The Disparate Languages of Libraries and Politics

This is an excerpt from my article in the Political Librarian. You can download the full article here.

20130713_usd000_0It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone when I say that the political landscape in America has drastically changed. We have seen some of the wildest political rhetoric that we could imagine come from political pundits, politicians, our presidential candidates, and various media outlets. There are accusations of fundamental biases rooted in deep belief systems that are based on many of the fears of middle class Americans who have been left behind in the job market, Americans who feel threatened by outsiders, Americans who feel they are losing their familiar identities to anonymous and unknown forces. These fears are being capitalized upon by a multi-billion dollar political industry that is designed to exaggerate threats and use fear to win elections.

The most exaggerated of those fears that affect us, librarians, and our industry is a fear of government overreach and blaming taxation for a wide array of economic and social problems in the country. This fear didn’t spontaneously come about into being by itself. It was coldly cultivated with big data, polling, focus groups, targeted messaging, and the strategic radicalization of highly specific populations within our citizenry. These political groups have used this data to develop new sets of exclusionary languages that allow people of the same beliefs to communicate and understand each other. This has lead to the development of new political cultures within targeted demographics. These differentiating languages are one of the strongest walls against communication between differing political views. The language that is used is something that librarians, as government employees who are paid by taxes, must learn if they are to continue to serve their communities.

Read the full article in the Political Librarian here.

Cultivating Support for Your Library with a Ladder of Engagement

This post is the second in a series on tools from political campaigns that can be used to arm librarians in the face of growing opposition during the Trump era where anti-tax and anti-government sentiments have a much stronger voice than ever before.

So you need more money and people for your library, political initiative, movement, or cause? Try using a ladder of engagement.

In any political movement there will undoubtedly be times when the organization will have to ask other individuals or organizations for resources. It is a fact of political life that initiatives and movements rely on the generosity of others to continue to grow and expand their influence. However, even those that are familiar with an organization and support it may take some convincing to part with their precious time or their hard-earned cash. After all, supporters are not simply ATM machines. They are people with feelings, desires, and needs to be met. That’s why even staunch supporters are often reluctant to give up time and money to a political cause, preferring to support it with their words over their deeds (often referred to as “Slacktivism”). Of course, this causes problems for many non-profits, organizations, or movements because they rely on a higher level of engagement to survive and to have the resources they need to succeed. It doesn’t matter if the organization needs a donation, a supporter’s time as a volunteer, or other resources, the method for engaging any audience in a way that gives them the opportunity to get involved and sacrifice their own resources to make a difference in the world is the same.

The ladder of engagement is a fundamental tool for any organization or initiative that can be used to gradually build the relationships that are required to convince the public to support a cause and libraries can use it just as well. The ladder represents the way that people move from being unaware of a cause or an organization, to becoming broadly supportive of it, and finally to becoming active within it. For example, if an organization approaches someone for a contribution of $500 dollars to a cause they know nothing about, then their chance of success is slim to none. If the organization first took the time to develop a relationship with a targeted individual and then asked for a donation of $500 when the target was mentally or emotionally prepared to be asked, then there is a much greater chance of success.

A standard ladder of engagement would be visualized like this:

This is one of my favorite examples of a ladder of engagement although there are many others online.  In this example, we start with those that are “aware” of the cause and move to those that are “interested” and “interacted.” These initial three steps usually happens through marketing and advertising. This is how we get people to take notice of a cause, buy a product, or walk through the doors of a library. “Interacted” is also where people begin to take small actions such as liking a Facebook Post or Page. But this is where building supporters and activists is different than marketing. We want people to move beyond just supporting a cause with slacktivist actions and become fully “engaged” and “evangelized.” We want people to take real meaningful action.

In order to move people up this ladder, a campaigner needs to spend time and resources making people aware of the campaign. Next, they need to give them small opportunities to get involved or show that they care (changing their profile picture, sharing a post, etc…). After that, they should be given a place to be engaged or take more meaningful action like signing a petition or asking their friends and family to get involved. And finally, asking them to take that final action such as making a donation or volunteering for the cause.

One of the best examples of this tool in action was from the Obama Campaign in 2012.

The Obama Facebook ladder of engagement looked like this:

  • First, people were made aware of Obama’s campaign by seeing boosted posts on Facebook.
  • Then they were encouraged to take an easy next action by ‘liking’ the Barack Obama Facebook page itself.
  • Then the campaign asked people to “sign a birthday card” to Obama on Facebook in the lead up to his birthday. When people took this step they were asked to fill in their name and email address and the campaign had a valuable piece of information in their database: an email address.
  • After that, the campaign sent an email to supporters asking them to fill out a survey, or share a personal story. This step encourages people to become more committed to the campaign and builds a profile for the supporter so the campaign can better target them in the future. (Notice at this point that the Obama campaign has made only easy asks of people. They haven’t asked anyone to give up any money or time. But they have built a relationship with people and gathered some useful data, like an email address and location.)
  • Finally, people who participated in all of the previous steps get a fundraising email. But instead of a direct request for money they are asked to contribute to the campaign in return for a bumper sticker or t-shirt. Never under-estimate the power of swag!
  • Those that gave to the campaign are then asked to volunteer for the campaign or join at a deeper level in some other way such as organizing a house party, canvassing, or phonebanking for the campaign.

