November 17, 2017

Veronda Pitchford | Movers & Shakers 2005

The Easy Sell

2005_Veronda_Pitchford

Pure energy: that’s one way to describe Veronda Pitchford, the assistant director of Chicago’s Metropolitan Library System (MLS). And she uses that energy to transform the profession one recruit, one project, one library supporter at a time.

At work, she is involved with recruitment and taps her public relations B.A. to help member libraries market themselves inside and outside their organizations. She also works to coordinate Illinois Library Advocacy Day and leads training on how to “educate” legislators.

Go to a national library conference, and you’re likely to see Pitchford at a microphone, infusing her subject with humor and necessary doses of the “real deal” attitude. She speaks on any number of issues – creating a forum for young leaders, addressing diversity and recruitment strategies, and developing marketing savvy.

“I really would like to see upper management diversified,” Pitchford says, “not just in racial diversity but in age and thought.” ALA’s Spectrum Initiative is one approach, but “the funding is so low that it would take them a million years to catch up with the retirement boom that’s going to happen.” The rest of the profession has to get involved. “It shouldn’t be the job of one entity to diversify the profession.”

Librarians also need to learn “how to advocate for ourselves better. We don’t tell our story enough, market ourselves, fundraise for ourselves.” She recommends a much more aggressive stance: “Waiting for the budget from above is passive; we need to get out and advocate for libraries. If we don’t step up to the plate, no one else will.”

She speaks straight to the public library’s core ethos. “I have a passion for the fact that libraries are one of the great equalizers in this society,” she says. “When I start to talk to legislators about this, it is such a freakin’ easy sell!”

Pitchford turns this take-no-prisoners position toward mentoring and recruiting as well. She believes it’s never too early for recruitment. She works with high school students on job shadow days and gauges from them how well the profession is thriving. “Unfortunately, a lot of the same stereotypes are still out there. People have no idea what we do or how and that we’re not all old white women.”

Nor is there a single place for recruiting. Pitchford recently had a woman in her yoga class come up to talk with her about the profession. “It can happen anywhere.”

Vitals

 

Current position Assistant Director, Metropolitan Library System, Chicago

Degree MLS, North Carolina Central University, 1994

Board Member FOLUSA, Illinois Center for the Book, ALA Spectrum Initiative Advisory Council

Self-definition “Die-hard library chick”

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