Friday, July 25, 2008

From Awareness to Funding Part III (how to get support)

In this third part, I will wrap up the analysis of the report and provide what I think libraries could do in relation to this report. This section covers p 112 forward. An analysis of Super Supporters, Chronic Non-Voters, Elected Officials perception of libraries, and what to do about the information provided in this report.

Super Supporters

Super Supporters are avid readers with a long-standing relationship with the library.
Although they use the library only a little more than average, their relationship with
the library is strong because their emotional connection to the library transcends the
library’s practical functions. More than any other segment, Super Supporters see the
library as a place where they can better themselves and become the people they always wanted to be. They hold the librarian in high regard and recognize the value that librarians bring to the research process.p 116

Super Supporters use the library to feed their voracious
reading habits and to recommend children’s books p 118

This group supporters the library, ranking it second highest (only behind the Fire Department) for priority support. However, they support EVERYONE very highly. They are big community supporters, are influential (even powerful) figures in the community.

I always think it is interesting when libraries think organizations, groups, or individuals may not fund a library initiative because the particular entity funds another heavily. It seems to me those who fund, fund EVERYTHING well. I have never seen an either or situation. These are the "rah rah" community supporters.

Super Supporters recognize the library’s contribution to a successful community p 123

Super Supporters believe the library helps bring a community together p 124

Chronic Non-Voters

The Chronic Non Voters segment of the Library Supporter Segmentation Pyramid
represents 26.6% of the U.S. population ages 18–69 in communities with
populations of less than 200,000. Chronic Non Voters are the group least likely
to improve funding support for libraries. Chronic Non Voters are not registered to
vote, or they are registered to vote but report a track record of not voting in primary
elections, presidential elections or local elections. Chronic Non Voters are unlikely to
be motivated to vote in the future. This segment represents 0% of respondents who
said they would definitely vote yes in a library referendum. p.128

I can hear it now when I write this. "Boo hiss boooooo!" These people apparently don't care about anything. They are not involved in anything. Their lack of support isn't just for libraries, it's for everything. They have basically dropped out of democracy and don't support their local community. The more disconnected the population feels, the more the support wanes. I would go so far to say that if the general public has a tendency to distrust government, particularly the local government, support for everything wanes. Even if it isn't a problem with library performance, dissatisfaction for local government or for the local community translates to a problem with the library.

Elected Officials (Chapter 3 goes into Elected Officials perspective)

Elected officials have views about the library similar to those of the Probable
Supporters. They appreciate the added value librarians offer and see librarians as
important figures in rallying community support. Elected officials are knowledgeable
about libraries and their value, but they often do not see the library as a necessity
for the community. The library is seen as a community ‘amenity’ rather than a
‘must have.’ p132

This seems to be a balance of non-usage. Most City Councilmen don't need the library, they understand the big value in the community, but if it hasn't touched their life (they don't use it, their family and friends don't use it) that is where the "isn't necessary" comes in. In my opinion, this really goes back to a complaint issue. People will complain if they don't have adequate service and if the library provides good enough service so that people don't complain, than they are doing their job.

The Library consistently ranks below, Police, Fire, Schools, and Streets in that order. (Reality check, more people complain about the lack of these things. If there is a crime, and the cops show up really late, or there is nothing done about the crime, people get angry. If the Fire response is too slow and it is a life or death situation, that's serious. If the schools are failing, everyone takes notice and wants to know what is being done about it. If the streets are in disarray, that will also cause a trip to City Council to complain. Even though the library is used more often than two of the four services (more people visit a library in their community than need to call police for a crime or fire for a medical/fire emergency, but they do send their kids to school every day and drive them there on city streets), they aren't supported more.

Local elected officials (68%) are more likely than voters (59%) to have lived in their community for more than 10 years. Elected officials are more likely to be members of a variety of local organizations, including Friends of the Library groups. Forty percent (40%) of elected officials surveyed were members of Friends of the Library, compared to 9% of voters and 11% of Probable Supporters. p 137

Elected officials are more likely than voters to recognize library financial needs; yet 73% believe the library has sufficient operating funds p 140

I think this goes back to the complaint issue. If people are not complaining about the lack of service, then it is fine.