The people that a movement engages with undoubtedly start off having almost no knowledge of what it is about. The ladder of engagement allows a campaigner to walk with people as they get to know the movement and what it stands for. The more time a community organizer spends with someone then the better they get to know each other and the more likely they are to give.

Luckily for libraries, most people know that libraries exist and many American’s use their library so librarians typically won’t be starting from the “Unaware” rung of the ladder.

Creating a ladder of engagement for an audience online is fairly easy with Social Media. Facebook’s data is extremely accurate and allows a user to simply upload a CSV of an audience using just name and address and Facebook will connect that list of people to their Facebook Profiles (we won’t think too much about how scary that is). This means that if a library can generate of a target audience from any of wide range of possible sources, upload it into Facebook, and then target that group with ads then they can move them up the ladder of engagement. For example, a library can download a list of known charitable individual donors in the community from AtoZ databases (or ReferenceUSA) that includes name and address and upload that list to Facebook. Then the library can target that audience with ads about the importance of the library. After that, they can ask that group to sign up on an email list or other creative form that gathers more data. Then they can ask the public to change add a badge to their social media or take some small action. Once that is accomplished the library can then begin targeting them with more customized emails that encourage donations or other supportive actions.

It is easy to create ladders of engagement for people offline as well as it is online. Many times it simply starts with some research for a target audience or individual. A library can easily use a donor list, AtoZ databases (free with a library card), or Facebook to build their initial lists. Then plan their target’s engagement from there. For example, if the library has a goal of getting donations from some of the largest companies in their community, the library would download a list of the largest companies from AtoZ Databases (or ReferenceUSA) where the email addresses or phone numbers of many of the executives can often be found. From there, a librarian would reach out with an email or phone call to introduce the library and its needs using a strong script (we’ll talk about developing scripts later), and then if the executive is receptive to the library the librarian can offer to meet the executive for coffee to talk more about the library. Next, the librarian might find some way to get the company to involved in the library in some small way. At  many of the libraries I have worked in, we have been able to get volunteers from companies, sign their employees up for library cards, or have them sponsor or run a program. When this relationship is built, the library will have a much easier time asking for a donation for a capital campaign or an initiative.

To have an effective ladder in an organization it needs to set the ladder up in advance and understand what is needed from the process. It’s important to take the time before beginning to think about the goal of the ladder or where it is that people need to end up. Is the organization looking for money, or volunteers, or letters to editor, or people to show up at a city council meeting, etc…? In any of those cases, thinking about where people are in the community that need to be reached and helps understand how best to reach them. It’s always best to meet people where they are already. It might make sense to reach them online, or in person, or a hybrid of the two. Then plan about small actions that people can take to get more and more engaged in the library until finally, librarians can reach out to them when they are most primed to give.

If you are interested in having EveryLibrary conduct a training to build political skills for librarians or speaking at your conference or staff development day you can get more information here. Or for information about my training, workshops and consulting, please view my speaking page.

Turning the entire Library Marketing ecosystem on its head.

I had an amazing conversation with some people on twitter the other morning all about how libraries doing a really bad job of marketing themselves. I tweeted that “I believe that if librarians spent time money on marketing then we wouldn’t be constantly complaining about people perceptions of libraries” and that libraries need to drop a database in order tell people about the other 49. Well, I’m going to take it all back. I realized that I was wrong, the problem is not that librarians are refusing to market themselves, its that our biggest vendors refuse to market their products.

The problem is that it shouldn’t have to be librarians who are marketing and advertising the things that libraries are offering like databases and our various collections. The ones marketing their products to the public should be the ones selling those products to us. If some database company wants my library to buy their product, there should be a demand for their product. If nobody uses their latest proprietary database on the mating habits of the Great Spotted Alaskan Chinchilla, then my library just simply shouldn’t be buying it.

Why are librarians the one stuck paying for a product, and then having to pay to market that product to the people to make sure that demand is high enough to justify buying that product? Why do we have to do their work for them? This is not how it works with any other industry.

Here’s my analogy;

The mom and pop stores on the corner of my block carry all kinds of Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, whatever… But, not once have I ever seen an ad on FB, on TV, on the Radio, in the Newspaper from the corner store telling people how delicious Pepsi is. They might advertise that they have it, but they’d never advertise that anyone should drink it over anything else. You know why? Because Pepsi advertises that people should drink Pepsi, which makes people demand Pepsi, which is why stores offer Pepsi.

But in our case;

A database company sells their database to the library.

But that’s it! That’s all that happens! Then its up to the library to make sure anyone uses it or cares that the library is paying for it. The library has to convince the public that it’s a good product AND the library has to expend resources telling people that they library offers it. The library pays for the opportunity to offer a product nobody wants because the company that makes the product doesn’t spend any resources to tell people how great their product is. It’s as if libraries are paying twice for the product and being forced to do all the big vendor’s work for them as well.

