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.

8 comments

  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???

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  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.”)

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  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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