Advice from elected officials:

  1. Stress the library’s return on investment (ROI) to the community
  2. Build strategic partnerships
  3. Be proactive
  4. Engage voters in the campaign
  5. Stress the broad appeal of the library

Elected officials on library funding campaigns

Elected officials cited a number of important components required of a successful
library funding campaign:
  • Messaging that focuses on the broader value of the library to the community,specifically a community gathering place, access to technology and programs for teenagers and other groups
  • A passionate, committed and active champion(s) who can rally support among the elected officials and community influences
  • Civic engagement, including a commitment to speak with every relevant group in the community to encourage grassroots support
  • A willingness to partner with other public services in a joint effort where strategically advantageous
  • The ability to ask for the right support at the right time:
    • Voter turnout is greater for general elections than local elections
    • It is often easier to campaign for a new building than for operating funds.

The next part focuses on how people vote and awareness. Many people who say they would vote for a bond issue, may not do so.

Furthermore, it states that while the breakdown of support is 37% definitely yes, 37% probably yes, and 26% no the probably part should concern libraries.

Familiarity with the full range of library services was not a determinant of library funding support for the library’s top funding supporters. p 148

Neither was usage

Frequency of library visitation is not a determinant of funding support. p 149

A definite need, the "passionate librarian"

These five attributes can be combined to describe the ‘passionate librarian’:p152
  • True advocate for lifelong learning
  • Passionate about making the library relevant again
  • Knowledgeable about every aspect of the library
  • Well-educated
  • Knowledgeable about the community.
There seems to be a DEFINITE correlation between passionate librarians and support. Sure if your staff doesn't care about the library, why should anyone else? Furthermore, if you are a mover and shaker is it more important that you ARE one rather than what specifically you are doing?

The library is perceived as a service that provides ‘information with a purpose.’ As the framework illustrates, this perceptual territory, ‘information with a purpose,’ is a very crowded space. There are many other information and learning services located in the same quadrant including, online bookstores like, search engines and bookstores.
These brands and services are redefining the role and definition of information.
Belief that the library is a transformational force in people’s lives is directly related to their level of funding support.p 156

Rewards Framework:
  • Helps create who you are
  • Makes you feel good about yourself
  • Allows you to appreciate the beauty in life
  • You come away feeling like you really learned something
  • Fills you with hope and optimism
  • Empowers you
  • Helps you seek truth
  • Serves a serious purpose
p 157

The library needs to be transformative. Libraries that are perceived the same as "watching a documentary" is a snoozer. Libraries perceived as taking a class for fun, going to a religious service, or getting a college degree are better. How can I change myself? How can I improve myself? What can I learn today? Rather than functional like reading the newspaper.

Increasing support for libraries may not necessarily mean a trade-off of financial support for other public services. p158

The public library receives just under 1% of the total local operating budget. p 158

A side-by-side comparison of the willingness of a voter segment to increase taxes to
fund local public services, including the public library, shows that a willingness to
fund one service is often similar to their willingness to support other local services. p 158

Elected officials are supportive of the library—but not fully committed to increasing funding. Engaging Super Supporters and Probable Supporters to help elevate library funding needs is required. p160

DING DING DING. Don't go after Mayor and Council, go after the people who have influence over mayor and council. Who are those people? Who do Mayor and Council listen to? Those are the people you need to talk to.

Best Factors for motivation

Early memories, the library as a transformative force (your storytime kids will ensure funding in the future )

Current perceptions are important. The idea of what the library can do and what it represents

“People who’ve been exposed to libraries realize that there are
a lot of other cultures and things out there that a small town of
4,000 doesn’t provide access to. The library is literally
a window on the world.”
(Super Supporter, McPherson, Kansas) p 169

During the course of discussion it surfaced that, even for the most passionate lovers of the library, the library is becoming less relevant. Access to information from other sources, often the Internet, is changing the relative importance of the library. Many assumed that usage of the public library is down as ‘other’ people are increasingly turning to the Internet for information. p 171

“If they close off the libraries, you don’t have to worry about a
Brain Drain. You’ll close off the mental capabilities of the people.”
(Super Supporter, McPherson, Kansas) p 172

I felt the presentation to the population was a bit extreme. You either have libraries or you don't Yes that shows what the impact is, but it doesn't address an unfunded library. I think the extremes here are troubling and unhelpful. No we don't want it to close, but will we allow the library to be underfunded? And what is underfunded in the average community member's mind. What is underfunded? What is the community member willing to accept?

