February 17, 2018

Is it an Industry?, Facts Are our Mission, Speak Up about Salaries!| Feedback

“This is the great danger of private…funding…. Libraries are a public good, and the public ought to be the source of funding for them…”

A public good

This is the great danger of private individuals filling funding gaps in public services (Ian Chant, “Gates Foundation Exits Library Granting,”). The public thinks “they’re rich—why shouldn’t they provide services for us?” But the rich are under no obligation to do so. They get bored, they find other interests. They have no concept of what it means…to say librarians now have the tools to find other sources of funding. Libraries are a public good, and the public ought to be the source of funding for them.

—Karen Morgan, Libn., Mardigian Lib., Univ. of Michigan, Dearborn

It isn’t “the industry”

In Ian Chant’s article “Gates Foundation Exits Library Granting”, the words the industry appear several times. I am not sure if the author refers to some part of the commercial digital information industry, or is speaking of libraries, their functions, and personnel as an industry. I have also seen recently (though not here) the word marketing used in connection with libraries. This trend is disturbing. To me libraries should remain community resources, providing their patrons with a tangible central source of knowledge and skills, offering a sense of community, free of the distractions and manipulations of commercial enterprise.

—Name withheld upon request

It is “the industry”!

I personally use “the industry” when I write about the whole of the library field (Ian Chant, “Gates Foundation Exits Library Granting,”). Why not? We have buildings, employees, budgets, publications, conferences, associations, and a presence in every state and in DC. We have vendors of hardware, software, books, DVDs, high-tech machinery, paper goods, etc. Libraries are massive economic engines and community members.

And, as a library marketing consultant, I use “the M word,” too. We all should. If you think the idea of “marketing” libraries is “disturbing,” then you have the wrong impression of what marketing really is. It’s not about telemarketers who call you during dinner. And it’s not about pushy salespeople.

True marketing is about studying users and potential users, determining what they want/need from you, ensuring that you’re offering what they want/need, then publicizing the fact that you have those goods and services so people will take advantage of them. This does not conflict at all with libraries being community resources, or serving people, or teaching them vital skills. Marketing is the set of tactics you use to ensure that you’re serving people; to make sure they know what you have for them and that they are welcome to use it, either in person or online….

Many people confuse “sales” and “marketing.” In fact, marketing is the umbrella term under which comes promotion, publicity, advocacy, sales, outreach, and service. It does not have to include “manipulations of commercial enterprise.”

—Kathy Dempsey, Libraries Are Essential Consultancy, Medford, NJ

Our main mission

I was aghast to read “Against ALA Support,” the letter from Carolyn Manning (Feedback, LJ 10/15/13). The Affordable Care Act is a federal law! Libraries have a mission to provide information to their patrons. We do not have to give our opinion of that or any other law, but we should provide the facts. I can’t believe she really wrote, “I felt disappointed that we were being required to take an active role in providing information on an agenda that many people…are against.”

I realize this message is long overdue, but it is my last day before retirement, and I am deleting drafts that I never sent and am still aghast that some people who work in libraries do not know what our main mission is or what our profession’s Code of Ethics says. We don’t give our opinions, but we certainly do provide information.

—Phyllis Ryan Rogan, Head, Genealogy, Chemung Cty. Lib. Dist., Elmira, NY

Let’s get vocal!

Where are all the comments? “Payday” by Laura Girmscheid and Meredith Schwartz (LJ 7/14) is well researched and very relevant. If librarians want their deserved recognition, it will not come easy. It is up to us to simultaneously run a library, advocate for our jobs and pay, and tell everyone who will listen why librarians are relevant. Let’s get vocal. LJ inspires me much more than the American Library Association and any of its publications do…. It is not an us vs. them situation, it’s just nice to see LJ doing the work that inspires me to speak up and share about librarianship.

—Stephanie Chavez, Correctional Facility Libn., Fresno, CA


In the profile of the Edmonton Public Library (EPL), “Transformed by Teamwork: Gale/LJ Library of the Year 2014” (LJ 6/15/14), phrasing in a speech at the Canadian Library Association Outstanding Librarianship Award was erroneously attributed to EPL director Linda Cook. The true source of the comment was a column by LJ’s John Berry. LJ regrets this error.

This article was published in Library Journal's August 1, 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.