21st Century Librarians are the original Growth Hackers


Just the other day I came across one of the biggest buzzwords of 2014: Growth Hacker. I was unfamiliar so I started digging.

Lauren Hockenson in her article on Mashup defines Growth Hackers as:

“The growth hacker is essentially a scrappy, resourceful and creative marketer with a knack for attracting users. It’s a must-have role in most startups because it helps put the product in the hands of the masses and expand word-of-mouth reach. And it won’t be going away anytime soon — even if the name fizzles out in the next few years.”

So essentially- a Growth Hacker is someone who grows your business with marketing tactics using inventive ideas due to limited resources.

Well! This sounds like every user-centered Librarian I know! “But Kimberly,” you say, “Every sources says that Gowth Hackers are for ‘startups’! Libraries have been around forever. We aren’t start-ups!”

While the definition of a start up by wikipedia shows no relation to Liibraries :

temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.

No, we are not startups. But we have an aweful lot in common when it comes to challenges and keys to success! While all the different business sources seem to have a different “Top 10″ of pitfalls, challenges, and keys to success, these 5 items consistently appear:
1. Inadequate Funding – for libraries that is an old song of slashed budgets and lost funding.
2. Poor Planning – how many years, meetings, or conference sessions have we endured to increase our planning acumen?
3. Staffing Problems – ranging from too few to disproportion in the grade levels (top/bottom heavy organizations) to needing new blood to our organizational memory retiring to “that’s not my job”. Where there are organizations there will always be staff problems just as there will always be sunburns with sunshine!
4. Competitors – Say it with me now: “Why do we still need libraries when we have Google?”
5. Poor or Inadequate Marketing – If we all just had a dime for every time we have heard “I didn’t know the library has/does that!!??” Marketing is something libraries are learning to do better everyday…but it still isn’t ingrained in us!

Libraries can lay claim to facing all of these challenges. In fact, these may be our be the “Top 5 Organizational Challenges For Public Libraries”.

Fast Company in their article on the current secrets of business marketing :

“Sean Ellis, a startup advisor who coined the term, put it like this: “The #1 requirement for effective, sustainable growth hacking is to start with a ‘must have’ product experience.”

But we can also stand proud knowing that we definitively have the MUST HAVE product of the ages…Access to Information.

So do you have a Growth Hacker on your staff to grow your patron base using innovative tactics?! YES? Then you, Dear Reader, are a true 21st Century Librarian!!

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Doing More with Less in 21st Century Libraries


… why are we still saying this?!!! It isn’t true and it isn’t possible. Its delusional and, worse, its harmful! Harmful not just to one organization; but to libraries everywhere. Libraries around the world fight every day for increased budget. Continuing to proudly promote the notion that we can do more with less if we try hard enough undermines every library budget effort.
Think of it like this:
If you have a staff member who says “I’m completely swamped! I don’t have a minute to spare!!” You give them a project anyway and they somehow find time to accomplish it without dropping anything else. Do you think that they were miraculously able to do more with less or are you more inclined to think that they were actually not using their time effectively to begin with and indeed really did have the time to take on a new project? The same theory holds true for the library and our budget decision-makers. If we say we are doing as much as possible with the money that we have and we need more, then our budgets are reduced, and we miraculously find a way to do more with less why WOULDN’T the budget makers assume that we were actually not using our money effectively in the first place!?

Where does this leave our credibility? What should anyone take us seriously the next time we approach with an outstretched hand asking for more funds? Isn’t it reasonable to assume that they will take a more critical view of what we are doing with what we currently receive every time we ‘do more with less’?!

When I hear someone say they are doing more with less I can’t help wonder if, in actuality, they were actually wasting money previously. While I’m sure this is not always true, sometimes it is and certainly there will be those around us that will think the same. The reality is the times are tight. The reality is the times have been tight before. The reality is that times will be tight again. We cannot do more with less; what we can do is less with less and we need people to understand that. We have to be honest, stop painting rosy pictures and start educating our communities on what these budget reductions truly mean to them. We are the experts on library service. Our communities don’t always know what is possible with adequate funding. It’s great to inform our patrons of our services and what we DO have to offer. However, it is also important to inform and educate about the services we COULD offer with adequate funding. People cannot lobby for or fund what they do not know exists.