Library's Relevance is questioned
  • Information: The library is one of many sources of information. It could potentially be replaced by a combination of bookstores, schools, coffee shops and the Internet.
  • Institution: The library is an institution sometimes associated with an out-of-date building, aged materials and limited accessibility. (The library has limited hours, the Internet is available 24/7.)
  • Nice to have: Availability of so many other options for information and learning make the library a ‘nice to have’ service, rather than a necessity.
  • Past: The library is an important part of supporters’ lives, but they question whether it is still relevant for their children and grandchildren.
  • Altruism for others: The library is less important to them, but it is important for ‘other people’ in the community.
p 174

Why people vote no

Even though the libraries in that town were closed at the time of the focus group research, the Probable Supporters were planning to vote ‘no’ at a pending library levy to raise the operational funds that would allow the library to open. This was not because they were against the library,
“Feeling good
doesn’t equate to voting ‘yes’ for a library referendum.” but they saw it as a personal statement against the local city council who they felt had mishandled funds that had previously been raised for the library and then placed into the general fund. Even in that situation, the residents believed that ultimately the funding situation would be resolved and the libraries would reopen. p 179

I remember the City of Mesa in Mesa, Arizona when their property tax initiative failed. It was perceived by the public that the city had mishandled funds and that this was a bailout. Some other failed initiatives have the same theme, "We feel you mishandled our funds.", "We feel you are not going to use these funds what you say you will." Track record of previous projects will crop up. Does the library appear to be using its funds adequately? If there are detractors, what are they saying, is it being addressed. If you have a bond or referendum election during an off election year, the no vote becomes that much stronger. If you have that same election during a Presidential or Congressional election cycle, you will have a better chance at success. I wonder if OCLC actually looked at the stats on that?

Probable Supporters and Super Supporters felt that support for libraries
can be improved by increasing the public’s attention to four essential community benefits that the public library uniquely delivers:
  • Equal access: “No kid should have an excuse for not having a book or knowing how to do research. If you don’t have a computer at home, you can go to the public library.” (Probable Supporter, Huntsville, Alabama)
  • Shared community values (or teaches values) “It’s one of the few things that truly can provide a sense of community. It doesn’t belong to anyone but to all of us. It’s a good lesson in respect, being quiet, signing up for Internet time, returning books on time. It’s kind of a good building block in respect.”
  • A sacred place “It’s a gathering place where lots of different people can listen to someone else’s ideas, whether spoken or written.” (Super Supporter, Medford, Oregon)
  • Community stature. “It represents a commitment by the community to cultural and intellectual activities.” (Probable Supporter, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
p 180

Some objectives

Make the library relevant for the 21st century.
Instill a sense of urgency by putting the library in the consideration set
for local funding with other public services, like police, parks and fire.
Activate a conversation about how the library is a vital part of the
community’s infrastructure and future.

General conclusion. This is the same research you can find on getting any bond election passed. They are the same issues for the community as for the library.

The city wants to pass a bond, the perceptions must be the same. You must also time this during a big election with already high turnout. Any negative campaigning can be drown out.

If there has been some scandal in finances or if this is perceived as a bail-out, expect a no vote.

If you have tried a levy, etc, and it failed, and you are going again and haven't changed the package, you will continue to fail.

Most U.S. residents are aware of the traditional ‘informational’ library services, such
as books, newspapers, magazines and Internet access. Far fewer know about the
many value-added and ‘transformational’ services provided by their libraries, such as
teen programs, computer training and ‘English as a second language’ (ESL) classes.p195

The transformative nature. Let's look at activity based costing. The most expensive program is the tutoring program. It is the most transformative, but most costly. These people will be supporters and the people who understand that need will support us supporting them. The person must see the need.

Today’s support comes from those who believe libraries transform lives. I would also state that a library that is perceived to do this, even from people who have not participated in the library, would show support for a library that does this. In fact, the person who sees that the library is doing this will support the library more than the person who is actually using the service for that need. This is generally why libraries that are more successful are action based (strategic plan) versus stats based (your stats went up, so what?). They can also change the perception of the library. If the library is perceived to be old, run-down, and mis-managed, you won't get funding even if you need it. If the library is perceived as modern with modern conveniences, even if the library doesn't need the funding, they could get it if they asked. Is it just a perception issue that libraries can work on with a focus on how the library transforms people rather than provides access to things? There is a great deal to ponder here.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

From Awareness to Funding Part II (The Probable Supporters)

The last post on the report on From Awareness to Funding (an OCLC report) focused on the first 60 pages. Those pages primarily discuss the non-supporters.

