Tag Archives: budget cuts

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!!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

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!!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized