Thursday, June 5, 2008

Falling, Forward

As I've been wrestling with the problem of getting the local business community thinking of and turning to their public library, the most basic advice to share with myself is the following: fall forward.

Falling hurts. It hurts the ego. It hurts the knees. It hurts the ribs. It just plain hurts. But here's the deal: it hurts far less to fall forward than it does to fall backwards. No matter how awkward it feels to attend business networking events (think high school prom, sans date), just being there is enough to move things in the right direction. Remember this: people think libraries are cool, even though they have no idea what it is we actually do.  Armed with this supercool persona that strangers are immediately willing to grant you, put yourself into acting mode when you are doing outreach. You don't have to be yourself. So go say "Howdy. What brings you here?" and eventually you will introduce yourself to the right person and things will open up from there.

But back to the falling thing. Even though this is changing pretty quickly, it seems that we librarians are pretty comfortable squatting on our heels within the confines of our four walls and waiting for the world to come to us. That approach may have hacked it back in the olden days when libraries held the monopoly on in-depth and authoritative information but here's the thing: when you're on your heels and you get bumped (say, by Google or Amazon or Netflix or iTunes or...), you're going to fall backwards. Flat on our backs is not where we want to be. Generally speaking, of course.

So the entire point here is that it doesn't really matter what we are doing in terms of outreach and marketing, the thing that matters is whether we are doing it at all. Waiting for our public to come to us seems to lead inevitably to death by a thousand (budget) cuts.

No comments: