Best of PubLib – January 2013 in Review
This edition of Best of Publib covers the month of January 2013. Hot topics for the month of January included:
- Cataloging Local Textbooks ~
- Debra Bashaw of the McMullen Memorial Library in Huntington, TX asked:
- How do you catalog cookbooks from local organizations?
- Lending E-reader devices ~
- List Problems ~
- Amy Mullin of the Austin Public Library wanted to know:
- Are there technical problems with the list?
- Playaways ~
- John Richmond of the Alpha Park Public Libray District in Bartonville, IL pondered and ruminated:
- “I’m wondering if anyone Out There has changed policies re: what they/you provide with Playaways. And if you took something away, did people holler? (Which, of course, they shouldn’t do, because they’re in a *library*.)”
- Surveys for the Public ~
- Elizabeth Thorson of the Laramie County Library System in Cheyenne, WY asked:
- “Has anyone surveyed the public when facing budget cuts?”
- Requests by Parents for in loco parentis services ~
- Beth Hudson of the Walla Walla Public Library in Walla Walla, Washington wondered :
- “Does anyone have a written statement which they provide when a parents asks that you not check out certain items to their child?”.
- Worst Marketing Idea(s) Ever ~
- Dierdre Conkling of the Lincoln County Library District reported on ALA OIF’s plan for a sweater vest day to support intellectual freedom:
- “I think this sounds like fun but I don’t own a sweater vest. Just shows once again that I am not cool. “
On January 10th The ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom announced their ‘Wear a sweater vest on Sunday, Jan. 27, in support of intellectual freedom!‘ campaign. If librarians attending Mid-Winter ALA would wear a sweater vest on that day, it would demonstrate their commitment and support of intellectual freedom.
In jaw-dropping, dumbfounded awe I asked:
I am trying to imagine how Judith Krug would have reacted to perhaps the worst marketing idea I have ever seen and the dynamics of a meeting where this idea was proposed and validated. Did no one dare to speak truth to power?
What does a ‘sweater vest’ represent? How the heck does a sweater vest correlate to *any* form of ‘intellectual freedom’? Perhaps what is most appalling is the obvious lack of intellectual effort it takes to say you *support* intellectual freedom by wearing a sweater vest.
Maybe this will take off along the same lines as ‘Geek the Library’, which seriously detracts from the library mission. Bad ideas, once they are validated, tend to gain their own momentum.
This touched off two discussions on the list – one about the efficacy of sweater vests as statements of intellectual freedom and the other about the importance or impotence of the Geek the Library campaign administered by OCLC. And, there were the anticipated reactions from some readers who were simply aghast that I would question poorly made decisions by established bureaucracies.
Emily Weak who had been promoting a librarian employment site/ blog on Publib asked:
Somewhat off your topic, but I am curious as to how “Geek the Library” detracts from the library’s mission? Isn’t it about the diversity of resources one can find at the library (i.e. whatever you have a crazy passion for, you can find materials about it at the library)? Is it that you feel geek has negative connotations?
The Geek the Library campaign has evolved into its own bureaucracy supported by grants by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and administered by OCLC. I have found no empirical evidence that Geek the Library is more effective than any other course of advertising or promotion. In fact, there may be many, much more effective methods. Anna Cangialosi with the Chelsea District Library did provide a link to an anecdotal case study on Publib. However, there appears to be no clear data regarding effectiveness. The press release branded by OCLC seems to be yet another self-serving validation for people who self-identify as being a ‘geek’.
Professional librarians have spent years trying to separate themselves from the stereotype of anti-social professional clerks. The movement to create a new stereotype by branding librarians as Geeks may result in many more years of trying to live down that stereotype. Why not continue what we were working towards => a stereotype representing professionalism along with informational and intellectual excellence?
Rather than blindly accepting that a terrible marketing campaign is in your interest and the interest of your library – why not read a book about how you can promote your library? Why not do a critical assessment of what works and what doesn’t? Why not re-engage in library science as a fundamental set of skills?
Janet Jai has written an excellent book that investigates success stories, expert advice and innovative ideas that support library marketing. If you haven’t ordered it yet, you should order it for your library today: Saving Our Public Libraries Why We Should. How We Can.
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