Libraries: We can help you with that.

Today as I walked back from the student union with my burrito (the burrito lady knows my order, now, because, oh how I love the burrito), I was thinking over my week and realized that I actually DO know what my library motto is.  Usually, when people ask questions like that, I shrug and smile, because the only thing that pops into my mind is snarky, like, “Libraries: We do stuff you don’t understand”, or “Libraries: our jargon is better than yours” or “Libraries: Expensive software, awful usability”.  None of those is terribly helpful.

But today, I was thinking about some recent interactions.  A new faculty member wasn’t sure yet what her students’ information gap was regarding research skills.  My answer?  We can help you with that. A student at the reference desk who needed to make a table in a report: We can help you with that.  A student who couldn’t figure out how to cite a resource: We can help you with that.  A community member who needed to use a computer for a few hours: We can help you with that.  A student looking for “a good book to read”: We can help you with that.  A departmental secretary was trying to figure out how to archive their alumni newsletters:  We can help you with that.

So there it is.  I’ve been tossing around the phrase “libraries don’t exist to ‘be libraries’; they exist to support institutional goals” in my own head for the past six months or so.  I think I heard it at Computers in Libraries, but I don’t remember from whom… the idea of it just stuck.  And a better crystalization of it is this simple.  Libraries:  We can help you with that.


  1. Jenica, I think you’re on to something here… I believe this phrase is on par with, “Where’s the Beef?”, “Got Milk?”, or “Just Do It”.

    @Bobbi… Let’s get started on this national campaign!

    @Nancy Dowd of “M for Marketing” fame… How can we start a grassroots library motto marketing campaign???


  2. Might want to note that libraries used to have narrow-minded focus on collection-size and a Staples-like motto (“Yeah, we got that”) and now we’re about access to collections and services generally (“We can help you with that.”)


  3. Stephen, yes! We’re currently working to figure out how to measure success in that new environment — if the goal is “help people”, how can you prove that you achieved the goal? The old way — counting book collections and the number of people coming through the door — doesn’t align with the new reality.

    Interesting times, and all that. 😉


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