Thinking Out Loud: More Marketing and the Library Lock-In
A few weeks ago I posted some thoughts I had been rolling over in my head about the idea of the library lock-in. You can read them here. I fully and completely expected to get flames and was so pleasantly surprised that everyone responded to me with civil tones which I thinks highly of our profession and our value for different points of view. I did get some comments and personal emails and I thought I would take a moment to share and respond to them, parts of this appeared in the comments on the original post. Because my life is often filled with irony, after my original post appeared a nationwide library lock-in was announced.
I guess I should make a few clarifying points. I realize that a lock-in
can be an after hours events of any duration and is different then an all night sleepover, which is more what I was thinking in my statement. I have done both, an after hours program and sleepovers.
I think it is valuable for us all as librarians to take the time periodically to examine what we do and ensure that it continues to be a best practice and not just something that we do out of habit or something we see others doing. What is right for one library is not right for another, doesn’t even work in another. However, when we discuss how programming fits into our mission I think it is essential that we go on to explain why and how. I always wonder to if when we are discussing library missions if we mean a specific library mission or the general mission of a library as an information resource for a community. That is another one of those nebulous terms. I think that librarianship has an overall general mission, but of course each community library also has its own specific mission statement (well, they should).
I received some personal email comments that indicated that administrators had unreasonable expectations of programming and wanted to run the library like a business. I think that our communities and our administrators should in fact demand that we be able to articulate why we are doing what we are doing and be able to make a strong defense of our programming choices in terms of value to the individual, value to the community, and even being able to make a cost/benefit evaluation. For example, you may be able to do a sleepover for 8 hours and reach 20 teens at a cost of over $500 including staff time and supplies; but it may be a better decision to have a one hour gaming program that reaches a broader audience with a lower per person and overall cost. This seems especially true to me in these times with staff, funding and time shortages. These are reasonable decision making discussions.
I think our choices need to send the best message, reach the broadest audience, and prove the best use of time and resource management and I don’t know that library sleep-overs always do that or are always the best choice to accomplish this. That is not the same thing as saying that they never do that.
And finally it occurred to me that from a marketing point of view, it could be argued that the library sleepover could be considered a “bait and switch” marketing trap – especially to new library users. If you were a teen whose first library experience was a sleepover that you saw advertised, you would in fact be hugely surprised the next time you came into the library during regular operating hours. The experience would not meet your expectations. In addition, the library’s expectations of that teen would be entirely different in terms of how said teen was expected to behave and navigate the library space. In this instance, the overall mission and role of the library in the community is not being expressed and the message is muddled, confusing. Hanging out all night with your favorite cool teen librarian who values teens is an entirely different experience than walking in on a Monday night at 8 pm and coming across the library staff that hates teens – which is sadly an all too common experience in some libraries according to the e-mail I get.
Yes, it is true that we do library programming. We do things like Live Angry Birds (which ties in to technology and popular culture), Craft programs (direct collection tie-ins) and Karoake sing alongs (again, collection tie-ins). In fact, I am a huge proponent of the “coffeehouse” programming concept (see Don’t Underestimate the Value of Hanging Out). These types of programs occur in the library during opening hours in spaces designated for these purposes; they are in fact a normal part of the regular operations of a library and are open to all groups of all ages. Well, I hope your library is doing programming for all age groups.
But whatever your view on library sleep-overs may be, it is always good to dialogue with other librarians and take a second to make sure that what we are doing still works. So if you read through all of this and determine that library sleepovers are right for you, then I have accomplished my goals with this post.
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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