But here’s something to think about.

If one of our database companies started using their money, not to advertise to librarians that they have the product, but to advertise to the people that there is a really great product offered at their local library, then the libraries would have to offer their product due to demand AND people would know that libraries are offering these products. Essentially, by advertising to the public about what their products are offering and how great they are and that they are available with a library card then more libraries would have to buy those databases due to increased demand and libraries would get more people to use their services. Because of this we will also get more engaged and educated library users and that translates into more library support which translates into more funding for libraries which in turn translates into more money for library vendors since more people will be demanding their databases.

What do you think? This was really just a quick and rough brainstorm that I had and it was too long for a tweet so I wrote a blog. Am I totally wrong on this idea? I’d love to know that I’m wrong.

Leaving California and Traditional Library Work!

Is-This-the-Next-Big-Thing-in-Content-Marketing.jpgI am making some big changes in the next month and I am really excited, scared and… well… mostly excited. I am leaving my administrative job here in Sunnyvale and moving to Brooklyn to be with my girlfriend Kate Tkacik and working for EveryLibrary full time.  Personally, I’m very excited to take the next step with Kate and start that chapter in my life, but this is my professional blog so I’ll focus on those things. If you want to get personal, feel free to friend me on Facebook.

One of the things that makes me most excited about this transition is that I get the opportunity to do something that I think is important and give back to the profession that has been so supportive and good to me. Librarianship has truly given me a lot of opportunities and I can’t possibly repay all of the great love and support I have received from so many people and organizations. I have been able to see the country and meet a lot of amazing humans that I call friends all over the United States all while paying my bills. I have really been very lucky to find such magnificent people and a profession that does such important work. I feel as though I have real opportunity and obligation to give some of that back and work to make the future for libraries a little bit better by taking on the local funding challenges by working for EveryLibrary fulltime.

In case you aren’t familiar with EveryLibrary’s work, it is the Nation’s first Political Action Committee built to work specifically on local campaigns and ballot measures for libraries.  In the last 3 years we have helped libraries win over 60 million dollars in funding through working to support local ballot committees, training campaign volunteers and library staff, and helping them win 26 campaigns all over the nation. We have also spoken at a number of conferences and given trainings and workshops to hundreds librarians in dozens of states.

I have been involved with EveryLibrary as a board member since its creation nearly 3 years ago and I have been more and more involved in the ground level work over the last few years. The political work, working with campaigns, and talking about libraries as important community causes has been some of the most fulfilling work I have ever had. This work is both challenging and educational and there is just too much to do for me to not take it on and work with John Chrastka and the team full time on it.

Of course, if you’re interested in the work that we do, need some campaign consulting, or having me or any of the EveryLibrary team members speak at your conference or workshop, feel free to get in touch with us. Of course, our work is pro-bono and only made possible by your generous support.

Since I’m leaving traditional library work, I’d love to close this out by giving a big shout out to the folks at Lincoln Public Library for starting me out with my first huge job, San Mateo County for just being amazing and supportive to work for, the wonderful librarians all over CA and CLA who have been really amazing to me and some of my best friends, and the librarians at Sunnyvale who are doing some of the most innovative work I’ve seen.

PS – I’m keeping the boat.

Vote For My Staff’s Amazing Conversation Starters at ALA San Francisco.

11001569_10153175109823707_6698739412170076201_oI’m going to take a minute and brag and recklessly hype these conversation starters from my staff and not feel bad about it. In my library my staff are doing amazing things and I would love to have them share with the rest of the library community.  For example, they consistently have huge turnouts to our library programs because of their marketing.  They are also working really hard to get more women involved in the maker movement with the Make-HER program, creating a platform for the library to be an independent publisher of eBooks, and making our staff training activities fun.

What is a conversation starter?
Conversation Starters are lectures, panels or discussions and will take place at ALA in San Francisco on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. The wide range of emerging topics, trends and innovations in the 36 Conversation Starters are what make them so powerful.  But they are made even bigger because they are the presentations that you choose through your votes.

Click on the links below to go to the voting site for these presentations.

Holy Moly, 100 Adults Came?!? WTF?
Are you tired of spending hours preparing for a program when only 10 people show up? So were we. Sunnyvale librarians discovered the secret of attracting large crowds by using marketing tools and choosing timely topics. With personal interests as sources of inspiration, we created innovative programs on such topics as starting a vegetable garden,  adults-only crafting, showcasing electric vehicles, using the 3D printer, and more. Learn steps for success, participate in a brainstorming session, and walk away with a practical toolkit to help you take your adult programs to the next level.

Spice Up Your Staff Training – Ninja Style
Got new resources? Staff? Need a reboot? Create a team challenge that brings everyone up to speed.  Through seven online challenges, Sunnyvale Public Library managers and staff worked together to become Tech Ninjas.  Managers upped the ante by pledging performance art upon completion of each task. Unlock the Discover & Go level and sing “Take a Load Off, Annie” with a manager on guitar. Conquer Encore and watch “Green Eggs and Ham” come to life.  Learn eBook basics and see a manager go blonde.   Fun, free, and customizable — learn how to Ninja-fy your library!