We must stop being out own worst enemy and with our mantra of “we can do more with less” confirming for those who would reduce our funding that they did exactly the right thing! “Look! See. We reduced their budget and they are still fine!! We knew they had more money than they needed, this proves it!

If every time our budgets are cut we pat ourselves on the back because we took extreme measures to ensure that the public didn’t feel any reduction, where will the motivation come from for the community or politicos to EVER reinstate the monies that have been lost?? Instead of compulsively covering and self-consciously acting as if everything is fine for fear that someone might not think we are providing effective service, we need to stand up and say NO we can’t do more with less! We can’t even do the same with less and we most absolutely cannot provide the service our communities deserve and need with less!!

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Innovation is all a matter of Perspective


We spend so very much time talking about innovation and 21st century librarianship! We attempt to define what it is and what it looks like. We try to pin it down like a butterfly on a board so that we can study it. Why? Because we are either looking for a template (What should I be doing?) or validation (Ah Ha! I am innovative!) People ask me on a regular basis: “So what is the next big Library Innovation?” My answer remains always the same. “For which Library?”

What is innovative to one community is yesterday’s news to another and the work of a science-fiction whacko to yet another. In defining innovation, it is absolutely critical to know your audience (aka-your community).

All we need do is review that last week or so of headlines to see this play out:

Irving Public Library Unveils New Catalog!!

 Irving Public Library announces the launch of a new, state-of-the-art online catalog system, Polaris, which keeps track of library materials and customer records. The system goes live Aug. 28.

Customers also will be able to place holds and check out eBooks, as well as monitor account activity directly from the library’s catalog. Other new account features include an option to keep one’s reading history, create alphanumeric usernames and receive text notifications.

New Public Library Opens in Elk Mound

After years of work, Elk Mound finally has a library to call its own.

A grand opening for the new Elk mound Public Library was held Monday.

It’s a satellite library based out of Menomonie.

Ted Stark, the Director of the Menomonie Public Library, says the new building has all the resources as any other library, wireless internet, computers, books, magazines and much more.

He says the library is linked to several other libraries, and has access to around one and a half million books.

Ted stark, director of menomonie public library “I think it’s a lot better looking then I ever imagined it could be, because if you saw it before, my first thought was to tear it down, because it was bad but they have really done an amazing job, it’s like a brand new building,” says Stark.

The library will have regular hours Monday through Thursday

What’s all the Hoopla in Muncie??

Muncie Public Library is now offering Hoopla, a digital streaming service similar to Netflix.

The addition of Hoopla to MPL’s offerings is just another step in the library’s stated mission of keeping up all the growing and changing forms of media its patrons can use, according to Gentis. “We just want to offer what people want,” she said.

MPL Director Virginia Nilles called the addition of the streaming service “a natural progression” in the library’s embrace of technology. “We were interested in it before the technology was there,” she said.

MPL began offering Hoopla in July, and a little more than a month in had more than 200 users who were using it through the Hoopla app or website, Gentis said.

Though the article by Ms. Erickson is flawed in its logic nearly to the point of uselessness…it does highlight a fabulous innovation and utilize some wonderful quotes.  Is your idea of the innovative 21st Century Library one with more Technology and Less Books?  The James B. Hunt Jr. Library at North Carolina State University agrees!!

What Does a Library without Books Look Like?

What makes a library a library, anyway?

The James B. Hunt Jr. Library, at North Carolina State University, thinks it has an answer. University officials in Raleigh just spent $115 million building what some people call the most advanced library in the world.

“We started asking people, ‘What do you need?’” Hiscoe says. “We wanted to create a space that would serve the people who used it, not our high-minded idea of what a library should be.” The students, he says, had two main requests — they wanted spaces to work together and opportunities to visualize data on some kind of grand scale.

With these ideas in mind, the team set out to create a new kind of space. But they wanted to do more than drop in a couple of extra computer terminals and couches. It’s not an exaggeration to say that they set out to reinvent the library.

That meant hiring Oslo firm Snohetta to design the building, a sleek modernist structure that looks like rows and rows of shiny silver dominos, lined up on a ramp. It also meant playing down the books, and playing up the many other amenities, like the hang-out spaces.