The next section covers the Probable Supporters. The Strong Supporters section, briefly mentioned, spoke of community members who strongly supported the library, but did not necessarily use the library extensively (it comes later). They understand the value of the library and the benefit to the community.

However, the Probable Supporters support the library because they use the library. The Four categories of probably supporters are:
Just for Fun
Kid Driven

Library as Office

Look to Librarians

Greater Good

"The Just for Fun respondents are the heaviest users of the library, reporting an average of 36 visits per year."p 71

"While the Just for Fun voters are the heaviest users of the library, they are the least likely of all Probable Supporters to vote in favor of an increase in library funding. p 71"

That matches the Financially Strapped as two categories of heavy library users that are the least likely in their categories to fund library initiatives. This group obviously favors the library and would support it in an election, but I wonder where the line is crossed for this group to go from supporter to non-supporter (the bad economy affects this). Furthermore, one identifies it as a need, but can't afford more, whereas the Just For Fun don't identify the library as a need, but a want.

"They see the library as a place to relax, hang out and socialize with others and recognize the library’s role as a community gathering place. However, they are not as emotionally connected to the library as other segments on the Probable Supporters tier and are less likely to support it financially. p 71"

Does that mean they like it, but consider it frivolous?

I have to say, I find it odd whenever respondents state the top thing they check-out are non-fiction titles when my circulation data states otherwise. (you'll see this pattern throughout)

In my library's master plan study, the results here were similar. The majority of people stated they checked-out non-fiction and used reference the most of any other service.
My stats say Fiction/Bestsellers and DVDs.

"The Just for Fun segment represents almost a quarter of all library visits (23.9%).p75"

This part was interesting:
"The Just for Fun segment has a greater awareness of what is available at the local public library than average for all voters. In particular, its members see the library’s Internet access as a big draw and they love to read. They have the same positive associations with the library that are common across all Probable Supporters segments but have less of an emotional connection than other segments on this tier. Compared to other Probable Supporters, Just for Fun respondents are less likely to see the library as a place that helps them improve intellectually, creatively or personally. The library is a place to hang out and socialize, and Just for Fun respondents value the library’s role as a community gathering place and social hub.p 76"

Does this mean library initiatives for making the library a community space creates high usage, but doesn't create any more support?

This seems to explain the the phenomenon I remarked on in the first part of this post. We have high usage, but funding comes a bit more slowly.

Is the community hub a bad idea if it doesn't translate into community support?

"The library is seen less by Just for Fun respondents as a place to better themselves intellectually, creatively or personally. p. 79"

Just for Fun respondents have a tendency to be uninvolved in the community, but make a point of voting in local elections. Their their voting habits tend to be liberal and respondents are the least likely Probable Supporters to definitely vote yes for a library referendum

"Kid Driven respondents visit the library more than average with 19 visits reported annually. They are typically accompanied by at least one child. They regularly check out materials for children and participate in the children’s programming. Kid Driven respondents are willing to support the library financially because of the role it plays in educating and inspiring their children to be the best that they can be. p 80"

"The Kid Driven voters are emotionally connected to the library, seeing it as offering an
exciting and diverse experience that inspires them and helped shape their identity.
They hope the library will do the same for their children. p. 85"

Back to the emotional connection discussion. They understand the power of the library to transform. The value their children's education and library's potential to help. Parents are some of the best advocates of the library. They can physically see the advantages demonstrated in their child's advancement.

The library as office segment takes advantage of the library's technology and resources. It "fulfills a practical function and is more about knowledge than a personal connection".

"Library as Office respondents are more likely than other segments to operate businesses or work in the same towns where they live. They have a tendency to live in smaller, rural towns across the Midwest. p89"

18 visits annually

"The Library as Office voters feel that they always leave the library having learned something new. Their connection to the library is practical rather than emotional and their ideal library would offer services tailored to the business user. p 93"

Library as office segment see the library as a resource; it has the tools they need. They are very knowledgeable and are aware of library tools with little or no assistance. They use the Internet because of limited access at home and like library environment. They like the learning environment. It's all practical, it's about information, but there is no personal connection.
There is no transformational connection.