From Maker to Make-HER: Leveling the STEM Playing Field for Girls
How do techie girls make their way in what’s been termed a “bro-grammer” culture?  Despite advances in other fields, women still are vastly underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math professions (STEM).  Explore how public libraries can support girls and engage mothers as mentors through project-based STEM learning.  Get inspired by Make-HER instructors, discover what’s hot in the Maker Movement, and explore the practicalities of Library as Make-HER Space.  Finally, unleash your inner maker and learn-by-doing as #LadyMakers lead participants through a mini Make-HER project.

eBook Maker: Libraries as Independent Publishers
The Sunnyvale Public Library currently offers 3D printing services as well as a series of adult crafting programs, and just this year will publish an eBook anthology featuring local writers. The idea for the Bay Area Library ePublishers (BALE) project developed as a response to these “maker” programs, seeking to provide support and an artistic space for local writers. This panel discussion will feature librarians from Sunnyvale Public Library that took part in the project as they share their experiences of creating their own eBook, while providing a blueprint for libraries and librarians interested in pursuing publishing programs and platforms.

And a few for me…
Ok… A little bragging and recklessly hyping about the ones that I’m involved in too. EveryLibrary submitted a conversation starter to share what we’ve learned on the campaign trail and to help libraries learn about what they can start doing today to win elections years from now. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to ensure your library remains well funded for years to come.  I’m also presenting an interactive conversation starter on Professional Networking and Schmoozing based on my recent article in Library Journal. If you want to learn how to engage your peers and colleagues or build rapport with members of your community, you’re going to need to learn to schmooze!

SuperPAC Advocacy Hacks for your Library
Ever wonder why the nation’s largest SuperPACs are so successful at political advocacy? These organizations are well funded, well supported, and are able to convince thousands of Americans to take action to further their agenda.  But what if libraries could use the tools, tips, and tricks used by these organizations to support libraries? In this session, the folks from EveryLibrary (the nation’s first and only PAC for libraries) will share what they’ve learned from national PACs and through their political action activities in support of libraries.

Schmoozing for Beginners
Professional networking and schmoozing are two of the most important skills a librarian can have. They are not taught in MLIS programs, and being proficient at both was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn. In order to get the projects done in my community that I was passionate about, move my library forward, and garner political support, I realized that I needed to take advantage of the many professional and political social opportunities going on around me. This presentation shares many of the tips and tricks that I’ve learned that have been successful for me.

The Only Online Platforms you Need (part two)

I recently wrote about dropping everything but email and FB for your online strategy but I thought I should also mention some thoughts on everything else. I’m absolutely still advocating for your library to focus its use on just those two things, but of course there’s a bit more to it then that.

Name Registration
While you should focus your library’s resources on these two platforms, you should most definitely claim your library’s name across as many as you can. This is mostly because we may one day find a use for things like G+ and you don’t want someone else to have your name claimed. It’s also almost always free to sign up for a social media platform and at the very least capture your library’s username so why not do it. There are sites like http://www.knowem.com that will do the work for you if you want.

The other reason you should capture your library’s name is a bit more sinister. As Jason Griffey pointed out when Dale Askey was being sued by Edward Mellon Press, the law firm that was performing the lawsuit starting buying up any version of the URLs that could be associated with his name. This is just part of the due diligence of lawsuits in information age. We have also seen political campaigns buy their opposition’s URLs and claim usernames on social media as part of their counter campaign. This is not something that you want the opposition to your library or library campaign to do. Might as well get them while you can!

Using All the Others
Am I saying that you should NEVER touch another social media platform? Well, no. Not exactly. My post was about the most effective platforms for advocating for your library whether you’re in a campaign or just want to tell people about your library. There are ways to use other social media platforms that you might find useful. Here are some of the ways that I’ve seen social media platforms be used in a meaningful way by librarians-

  • Pinterest– You can find great Arts and Crafts, DIY program ideas
  • Meetup– Find local groups of people interested in specific topics that you can promote programs too
  • Twitter– Online reference. You can search by location and for people asking questions and then answer them. Think of it like digital roaming reference
  • Flickr– For the love of GOD!!! Please stop using clipart. You can find really good creative commons pictures for your signage and displays and ads.
  • Goodreads– I have seen some libraries do excellent reader’s advisory or organize book clubs
  • Instagram– It is so quick and easy to connect your Instagram account to many of your social media accounts if you want to share pictures across them. Why not?
  • LinkedIn– For your own career or to find quality and experienced presenters in your community on a variety of topics
  • Tumblr– It is a newer and younger growing community and I think it’s still best for librarians to use it for themselves as a kind of professional portfolio more than anything else at this point. But we’ll see what happens.
  • Second Life– LOL!! Just kidding.