Then there’s the technology, all 241,000 pieces. Students can rent out everything from iPads to microtiles to Google glasses. A hive of robots retrieves and reshelves the books. (Patrons can no longer wander through the stacks themselves, but they can “browse” digitally — a computer will pull up a photo of a particular shelf; patrons can request whatever they like). Screens are everywhere.

There are rooms where students can build simulations of entire spaces. Hunt Library wanted to have a spot, say, for students to digitally recreate a 17th-century cathedral. With that, they could study how sound travels, to better understand how sermons stirred people. “All we had is text,” Hiscoe says. “We didn’t know what it sounded like, whether the preacher is up there screaming, whether the echo would do particular things to his voices.”

A team of students and professors also digitally “re-created” a speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. at White Rock Baptist Church in 1960. Floor-to-ceiling screens displayed what King would actually have seen as he looked out into the crowd; audio technology modulated the volume of his talk so that students could get a feel for what it would actually have been like to hear the speech.

At first, people didn’t even think the space should be called a library, Hiscoe says. But once people actually get inside, they understand it as a focal point of the community, a place that brings people together to think, create and learn, a place that gives them the tools they need for these central missions. And isn’t that the point?

“No matter where people are, they have to look at their community and ask, ‘If it’s no longer books, what is it?’” Hiscoe says. “Every community will answer that question differently. But it’s a question that is answerable … Maybe you don’t buy a lot of Wallace Stevens … Maybe you buy a 3D printer instead.”

But on the other extreme of the “To Book or Not to Book” debate…you have Boston:
Why is Boston Public Library Discarding Books?

It’s housecleaning time at the Boston Public Library, with tens of thousands of books being pulled from branch shelves all around the city. And it’s a beast of a task. The only library in America with more volumes in its collection than the BPL’s 19 million-plus is the Library of Congress. Take that New York!

“The number of volumes in a library is not a good reflection of the quality of the collection or how well it’s being used,” said Larry Neal, head of the Public Library division of the American Library Association, and probable Yankees fan.

“The intention is not just to hoard everything that you can possibly stash away,” he said. “Your job is to provide things that the community wants that have an interest in and make it easy for them to find.”

And that means, sometimes, books have to go — something that Amy Ryan, head of the Boston Public Library, says is standard, daily practice for all libraries.

But many of the books being weeded are perfectly accurate and in good shape. They just aren’t being checked out. The BPL is targeting books that haven’t circulated for four to six years. And this has some concerned, like Dave Vieira, a longtime patron and former President of the City-Wide Friends of the Boston Public Library.

But what Ryan calls an evolution, feels like a revolution to Vieira — one that he worries could leave loyal, older patrons behind. At the opening of the East Boston library, he says he couldn’t help but think, “Where are all the books?”

“While the library of the future may look like that, we are moving too fast, we are rushing from point A to point C,” he said.

But whatever the speed, libraries, like the rest of us, have no choice but to trudge into the future. And for Neal, that future, looks remarkably like the past.

And it is also important to remember that not every experiment with innovation works! Failure is an important factor to consider in the risk of innovation. Only invest what you can survive losing and don’t be afraid to say your attempt failed…at least you tried!

Brooklyn Public Library Yanks iPads from Tots!!

Perverts at a Brooklyn public library have lost their iPad privileges.

Officials have permanently yanked two iPads out of the children’s reading section of the Kensington branch after kids and some parents kept sneaking off with the devices to shop, play violent video games and view porn sites, sources said.

“It’s a shame,” a library staffer said. “This was a pilot program. I guess you can say it failed.”

The iPads on the top floor of the 18th Ave. branch were installed with reading and other educational apps for youngsters between the ages of 2 and 5, when the branch opened two years ago.

But there have been “unfortunate issues” with older kids hijacking the electronics to change passwords and install their own apps, said library spokeswoman Emma Woods.

One even took a selfie and set it as the background photo, a library insider said.

So what do all these wide and varied examples of “innovation” mean. How do we reconcile the fact that they run the spectrum and sometime conflict with another library’s innovative methods? The take away is that Innovation (like beauty) is really in the eye of the beholder. To one community a nearly all-digital library with a maker’s space cathedral is innovative… To another it is having a library at all.

At the end of the day, the relevancy you create for your library within your community is the only true judge of your innovation.