Library as Office wants more business support. I liked this part, very detailed. This is a careful line to cross for libraries. If you are dedicated to small business support, the office resources provided to the public are critical, but are very time consuming and costly. In this case, the library duplicates some of the resources you can find at a local Office Max.

"The Ideal library: A resource for small businesses: Provides all of the resources a small business would need, including free temporary office space, computers with Internet access, phone, copier, scanner and fax machine. It would also provide access to online databases like ABI/Inform as well as other business-related resources like books about finances, marketing, etc. Resource for tax preparation: Provides tax forms, access to tax preparation resources and step-by-step guidance during tax season Workforce training center: Provides instructor-led classes on entrepreneurship, presentation skills, computer skills, sales generation, financial planning, marketing and other business-related topics in order to improve the workplace skills and marketability of community members" p 95

They are more likely to be Friends of the Library. (That explains the Friends support for me. Lot's of business buy tables, donate money, but may not come to dinner or library.)


"Look to Librarians voters have the foundation of a strong emotional relationship with the library and they see the library as a place where they can better themselves intellectually and feel like they belong. They also see the library as a place to escape from everyday life. p 97"

"...this is the only segment to rank public libraries as the number-one priority for an increase in taxes across all seven public services surveyed, outranking the police and fire departments and public schools. p 97

"Look to Librarians voters volunteer in their community and at the library and are active participants in local organizations. They have a long-standing and ongoing relationship with the library. This relationship has led to a strong emotional connection and a sense of belonging. p. 102"


Although this group uses the library infrequently with only 4.5 visits a year, its members believe that the library plays an important role in serving the needs of the community and can be a great source of pride.p. 107

The Greater Good respondents see the library as a noble and necessary institution, a source of pride in a community and a place that brings people together. They believe that the library turns people into thinkers and achievers instead of passive participants in life. p 112

This covers up to page 112. Part III will cover the rest and summarize.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

From Awareness to Funding Part I

I have been waiting to review this document for a while. From Awareness to Funding is an OCLC report that surveys who supports libraries and why. It also surveys why people don't support libraries and why. I enjoy getting information on how the public perceives and uses the library. We went through a similar process when we developed our 20 year master plan and our bond referendum. Both identified key issues for the library and helped us pass our bond.

Some of the points in the document provide keen insight to why referendums and levy votes fail. Some of the points I don't agree with as I see them as points very difficult to convey, such as explaining where the library gets its money. Some financial analysts cannot clearly decipher and explain the complexities of the local taxing system. It is difficult to do that without appearing too obfuscate. The density of the annual report is enough to scare anyone away.

Some highlights for now:

(Introduction: Funding the mission)"While successful in raising demand, the majority of library campaigns have been aimed at promoting library services and driving library use,not increasing library funding."

YES!!! This is where my library is right now. We have huge increase in demand, but we are very slow to catch up to it.

"Our hypothesis:U.S. public libraries are facing marketing and advocacy challenges that have been faced by other ‘super brands.’ Lessons learned and successes achieved can be applied to increase library funding. Utilizing marketing and advocacy techniques targeted to the right community segments with the right messages and community programs, we can improve the state of public library funding."

There were eight important findings derived from the quantitative research:

1. Most people claim they would support the library at the ballot box—fewer are firmly committed to it.

2. There is a lot that people don’t know about their public library.

3. Library support is only marginally related to visitation. Advocating for library support to library users focuses effort and energy on the wrong target group.

4. Perceptions of the librarian are highly related to support. ‘Passionate librarians’who are involved in the community make a difference.

5. The library occupies a very clear position in people’s minds as a provider of practical answers and information. This is a very crowded space, and to remain relevant in today’s information landscape, repositioning will be required.

6. Belief that the library is a transformational force in people’s lives is directly related to their level of funding support.