 

PLAY!
Whatever you do, you can still play with all the others. There’s no real harm in it after all. You might find something fun and exciting to use them for and you’ll be learning some new skills and how to critically apply new tools to your library.

library advocacy 2

Sorry Librarians But Your FB Likes Don’t Matter Anymore

I know we all spent so much time cultivating the likes on our library’s FB pages but guess what? That’s so over. Facebook killed likes. But don’t worry, I’m going to talk to you about why they don’t matter and why I think that killing likes is a fantastic thing and what you need to do.

Page Likes Don’t Matter
In case you haven’t heard, Facebook throttled down the number of times people see your posts on your library’s page. This means that only around 2% of the people who like your page will see your posts. For most libraries, with around 1k-5k likes this means that only 20-100 people will see whatever it is you post. Because of this, you might draw the conclusion that you need even more likes than before to get more out of your page. Instead, I’m going to just argue that page likes just don’t matter now because the cost of boosting your post is so cheap and easy that you’re going to learn that you should have been doing this all along.

Fundamental library issue
You need to advertise. Why don’t libraries run ads? I’ll never figure it out. Libraries need to be running ads and have an in-depth marketing strategy just like every other organization in the country. For example, I’ve heard from everyone in a library from directors to pages who complain that nobody uses their databases and I always ask, well… How many people did you even tell that you had a database? The answer is typically something like, we made an 8.5×11 printer paper, comic sans, and clip art poster and scotch taped it to the stack for a few weeks. Ugh… That’s not marketing.

Now, with the magic of the internet, you can run a $25 ad a week to just about everyone in an average sized community regardless of whether or not they’ve liked your FB page. You can tell them all about your databases, your storytimes, your outreach, and most importantly… Your impact in the community. Depending on where you live and how you’re directing your ad, you can reach a couple thousand people with $25-$100. Whereas before, unless something went viral, you’re reach was just the people who liked your page. That is why like don’t matter.

But I know you’re thinking that if FB didn’t throttle down their reach that your page would reach a couple thousand people anyway. But I’m going to say that the people who like your page don’t matter that much, they already like the library. You need to reach the rest of the people in the community. The people who don’t like your FB page, the people who don’t come in every day, the people who need to be told to come in and use the library. That’s who you can reach with really cheap ads.

It’s a learning experience
What is great about FB ads is that they are so cheap and easy to manage. You can see your data in real time and see exactly who and how someone interacted with your ad. Over time you can see what makes people click like or interact with your FB page and improve all your stats. I’m not going to go over how to make your ads more effective, or how to direct them, or how to actually run an ad because I’m going to bet that there’s a book on your shelves right now that will tell you in great detail exactly how to do that.

Don’t Pay for page Likes
While I think that all libraries should pay for FB ads, I don’t think that anyone should pay for ads just to boost likes. Since, as I said earlier, likes don’t matter at all. But what if you are still really concerned about page likes? Then it’s time to start not caring about page likes. Because, running a good boosted post acts in the same way as an ad for likes anyway and there is also the outcome that people find out something about your library. For example, instead of an ad that says “like this FB page,” you’ll have an ad that says “come to the library.” Which do you think is better for the library? After all, you’re not running ads to support your FB page, you’re running ads to support your library.

The Money Issue
But I don’t have money for FB ads!! YES!! Yes you do. Instead of paying for a database that nobody is using, why don’t you drop the least used one and spend that money on an ad that will make people use the rest of the databases? Instead of spending money on a program that nobody is coming to, why don’t you spend that money on ads to make sure that people come to all the others?

But if I didn’t spend money on a database, I’d use it somewhere else because I have better things to spend it on than FB! Are you really going to tell me that you have a better and more cost effective way to tell thousands of people in your community how amazing the library is? Do you have a cheaper way to tell thousands of people how much the library matters? Have you figured out a less expensive way to tell thousands of people about how many wonderful things your library does for your community? If so, I’m all ears.

If not, good luck in the next election or bid for funding. If nobody knows about you, why would they pay for you?

To conclude

  • Facebook page likes don’t matter
  • Learn marketing from a book on your shelf
  • Run ads for your library

  • I’ll Leave You with an Ad for Kitten Mittens

    Getting the Most Out of Your ALA Experience with Keanu Reeves

    A couple of years ago I did a presentation to NMRT on how to get the most out of attending the conference. Besides all of the amazing presentations, SWAG, networking, vendors, etc… There is a lot that you can do to put yourself out there and take advantage of the many opportunities to get more involved in the profession. I’m going to rehash that presentation and give you some tips and pointers to be more successful at ALA in Vegas.

    slide-1-10241) I used to hate ALA and conferences in general. When I started my career, I went to two conferences and decided I was never going back. I realize now that this was 99.9% my fault. One of the most important things you can do at the conference is meet people and make new friends. Having friends at a conference changes everything. So get out there and meet people to be their friends and not just professional acquaintances!

    slide-2-10242) When you start talking to people, they are going to tell you about parties, presentations, ways to get involved and give you more opportunities to meet more people. In fact, the first time I had a good time at ALA it was because some great folks from Reforma invited me to hang out with them. Saying yes is how I accidently wound up on ALA Council. Aaron Dobbs told me to and I said yes. It’s also how I wound up in the ALA Think Tank house. JP asked me to try out this idea he had to stay in houses instead of hotels and I said yes. Don’t be shy about tagging along when people invite you to tag along!