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Authors now join Public Libraries as targets of Publisher and Bookseller censorship and greed – But who is the real victim?


It appears that it is not just Libraries any longer that are at the whim of publishers and booksellers. Authors now find themselves pawns in the game of market share and bottom-line. And some are NOT taking it lying down. Rather they are banding together, passing petitions and now a full-page spread in the New York Times Sunday addition at a cost of $104,000!

From ArsTechnica.com Report on the Dispute:

“Authors affected by Amazon’s contract dispute with publisher Hachette have started to band together against the online retailer, reported The New York Times on Thursday. More than 900 authors have signed a letter condemning Amazon for “using writers as hostages in its negotiations,” referring to Amazon’s choices to keep low stock of certain Hachette titles and taking weeks to ship them as the two companies battle over e-book prices.”

The Guardian Reports Best selling Authors take out Full Page New York Times Ad against Amazon:

“As writers – most of us not published by Hachette – we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want. It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation. Moreover, by inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery, Amazon is contradicting its own written promise to be ‘Earth’s most customer-centric company’,” write the authors, who include Stephen King, Donna Tartt, Paul Auster, Barbara Kingsolver and a host of other well-known names.

Read The Authors’ Letter

But Wait! What is this?? Amazon has not taken the attack in stride but has come out swinging!! They have written their own letter!! (Note it says it is a Letter to Readers – However, I first saw the exact text from an Amazon Author who forwarded an email he received from Amazon billed as a letter to its authors- Thanks Dr. Steve Matthews!)

Read The Amazon Letter to Readers
(OH! and they have they have a bibliography! Nicely played Amazon! Too bad so many facts were wrong- especially that Orwell reference. Pesky Details!)

But now the letters are flying! We did not have to wait long for Hachette’s Response!!
Read the Hachette Letter of Response

And what is to be made of all this back and forth? Well the New York Times made a little fun!
The New York Times Reports on Amazon’s Letter, Its Misquotes, and the Fall out!

At the end of the Times report it appears as if Amazon maybe pondering a go at the giant Disney!

“In a related development, it became widely known over the weekend that Amazon was in a dispute with yet another supplier, this time Disney. Amazon was doing the same thing with the movie studio that it did with Hachette: preventing customers from preordering physical copies of yet-to-be-released content.”

Wow…Disney may be about bringing joy to Children and Adults all over the world; but they are also notorious for aggressively protecting themselves successfully from just about any form of infringement. Amazon may find THEY are the Mouse…to a much larger Cat in that game!

So now, after reading all the press and the letters from the various players, What do we think? What side did you come down on? Who is fighting for what? Who is the Good/Bad guy? Do the details of the actual argument seem….muddled and confusing. I’m sure there are some pros and cons on all sides of the financial and philosophical argument (and a whole passel of lawyers); but to form a truly educated position might require a review of the actual contract in dispute. However, what cannot be disputed…is that in all this pointing and sharpening of the pen the only REAL victim is the CONSUMER. The person who simply wants access to the movie, book or eBook of their choice but is shut out. And when one of the worlds largest booksellers unapologetically employs tactics that covertly limit public access to material in a democratic society it should be a serious warning sign to us all!!

Booksellers and Publishers have been shutting America’s Public Libraries out of the eBook market for years. They have only recently opened the back door and ONLY if we are willing to buy our way in through ridiculous pricing or public-trust threatening “collaborations”. I wonder: Will these authors’ efforts have any greater impact on the covert stymieing of access by these booksellers and publishers than the nearly ineffectual attempts of America’s public libraries?

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21st Century Library Innovations and Inspirations!!


Today my Library hit an innovation milestone. After months of negotiation, planning, board convincing, budgeting, and financial paperwork, we took delivery of our brand new media box! (think Redbox meets library card!!). It is the first of its kind in the state of New Jersey and the 35th of its kind in the USA!
After years of pulling DVDs out of drawers or binders or little paper sleeves or fighting with security cases (that you would swear were designed specifically to drive you insane) or whatever other ‘brilliant’ process we contrived, we have reached the 21st Century with our circulation processes for DVDs. This technology will secure, checkout & dispense, accept returns, check-in, and re shelve at least 2000 DVDs titles. It will allow staffing resources to be reallocated to other library needs. It will generate reports based on circulation and browsing history detailing the most and least popular titles in the collection. It will, within librarian-defined parameters, generate lists for regular weeding and automatically dispense titles chosen for removal to the librarian in a batch upon demand.
And best of all, the patron’s are ecstatic! They understand “RedBox-style” and they love interactive and ‘patron-managed’ services!
It was a great day.
(Watch for a future post about the Media Box and the arduous journey to its acquisition!)

