Our guest blogger today is Renee Bush Wallace, Head of Youth Services at the Clark Co. Public Library in Winchester KY. A chance comment gave her the opportunity to tell the real story of what happens in libraries in a positive, powerful way. She shares the encounter with us!
Last night, I was at physical therapy (for weird knees!) when my therapist proudly told me she had just "joined" the library. (She had gotten a library card that very afternoon!) She had even tried to see me, but alas, it was a half-day for me, so I missed her.
The other patient nearby said what a great job I had, since all I do is "sit and read for 40 hours a week." I never get angry at this comment, because it always reminds me of how little our patrons know about what goes on in the library.
Instead, I pleasantly explained that I actually do very little reading at work, and what I do read while there is always for work purposes, though I do enjoy it anyway!
So, I had to answer the question: if you are not READING at work, what ARE you doing?This was great fun, because I love what I do, and love for people to catch the desire to improve literacy among the children of our community.
Soon I had an audience of three, all of whom peppered me with questions about how the library is funded, how do I get the money for book prizes, SRP prizes, etc. One person even asked me if librarians make so much money, (!), why do we need to ask for donations?
I stayed past my appointment time in order to answer all the questions, and it got deeper and deeper into things that really make for great PR: how to get a library card, who can sign up a child for one, what SRP is about, why we do it, and so on.
When I could finally get away, one of the audience said, "Wow. I never knew the library did so much, nor that it was so much fun."
I tell my staff frequently: we tend to forget that most people do not "get" what goes on in the public library. We need to always be ready with a patient, pleasant, informative "chat" about just what the goals of the public library are, and why we are so excited about our jobs! We even have one of our civic groups that has me back regularly to speak at their monthly luncheons, all because way back in 2004, I said while there that I get up every morning SO THANKFUL that I am going to a job I LOVE.
PEOPLE WANT TO BE WITH EXCITED PEOPLE. Word-of-mouth is invaluable to us in our work! Also, a wise counselor once told me that if people do not have the facts, they make up their own, so I like to provide them with the FACTS about what we do, and about how much we want THEM to be a part of it!
Sorry about the religious fervor there, but... no, I am not, really! ;-)