7. Increasing support for libraries may not necessarily mean a trade-off of financial support for other public services.

8. Elected officials are supportive of the library—but not fully committed to increasing funding. Engaging Probable Supporters and Super Supporters to help elevate library funding needs is required.p 24

"Respondents who have the strongest beliefs that the library is a source of transformation are those who are most passionate about the need to protect, support and fund the library." (p 25)

"Instead, the research indicated a need to appeal to both the heart and mind of the potential voter, positioning the library as an important part of the community’s infrastructure that plays a key role in providing equal access to resources vital for thriving in today’s digital world. (p25 "
Overall, I have marketed the library and advocated for the library. We are embedded in the community, people see our value.The friends group makes $25,000 that goes right into library projects. We passed a bond by 66%. However, the traffic exceeds the funding right now. It always will in government. I wonder what the breaking point is.

I liked the breakdown in this pyramid for library support:

"The Financially Strapped generally believe that the public library already has sufficient funding. The Financially Strapped segment is more than twice as likely(53%) as the average for all voting respondents (23%) to believe the library should be able to operate on its current budget. This segment is not willing to increase taxes for library funding." p 48

Generally, the Financially Strapped won't pay for extra funding. I can understand that without all the graphs and charts. If you can't make ends meet, you can't afford another dollar no matter WHAT the value is. It's called being nickled and dimed. (I have to say look at that discrepancy near the bottom. That's a 22% difference between those who attend literacy programs and those who would support additional funding.)

"The most defining characteristic of this segment is its members’ lack of involvement with their local public libraries and with their communities as a whole. The Detached segment is the least involved with their library of any voting segment. They use the library less than other segments and do not see its relevance to the community. p 50 "

I see this as a problem with a new segment of the population moving in. With the recent housing boom, many communities are seeing many new faces. Have those faces been integrated into the community? A bedroom community could have this problem. A community in which the residents go elsewhere for shopping or other amenities hurt that community as a whole, not just the public library.

"The Detached segment tends to have higher household incomes than average, with 29% having an annual household income of $100,000 or more,compared to 19% of the total voting respondents. p 50 "

This also fits with my community. We have had a housing boom with more white collar households.It has been difficult to engage them or even to get them to shop in town. This is mostly due to them moving to the northern side of town and commuting to work and leaving to go shopping on the weekends.

"They are more likely to have Internet access at home than other voting respondents and think that the information provided by the Internet is as good as that provided by the library.p50 "

"Not only are the Detached respondents uninvolved with their local libraries, they are uninvolved with their communities. They pay less attention than average to issues around local politics and the local economy, and are less-frequent consumers of local media. The Detached segment tends to believe that everyone in their communities has Internet access. They fail to recognize the library’s role in providing equal access to technology for community residents.

With higher than average income, the Detached segment is better able to afford an increase in taxes to support public services than many other segments. But lack of connection to or interest in the library and their communities make them unlikely to support tax increases to fund the library.p 50 "

I can understand this. If I don't use it, why should I pay for it? This is the segment that want to lower taxes. Some would say, "I don't want to pay to help the poor or someone else." What if some Library Directors fell into this category?

The Web Wins
The web Wins section is a no brainer. This is the biggest, "Isn't everything on the web?" segment you always hear. Librarians try to get this segment by placing library services online. Sometimes I wonder if some librarians are getting too far into this realm. (As in using the web so much that they don't use their own library.)

I will post a second post and an overall summary...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Management is easy, it's like having 50,000 bosses

I read three great articles about management yesterday. Two from Library Journal and one from the Sites and Soundbites blog. The general theme is the difficulty in being a manager and the difficulties caused by managers. Managers will cause a majority of a library's problems (or any organization) since the decisions they make influence everything. That's why my tag line is,

"An executive is a person who always decides; sometimes he decides correctly, but he always decides."

The inherent problem is when you make the wrong decisions or you make decisions based on your ego. Who does this benefit? How will I do it? Who are you thinking of when you are making a decision? Is it what the community wants, your staff wants, or something that you want? In the end, the average employee has one boss, but a good boss answers to 50,000 people.

I don't agree that it is an impossible job. In fact, it is a very rewarding job. You aren't gathering small accomplishments here. You can make a huge impact. It comes from stuffing your own ego and doing what everyone wants. Figuring what that is, gathering resources, and implementing is the tough part.

Do you know your community?