    slide-3-10243) Don’t mind the haters. There is always some kinds of drama, someone speaking poorly of someone else, someone expressing some kind of negativity. Its fine, we’re human, that’s going to happen. But try to avoid the negativity. If you don’t like something, just move on. There’s hundreds of things happening at any given time so find something you like before hating on something you don’t.

    slide-4-10244) Likewise, project some positivity. Negativity gets a lot of attention on FB, Twitter, and maybe even your blog. But in person, it can be a lot different. Be sure to hype up people’s projects, thank them for their presos and time, and compliment people whenever you can. Be someone that people want to be around with your positive energy and smile and laugh a lot.

     

    slide-5-10245) Showing up is so important. There are so many things happening at ALA that you can’t be at everything but this is your chance to try. Just showing up to the after parties and engaging people has been one of the best things for my career. You can go to bed early, but you’re going to miss out on the opportunities to sit and talk with you library heroes instead of just listening to them talk at you during their presentations.

     

    slide-6-10246) Yep… After you show up, talk to everyone. Don’t be a wallflower. People WANT to talk to you. ALA is a great place where everyone will want to talk to you about whatever you’re interested in. Chances are that they’ll be interested in many of the same things you are. Librarians are all the same so if you talk about cats or Dr. Who you’re pretty much “in.” So while you’re sitting and waiting for that session to start, introduce yourself to the people around you. Ask them questions and get to know them.

     

    slide-7-10247) One key to success is just finding that first person. The one other person in the conference who you can hang out with. Its much easier to engage with people when you have a buddy to do it with. Plus, you and your buddy can come and go together to events and that makes it much easier. You can also help each other find more people or introduce each other to the people that you both know and double your network.

    slide-8-10248) What’s better than one friend? A dozen friends! Try and get a co-hort together. There are a couple of ways to do this through ALA like Emerging Leaders, running for ALA Council, but mostly its going to depend on you. If you’re having a hard time though, there are a bunch of ways to connect online before the conference. For example, follow the conference hashtags, the tumblarians on tumblr, or join one of the hundreds of FB groups for librarians like ALA Think Tank.

    slide-9-10249) It’s easy to get involved and offer your hand in services. You can try to volunteer for the conference and connect with people that way. Offer to volunteer for one of the committees or do things that help people at the conference like Erica Findley’s party map.

     

     

    slide-10-102410) Hey! You came to ALA and you put yourself out there. That’s the first risk you took. Now take another. Next year submit some program proposals, email people at ALA and ask them if you can help them with anything, do something big and exciting like organizing a meetup or a reason for a group of people to come together and do something in the networking uncommons.

     

    slide-11-102411) People expect librarians do act a specific way or live up to some kind of stereotype. This is even pretty prevelant within the profession. If you’re out to get noticed, you have to do something unexpected. For example, Steve Kemple organized a huge and loud disruption at an ALA Conference and it was one of my favorite things to happen at that conference.

     

    slide-12-102412) This one is easy. Start a blog or a tumblr or submit something to a professional journal to put your ideas out there and into the professional discussion. You have ideas and you should share them!

     

     

     

    slide-13-102413) The authority at the conferences do things a certain way mostly because that’s the way they’ve always done it. But then some people came out and questioned why and help make the change. For example, this is how the Code of Conduct came about. People came together and questioned authority and made the changes they felt we needed.

     

    slide-14-102414) People naturally gravitate towards people who aren’t afraid to make decisions. Even when those decisions might be bad ones. Of course, you’d never make a bad decision! But, if you have an opinion on something, don’t be afraid to share it. Get a dialog going and start a movement.

     

     

    slide-15-102415) This isn’t always the easiest thing to do. So many people won’t give up their seats on council or on committees and some people are on a dozen committees. But there are opportunities out there like running for ALA Council, mentoring for NMRT, or getting a seat on a committee.

     

     

    slide-16-102416) One of the best things you can do for lunch is ask around for people to join you for lunch. There is usually also a ton of great vendor socials or events for all of the meals of the day and the ones in between and you can typically find them using the conference hashtag. Or if you see a couple of people sitting around, ask if you can join them. If approaching a group seems intimidating, then try to find that guy or girl sitting alone in the dining commons and ask to join them. I’ve had some of the best conversations during lunch like this.

     

    slide-17-102417) Even if you aren’t. Guess what? Everyone else isn’t that confident either. We’re basically all faking it so fake it with us until we make it. In any case, everyone likes you so go talk to them!

     

     

     

    slide-18-102418) I’m not going to dwell on this one too much, there are SO many blogs and tumblrs dedicated to dressing for conferences.

     

     

     

     

    slide-19-102419) There are so many parties and socials and networking opportunities at the conference. Go out to them. If you’re sleeping, you’re conferencing wrong. You can sleep when you get back to the reference desk.

