began studying library marketing while in library school. At the time, I was busy making a number of useful but labor-intensive online tutorials. I thought the tutorials could be a great help to students, but I wondered if they even knew about them. I realized that librarians do such incredible work but they need to do a better job of connecting their resources with students. Marketing is the way to do that.

I started my blog because I was learning a lot about marketing but wanted a vehicle for communicating those lessons. I believed it would also be a useful service for colleagues since there wasn’t much writing on library marketing in the blogosphere at the time. I took the approach of linking business practice with library practice, not because businesses are “better” or because we should blindly mimic everything they do, but because the business literature is full of constructive models and methodologies that we should consider rather than ignore. Businesses have been strategically marketing for a long time and we can learn from the business world just as we can learn from the education and psychology worlds, for example.

Chrystie: Why do you think libraries struggle with marketing?

Jill: Librarians struggle with marketing for any number of reasons, but three stand out: First, many feel a false sense of isolation from the world of commerce as non-profit institutions. Second, there is a popular misconception that marketing only involves advertising and sales, which makes marketing merely an afterthought, or worse, irrelevant. And third, many libraries lack the financial means, time, leadership, and expertise to devote to marketing and so give up on it altogether.

Chrystie: What do you think is the most critical marketing concept/principle that we could apply towards successful community building through libraries?

Jill: Communities are not large, homogenous entities. Communities consist of groups of people with unique needs, wants, preference, traditions, interests, etc. To identify and build communities, librarians need to find and learn as much as they can about those groups. For these reasons, market segmentation is a key marketing principle for librarians to grasp. Market segmentation involves breaking up large markets into smaller ones (segments) on the basis of shared characteristics. Librarians can segment target audiences using a number of different criteria such as demographics, attitudes, and lifestyles to name a few.

Chrystie: \What’s the difference between libraries building community and integrating with our communities to make them stronger?

Jill: Librarians can approach marketing to communities in two ways: They can seek out existing communities, identify their unmet needs, and create services that fill those needs. Sometimes these communities are not highly visible, so careful market research and segmentation can help to uncover them. Librarians can also be the catalysts for forming library-centered communities. Hennepin County Public Library, for example, has done an excellent job of rallying teens around the library by gathering a group of them to create content for its Teen Links Website: ( In cases like this, the library itself is the binding force within the community.

Chrystie: What are some examples you’ve seen of how libraries can successfully segment or target their markets in order to better assess needs, develop services, and connect/communicate effectively with their communities?

Jill: I was really touched by a story I read about the Minneapolis Public Library and its outreach to new immigrant communities including Somalis, Hmong and Latinos. (In this case, the segmentation variable was country of origin).The immigrants have specialized needs and so the library restructured its services to accommodate them. The library now offers literacy training, a multi-lingual Web site, and language learning tools. Their bookmobile also appears at community events. Staff even wear hand-crafted pouches created by Hmong immigrants as a friendly gesture. This is a terrific example of a library that strategically sought out communities it could best serve and aligned its services, and even its attitude, accordingly. Done right, marketing creates real value for people and can even be life-changing for community members.

Thank you so much to Jill for your time on this – I look forward to seeing whatever new directions you (and your blog) take on next!

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