The pressure on the library director is knowing the community. Making a move, starting a program, speaking with community members, all, of which, are part of establishing that relationship. Most librarians are liberal. Many of the ideals of librarianship set forth by the American Library Association are liberal in nature.

Some of the problems with library directors in trouble stem from a lack of understanding in relation to a conservative base or a group that they may not understand or agree with. It may have nothing to do with the library director's viewpoint, but if concerns are not addressed, things tend to blow-up.

A few years ago Jo Ann Pinder was fired by the Gwinnet County Library Board. This drew a very heated discussion from the library world and from a conservative group that pushed her out. There is a great deal of detail here and here. She was fired without cause. Some would say she was unfairly fired, others would say that she didn't listen to a growing community group that criticized her direction.

Who is right here? It isn't for me to say. It makes me wonder as to whether some library directors look to serve the community or look to serve what they think is serving the community. If there is enough people to push through something like this, it begs that question.

Which brings me back to The Impossible Job post:

"The principle is valid. However, few administrators or the members of their governing authorities have the tolerance and flexibility needed to maintain the balance of power and still make the right policy and operating decisions. Few have learned how to navigate the troubled waters when administrators disagree with their bosses on the board. Yet I remember a strong director who was faced with board opposition to acquiring video formats because it competed with a local store wisely agreeing to acquire the library collection from that store. The discount in purchasing locally was a bit lower, but everyone was happy."

What is worth it?
We can also discuss the fotonovella controversy of the Denver Public Library. This actually prompted our own review and the major vendors also reviewed the content they made available for libraries. The Phoenix Public Library dealt with a very serious controversy regarding the library's filtering. Again, it forced us to review our policy. Is resistance to this need worth it? Is the complaint valid or unreasonable?

Library directors have their own set of feelings about how things should be. The question becomes is it worth it to resist this demand. Do you stand on principle or do you make the change because the community demands it? If you are not on the same page with the board or the public, then you are perceived to be out of touch. If you do nothing to address known concerns, it will only lead to a big blow-up.

It takes engagement whether it is the public or your own staff Slow Leadership: Why People Resist Change:

"If you would take the time — and be honest and sincere in your efforts — you could ask people for ideas and be assured they will come up with most of the solutions required for them to do their best, both for themselves and for the good of their team and organization. Asking employees improves their self-esteem, motivates them, and empowers them. They take ownership for finding solutions and making change. Asking communicates: “I value you as a person. Your opinion is important to me/us/the team/the organization.”

"I will bend like a reed in the wind."
OCLC talks about Environmental Scans and what the library needs to be doing in the community. We talk of strategic plans and ways to integrate the library in the community. The truth of the matter is that we need to provide the collections and services the public wants instead of what WE think it wants.

From Library Journal: Check Your Ego at the Door

"The ego, we concluded, can be a very damaging thing. Inflated. Overbearing. Egos create rules for rules’ sake. Egos complicate procedures and keep good people down. Egos squash good ideas and can take the best of an organization and turn it on itself."

It should be more of a discussion as to whether the staff is available to provide such a program. Once the personal opinion of a director thinking what he or she wants to do, rather than the community, problems occur. Why don't you do this? Why don't your provide that?

The reality is, every complaint, every concern must be addressed. It must be addressed in a way that demonstrates an understanding of the issue and a response or review, then follow-up. It shows that you care about everyone and when librarians talk about every reader his/her library, this is when that principle matters the most.

Why would you want to deal with all of that?

It isn't for everyone. Many librarians went into their field from other jobs. Their hope was to escape the politics that may be more prevalent in the private sector. If that is the case, they would hate management.

It's worth it if you want to make change on a larger scale. My library can make moves for the community's biggest needs. It is interesting on that type of programs we put out on a specific need and how many other organizations begin to put that out, or put it out at the same time. It demonstrates a need that is identified and where organizations can collaborate. If you are creative, like working with people, and have a high stress threshold, management is for you.

It isn't an impossible job. It is a job that requires delayed gratification. Working towards building a new library takes years. New programs, new services, building changes, technology changes, all take planning to develop, fund, and implement. Knowing where to get money, knowing where to re-allocate resources (including staff), and the ability to influence others and be influenced by all will lead to great success. I have been fortunate enough to be able to build one library, renovate another, and in a few years, build a new main library. It is an impact I can see that is much faster than average. It is that success that makes the job really wonderful.