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In the spirit of 21st Century Library Innovation, this is a snapshot of other library innovations happening all around the Country! Innovation is in the Air!

New York Public Library Opens Pop-Up Outdoor Reading Room and New “Read Everywhere” Campaign

Omaha Public Library Goes Mobile with a Book Bike!

Midland Public Library to promote “Little Free Libraries”!

Portland Public Library in talks with City to Store & Digitize Historic City Records

Aurora Public Library Receives Innovation Award for KMart Branch!

Inspired??

Be INNOVATIVE!!

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21st century libraries are a one stop for job seekers….


So says the new “Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act” signed into law on July 22, 2014.

“As the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act recognizes libraries as One-Stop partners and includes adult education and literacy programs offered at libraries as statewide employment and training activities. Additionally, the bill provides funding support for 21st-century digital readiness training programs that help library users learn how to use technology to find, evaluate, organize, create, and communicate information.

“Today America, libraries and the people who come to us for assistance have cause for renewed optimism. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act recognizes that libraries are often the first places Americans seek when they need job training or job search assistance. We’re proud of what libraries have accomplished with meager resources over the last several years. Now, with the support of this legislation, we look forward to a brighter future for the American workforce libraries have served for more than a century.
“The American Library Association would like to thank Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) for their long time efforts to include libraries in this legislation.”

From the July 22, 2014 Press Release from ALA

“Senator Jack Reed and I led the effort to include public libraries in this important new law because they are often the first places Americans go for skill development and job search assistance,” said Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ). “I’ve seen this firsthand with NJWorks@yourlibraryproject, which used federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funding to help get job seekers back to work with access to online job resources and training in every community in New Jersey.”

from the July 23rd article on District Dispatch

It is an interesting moment. To have a large piece of our mission recognized and mandated at the same time. This feels like a win… The law reaffirms what most are already doing, provides us a seat at the table, and a vehicle to seek funding.

For anyone who hasn’t seen the document:

The WIOA Bill (for the hearty)

Bill Text H.R. 113 for those who wish to see the “local library”piece

Fact Sheet

The Fact Summary

When will we see funding or change?

Key Implementation Dates

As this mandate is applied it will be interesting to see the reaction from those (like the WIBs and similar agencies) who now must allow us a seat at the table. Will we be welcomed with open arms? Will additional funds be made available at the federal level or will our inclusion affect the funding available to others in our community? If so, how welcome will we be then?

Last thought:
This is a great thing!! To have new funding avenues and official support and recognition for a service most libraries already provide.
But, as with many things, this could be a slippery slope. We must be vigilant in years to come that other such legislation is as reflective if our purpose and mission.
It would be an unfortunate day when we awoke to discover that we were now a “one-stop shop” for a service or purpose we could not as readily embrace such as supplemental nutritional assistance, adult protective services or transportation assistance programs. Legislation that mandates we incorporate a program or service that we (some or many) feel is not in line with our mission of creating an informed citizenry and providing access to information. Will ALA be our watchdog and seek buy-in on any new legislation…or use local libraries services as a political token to be cashed in as they choose?

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21st Century Librarians Make Allies of the Press


As a 21st Century Librarian, if you are innovative and cutting edge…the day will come when the press knocks on your door. Sometimes that is positive – sometimes its negative…and sometimes, if poorly handled, it can be DIRE!

Dealing with the Press (print or television or bloggers) is a situation that may cause even the most capable librarian or director’s blood to run cold. “The newspaper is on the phone for you.” Or “The channel 6 news van just pulled up outside.” is enough to make any of us want to run for the bathroom and hide. Especially if you do not know why they are there! However by keeping a few key things in mind (and with some experience) everyone can use their relationships with the press to their greatest advantage.

