Library Seeking New Image


(…) With all these changes appearing on the horizon, a new figure emerges: the Public Relations Specialist (PR). The PR person is charged with advocating and creating the organization’s image. It’s their job to advocate for and create or develop the organization’s image by showcasing all the great things the library provides to its community. In some libraries they call them Marketing Directors or Brand Managers. Purists will say it’s not the same. The important thing is to have someone who advocates, helps create, and protects an organization’s image. Primary among their functions is to be the public image of the library, participate in civic events, give conferences, work closely with the community, and attend media events when necessary while always offering a positive message regarding the library’s work. 

In many small and rural libraries, the PR position is assumed by the library director, who becomes a distinguished social agent. In the larger libraries, it is usually employees that carry out the tasks on a part time basis. The question is whether the best description is that of a librarian with marketing knowledge, or expert in marketing with an understanding of library sciences. “Either can work”, asserts Kathy Dempsey, “but I have taken the side of hiring people with PR backgrounds to do that work, since having that external point of view can help push organizations towards new ways of thinking and working”. For Bizzle, coming from a different background was a big help, because, “when I was trying to figure out how to engage patrons, a lot of that came from how I’d want to be engaged, as someone who knew basically nothing about a library. I knew how to connect to that person because I was that person”. 

In conclusion, it’s a matter of renewing our understanding of the library from the top down, not just applying a little bit of makeup. Creating a brand entails listening to the community, imagining solutions to their problems, generating ideas collectively, relating a story that lets the community recognize their values, necessities and aspirations. It’s a fundamental question of leaving behind the idea of an enormous container of objects for worship, and thinking of the library as a resource for the development of the fundamental values of equality (…)



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