     

     

    slide-20-102420) No matter what you do, take this opportunity and make it happen. Whatever “it” is for you. If you’re just there to attend sessions, add to your tote bag collection, or meet John Green then don’t miss out on whatever it is you want to do.

    The Slate Article, Campaign Math, and Why that Article Doesn’t Matter

    yo JPOk, I saw a lot of hate on the Slate Article about what librarians look like. The hate ranged from people being upset because the people were too diverse, to it being stolen from other people, to people being “over it” in regards to library stereotype articles. Basically, I think each of these are ridiculous for a bunch of reasons. The most offensive TO ME though is the people who hate it because they are over stereotype bending articles about librarians. Let me break it all down for you.

    First, let me note that I am NOT hating on the article. I personally loved it a whole lot and this whole blog post is mostly about the fact that we need a lot more of them.

    Diversity Issues
    So these are really important things to talk about but I’m a mildly successful, middle class, fully abled, white guy with the difficulty level of my life set at “easy” so I’ll let other people make the arguments on this one.

    Theft…
    Ok, I know the article looks and sounds like a bunch of other things that librarians have done. But can we please just get over the victim mentality on this. I’m going to write a much longer blog post on this mentality now that I think about it more. It’s really so much more than I can possible talk about here. But I can sum it all up by saying that it’s all been done before. For example, there have been train libraries, there have been libraries on donkeys and on librarians backs and on boats, there are probably 30 organizations building libraries in Africa, there have been tiny free libraries before, there are a thousand blogs talking about a million things, and guess what? Your library FB page isn’t original either. So instead, how about we just give props when someone makes something cool happen even if you’re trying to do the same thing because what you’re doing isn’t new either anyway. Let’s get on the same team here people!!

    The REAL Message
    Ok, you’re probably already mad at me and I’m cool with that. But, if you got to this point, I’m going to explain why I’m REALLY UPSET by people hating on it because they are so “over it.” I hear this every time librarians try to get a new message out about our stereotypes or more honestly, try to get a message out about anything. So let me talk about why that really irks me and why this just proves without a doubt that we need a lot more political and marketing and advertising training in our profession.

    Let me start with what I’ve learned from my work with EveryLibrary and EveryLibrary California about the message in a political campaign. In every single book about campaign messaging and in every campaign message training I have ever been to, I have learned that there are three key strategies to remember about messaging.

    1) Say the message
    2) Repeat the message
    3) Repeat the message
    4) *free bonus strategy* REPEAT THE MESSAGE

    This article’s Message
    In the case of this article, it looks like there are two messages being played out in complimentary ways. I think that a first glance it appears that the message of the project is that librarians don’t look like what you expect. But when you read the actual text of the article, the message that stands out is that libraries are highly important institutions that do a diverse range of public goods. It looks to me like the pictures of these diverse librarians was meant to reinforce that idea in the text. But let’s look at the one message that everyone is talking about and the message that librarians are so over.

    “Librarians are not the stereotype”

    I think that there are a couple of truths that we need to recognize here. The first and foremost is that this wasn’t an article written for librarians to read at all. Basically, we’re talking about breaking down the stereotypes of librarians in the minds of non-librarians and not do anything in the minds of librarians. The second thing is that this conversation about changing the stereotype of librarians has been going on for a long time and it seems that most librarians want those stereotypes to change. We can debate about whether or not most librarians want that change or not, I don’t really care. But enough librarians want those stereotypes to change that it’s a conversation that we’ve been having for a long time.

    So how do we make that change?
    Well, we begin with the message that librarians are not the stereotype. Then we repeat it. In fact, we repeat it so much that we are tired of hearing it. If this were a political campaign, we wouldn’t even be discussing the fact that we are tired of hearing. In a campaign, we’re supposed to be tired of hearing the message. If we’re tired of hearing it, it means that the public is just starting to hear it for the first time. If we’re just tired or “so over” our message we’ve only just begun to do our jobs. To prove why that is, let’s do the math on that article.

    Campaign Math
    Let’s be HUGELY optimistic and say that 1 million people read that article in just the United States. That means that after the views by everyone else in the world, and minus all the librarian views, that there are one million views by the public in the states. There are slightly more than 313 million people in the United States and lets just simplify that to 300 million. This means that just ONE THIRD of ONE PERCENT of the American Population saw that message. And finally, let’s be honest and say that in reality, probably only 100k people living in the United States saw the article. Guess what? We’ve only reached ONE THIRTIETH of ONE PERCENT of the population. So in these scenarios, to reach the entire US population, we would have to repeat this message 3 THOUSAND times at the million views mark, and 30 THOUSAND times at the more realistic hundred thousand view mark.

    Now, let’s get even more serious. For campaigns, it’s widely accepted that for every 7 times a voter sees a campaign message, they register it in their mind once. At campaign trainings they also say that voters need to register it at least three times to be effective, and they need to register it ten times for it to be engrained. Ok… Are you following along? That means that we would have to put out this message AT LEAST 21 thousand times to register in the minds of US citizens just once at the million view mark and we’d have to write a similar article and put it out AT LEAST 2.1 million times at the more realistic hundred thousand view mark just to register it in their minds once. You want it engrained in their minds? Multiply those numbers by ten!!! Yes, we’d have to put out this message 21 million times to be effective.

    More Like a Campaign
    Luckily, in a campaign we typically only have to be effective with 50%+1 of the voting population. But even if we were to cut these numbers in half and add 1 to just the voting population like a campaign… Well, I think you still see how huge a national campaign needs to be. Now think of your state or town and how large even that campaign needs to be. I REALLY hope that one of the take aways you have from this is the size of a local campaign. Maybe a local campaign for your library?! This is way campaigns are so expensive and why EveryLibrary is so important.

    I’m tired just writing this
    So yes, you ARE tired of hearing messages about libraries. And you should be. And if you’re upset about a message going out once on an article like this one on Slate, just remember how little impact this one article actually has. It has, at most, 1/210th of a percent of an effect on the minds of Americans. So just be cool and praise the folks involved for getting it out there and then work on the message you want to get out. You’re going to need a lot of help on your message too.

    EveryLibrary California
    Since this is my blog, I’m going to have to throw out a pitch for EveryLibrary California and what we are doing to get the message out about the importance and impact of libraries on the lives of Californians. We are running a campaign for $50 contributions to our fight for California Funding and every $50 gets the message into the minds of up to 38 thousand Californians. Consider making a contribution today.

    P.S.
    I wrote this blog about the overall effect of this article on the profession in the minds of Americans.

    WTF Was I Thinking Last Year?

    Well, I’m kinda over blogging on my own blog in general but I’m going to write this one anyway. It’s my, “WTF was I thinking last year?” blog post. Basically, I’m just going to talk about all the stupid crap I did last year and then promise to try to do better this next year.

    1) Internet fights and generally being a dumbass
    Ok, this is the biggest and most on my mind and that’s why it’s first…. I’ve only gotten into internet fights with a VERY few people (like, less than 5). In the end, they were dumb, I feel dumber, and I feel bad about myself as a person. I also feel bad about anyone I made feel bad. Sorry about that, if I see you around in person, I owe you all a couple of beers (or whatever you’re drinking/eating) and/or at the very least, an apology in person for sure. Of course, none of you have to forgive me or be my buddy or anything crazy like that, just know that I plan to try to not be such an asshat in the future.

    So, this next year, I’m just going to do my best to let it go when something that irritates me on the Internet happens. People do what they do based on their own experiences and it’s not my place to judge them especially when I have no idea what their experiences are in the world. So yea… No more Internet fights. Let’s just go back to having some drinks and hanging out, making things awesome, and living our lives.

    2) Hating and Hating Haters who Hate
    I kinda slipped into becoming this and living in this area of the world a little bit towards the end of this year. I let things get to me that shouldn’t have gotten to me because, honestly… Well, in the end it doesn’t matter at all.

    So, instead of spending time and energy on hating things that I hate, I’m going to spend my energy on hyping the things that I love. Honestly, I’m worried it will be hard to start moving in that direction because I’m worried it’s become a habit. So, if you see me hating, call me out on it.

    3) Being a better manager/librarian in my job
    Honestly, this year has been rough for me personally and as a consequence of that I haven’t done as good of a job in my job as I would have liked. There are a bunch of things that I failed at for all kinds of reasons. I failed at looking at the details of some projects and I didn’t motivate my staff as much as I wanted to. To put it plain and simply, I didn’t do an awesome job like my amazing staff deserves.

    So, in case you don’t know…. I’m a branch manager in charge of two branches in my library system. I easily have a better staff than just about any manager I have ever talked to. I never have to worry about my libraries and they just kinda do an amazing job all the time and they make me look good. What more could I ask for? They are the reason that I have been able to go to all these conferences and do the things that I do outside of my library branches. I should do better for them and that’s my plan in the next years going forward. I’ll start by publicly saying thank you!

    4) Organize
    Right this second, I am terribly organized. I have a disturbingly messy office with parts of projects scattered around and things stored all over it. Basically, it’s a disaster and I’m not sure how I got to this point but this next year, I’m going to take some time and figure out how to be better organized not just in my office, but in my whole life. Ugh… this one will take a LOT of work….

    5) Do Something Awesome
    Ok, as a guy who honestly has a lot of privilege in the world, I feel like its my responsibility to not just sit on the winning lottery ticket but do something meaningful and good and awesome with it. Of course, I’m not sure what I should do just yet. So for now, I hope to just try to suck a lot less as a person and see what that does. I’m totally open for suggestions if you have them though.

    6) Follow Through
    There are a couple of things that I failed at following through on this last year. There were a couple of promises I made that I didn’t keep, or didn’t get to in time, or that let people down in the professional world. If you were one of them, I’m sorry about that. This is going to go back to numbers 3 and 4 and 5 but anyway, I’m going to do a much better job and following through on my professional promises…. Umm…. I promise?

    Well… Dang… OK, there are like ten more things to talk about but I feel like you’re done reading and I’m kinda done writing another blog post. See you next year.