  1. Never Let ‘em See You Sweat!
    Whether it is a positive story and the reporter is there at your request or a surprise visit asking for a comment about some new political/policy/budget situation, remember that you are in control of YOU. Take a deep breath-focus on the questions being asked- decide what you want to say and then say it confidently! If you need a moment, take it. YOU run the interview. Do not BE run.
    There is nothing worse than finding out news FROM the reporter! Things like “SO! How do you feel about losing that $2M from next years proposed budget allocation?” Speechless doesn’t begin to cover the possible reactions!
  2. Have a Designated Library Spokesperson.
    This is not about being controlling or hampering freedom of speech. It is about controlling the message that comes from the Library. That message should convey the spirit of your culture and ethics in every phrase.
  3. Talk in Sound Bites & Manage You Own Story.
    No matter how comfortable you are with a journalist, it is never wise to talk unreservedly. When you are on the record, give them the information they need but attempt to talk in short meaningful sentences or ‘sound bites’ that will simply be too good for them to pass up printing! As you hone this skill, you can almost be assured that the journalist will pick up on your sound bites and those will be what they use. Ready-made sound bites make their job easier and help shape the story that YOU want told.
    Manage the story yourself. Do not rely on the news journalist to present the story the way that you think that they will. Or the way that they should. Make sure that you present the information that you would like to see the story reflect by crafting your responses in a way that you give the information you want highlighted.  This will give a better chance that the story will cover the ideas that you’re wanting to highlight.
  4. Go “Off the Record”!
    In addition, just as you hold your ethics dear on patron privacy, freedom to read, etc., a true journalist holds the “off the record” statements made to them very dear. If you feel that additional context would be helpful to the journalist in writing their story but you do not want to risk being quoted on delicate back stories, ask the reporter if you can talk to them off record to provide them with greater detail and more context. Almost every time they will jump at the opportunity to gather more intel even if it’s something that they can’t directly use. In employing this tactic you garner their trust, their goodwill, and maybe even a few brownie points if you point them in the right direction to gather more information for their story. However, the greatest benefit of this tactic is that it provides the reporter with the appropriate context for the story and if, as you should, you have done nothing inappropriate that the newspaper is covering, such as unethical handling of the patron, policy, or financial issue, etc., then you have nothing to fear. In addition, giving them a deeper understanding of the situation will often lead to a more empathetic slant of the story toward the library – if appropriate.
    In addition we all know that much of what we do is a matter of public record. If the journalist is requesting information that you know exists in the public record such as board meeting minutes agendas or other documents don’t make the reporter dig for this information. Rather – offer it up! There is a good chance they will eventually find it and if you have given it to them rather than making them work for it garners a spirit of trust, collegiality and teamwork that will often times result in better press for the library.
  5. Use the Royal “We”.
    When you’re being interviewed make sure that you refer to the library administration and Board of Trustees rather than to yourself personally as making decisions. Not only is this good form and probably completely accurate, this will give your sound bites the ring of authority. In addition Board of Trustees members love to see that credit given to them in publications, and it will go a long way in garnering good will. In addition, always remember that you are not being interviewed as an individual, you ALWAYS represent the organization. Speaking ‘on behalf’ is your job as the spokesperson. In that sense, referring to the organization with the Royal “We” is completely acceptable and expected.
  6. Don’t Get Punked! At least not on camera!
    When it comes to a television interview, ask the reporter what questions they will be asking you BEFORE they begin filming. More specifically, BEFORE they even get the video camera out of the bag! Tell them you want to talk “off the record” before you begin. If there is no hidden agenda, they should have absolutely no problem in telling you their interview questions. And trust me, they do have the questions that they intend to ask long before they arrived at your location. If they say they are just going to “wing it” that should send up a red flag for you and then you need to push to find out what the questions are and exactly what the point of the story is. Never be shy about asking any reporter what is the point of the story they’re writing. It is entirely possible that the story may change for them over time as they gather information but it is totally appropriate for you to ask the angle that they’re planning for the story. Remember: It’s your organization.
  7. When Necessary, Be “Unavailable” instead of “No Comment”.
    In some instances you will be contacted for a story that you either for legal reasons cannot speak about or would simply prefer not to because it does not seem that there is any upside to giving a comment or statement to the press. These could include a story that you are unprepared to address, has legal ramifications of any statements, or is a personnel matter that should not be discussed. Always use “No comment” as an option of last resort. Remember when you are reading a newspaper article what no comment looks like to you. Inherent in the statement no comment is a statement. What does sound much better is “The library spokesperson was unavailable or could not be reached for comment”. Use this tactic wisely. And only when you feel that you have truly ruled out that there is any acceptable statement that can be made. Consider the statement “The library is greatly distressed/disappointed/concerned that this has occurred. We are hopeful that there will be a satisfactory resolution for all concerned.” This is a broad open ended and empathetic statement that can realistically be applied to almost any distressing situation. While this is a useful tactic, be aware that you also give up the opportunity to add your organization’s perspective to the piece. Only you know if silence is better.
  8. Press Response Should be Part of Every Plan!
    Plan Ahead!! Know your response or sound bite before the reporter ever knocks on your door or rings your phone. For example – Make sure that you know how you’re going to present that fabulous new $60,000 innovative service in a time of deep budget cuts. How will you answer the tough questions? How will you explain your decision making? Can you? A basic truth: If you Can’t defend it…Don’t DO it! If you follow this basic rule, you should never worry. Not everyone will always agree with your choices but at least they will understand them and have faith in the integrity of your decision making process.
  9. You will be Misquoted! 
    Most important – always remember that you WILL be misquoted. It is not a matter of ‘if’ but rather ‘when’. How to respond becomes the question. If it is a significant issue that needs a retraction or correction, address it with the reporter and if you do not get an appropriate response be sure to contact the editor. However, unless the error is so substantial that it simply MUST be corrected, shrug it off and remember that this is a part of the game of playing with the press.
  10. You need the Press and They need YOU! Play Nice!
    Remember that the newspaper or television reporter needs you as badly as you need them and often times more. Yes – you need them too when you want them to cover a big piece of news or new program or award. But your story is their bread-and-butter, especially when the story isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. When those tough political, policy, or budget stories come, all the press outlets will be knocking to get the best and first scoop. With this thought in mind it is safe to consider that it is not in their best interest nor should it be their desire to make an enemy out of the library. This means they should try not to misquote you, surprise you or position you in a way that is (unnecessarily) harmful for the library. (That does not mean that it will not show up in the press if you do something really stupid! They are in the business of the “public’s right to know”.) If it feels like you were dealing with a journalist who has no goodwill toward the library, or seeks out harmful angles to create a more “sensational” story, you have one option – Don’t deal with them again. Become dramatically unavailable to them for any of their stories. Invariably, they will either realize they have to deal more fairly with you or, if the breakdown in the relationship causes the paper or channel to miss a good story or scoop, it is likely the editor will assign another reporter to your beat.And if, dear reader, as you are reading this blog you were thinking “Well, that’s all well and good but the only time I ever have to talk to the newspaper is to get an article in about storytime or summer reading”. That way of thinking will leave you vulnerable when the unexpected and unfortunate day comes when there is a big story and you need a relationship with the press. When a branch closes, a policy is attacked, a budget is cut or you are being sued, these are the times that having a reporter that you already know and have a trusting friendly relationship with covering that story will be invaluable. Treating the journalist as a colleague can be extremely helpful to you by allowing you to state the Library’s position publicly or giving you good PR for things that are happening in the library. That said – never forget that at the end of the day they are a journalist and they are there to get the story.

Because this is a tough topic…One more tip for good measure:

Be Gracious! Take the High Road.
Libraries are like Girl Scout cookies – everyone loves us. What they do not love is when public figures or groups start slinging mud. They may enjoy reading it but they will never forget that that is the type of person that you are and ergo the type of organization the Library is.

The only thing that slinging mud does is get you dirty too. If the story they’re reporting is a Library budget slashing by the City Council, take the highroad. Give them a soundbite of: “The Library understands that the city has serious financial challenges and that tough decisions have to be made.” Then gently make your case for why and how this is going to impact the library – again, without slinging mud or throwing someone else under the bus. Never take the offensive approach, because it doesn’t read well in print, and in a television interview you simply come off looking bitter. In addition, by attacking others you give the “opposition” something to attack you with. A gracious response will allow the public to have a spirit of goodwill and empathy toward the Library that all the fist pounding in the world cannot illicit.

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