Competency D

Apply the fundamental principles of planning, management, marketing, and advocacy;

Introduction

Planning

Whether planning for the day’s workflow or putting together a strategic plan for an entire library system, having a process in place for the plan is a crucial step toward success. While the control of that plan will be largely dependent upon a person’s position within a library, impact can be made from any level, particularly when an individual has an understanding of the goals of the plan and the preferred method of plan design.

One of the most important plans within a library system is its budget plan. Evans and Alire (2013, p. 430) recommend using a “budget planning committee” to take on this large, and often complex, task. Additionally, as surprises do happen, a backup plan for the primary budget plan can be monumentally beneficial. Whether the library ultimately under- or overestimates the amount of money they will need in a given period of time, having additional plans or alternatives within a larger plan will ensure a library gets the most out of the budget supplied by the government or other parent organization.

Library staff with less influence but still with direct reports will find that they can use delegation as a planning strategy. The delegation of tasks can lead to greater flexibility within the library. As an organization that deals with the public regularly and frequently, flexibility can be an excellent characteristic to have. Evans and Alire (2013, 133) recommend that “…delegation should ensure that the library’s tasks and activities are structured to reflect its strategic plan and its goals.” Not only is delegation a form of a plan itself, but it can and should contribute to a greater plan.

Library staff will find there are, in their most basic forms, three primary types of plans. Evans and Alire (2013, p. 88) describe these as strategic plans (“long term”), tactical plans (“mid term”), and operational plans (“short term”). These three types of plans all have different needs, but at their base, are all plans. Making concrete plans gives a library a map by which to take action and make progress. Plans encourage cohesion among staff members and can be applied at all levels of libraries and library service.

Management

Management styles vary widely across industries, organizations, departments, and individual managers. Varying approaches elicit varying results. Evans and Alire (2013, p. 12) describe eight ways of managing: scientific, administrative, behavioral, management science/quantitative, systems, contingency, quality, and composite. These, certainly, do not cover every possible management style in existence, nor is any one of them strictly better or worse than the others. Each has its own focus or focuses.

In managing people, the environment and the people being managed will be significant guiding factors in determining which management style is most appropriate. While managers may find their strengths lie in one strategy over others, having a basic understanding of how several approaches work can lead to more effective and well-rounded management. Evans and Alire (2013, p. 22) suggest not just understanding and mixing and matching strategies with instances of management, but pulling pieces of each style to create a more personal brand of management. They write, “Today’s effective managers employ the full range of options in the management tool kit, choosing which to use at any given time depending on the circumstances – a mix of the contingency and composite approaches…good managers are flexible and change approaches when it is necessary.”

As with planning, flexibility is key in management. Having plans and expectations are excellent ways to feel prepared in handling whatever a library or library staff member may encounter, but they mean nothing if the library or library staff member cannot also be flexible with those plans and expectations, for in times when those plans and expectations are not met, good managers will have backup plans, be prepared for the unexpected, and keep a cool and flexible style.

Marketing

Evans and Alire (2013, p. 263) describe marketing as “a simple process of making potential ‘customers’ know you exist and providing them, and existing customers, with information on what products and services you have available.” One branch of marketing is advertising, which, according to Ross and Nilsen (2013, p. 359) involves making use of other companies or individuals and their resources and/or access to potential customers through payment to those companies or individuals. Libraries need not, in many cases, use advertising as part of their marketing strategy. Ross and Nilsen (2013, p. 359-360) list several alternatives many libraries already have available to them such as “effective public service announcements, in-house promotional brochures, and good contacts with local media.” Marketing, whether a library chooses to use advertising or not, relies heavily on both the funding available to the library and the relationships the library has built and maintained throughout the community.

The format or media in which marketing materials are distributed also matter. The intended audience should figure heavily into determining the appropriate platform, followed by the content. An advertisement for a teen program, for example, may go relatively unnoticed by the target audience in a newspaper. Promoting the event on the library’s Facebook page or through a community partner’s Facebook page will likely result in a greater response. However, if the library wishes to promote a new resource with plenty of details on how to make use of that resource, a Facebook post may be an inappropriate medium. Facebook posts better lend themselves to content that best appears in short form. A more detailed explanation of a new resource may better appear on a flyer or handout.

Marketing and promotion are such nuanced concepts that some libraries may benefit from having a staff member dedicated to these tasks, especially if that staff member has a background in marketing and promotion. With everything from concepts in psychology to business involved, the job of marketing and promotion may seem especially daunting. Even without a dedicated staff member, however, libraries can successfully market their materials and services with a little research and practice.

Advocacy

Advocacy, according to Evans and Alire (2013, p. 284), is similar to marketing but still a separate concept and endeavor. Evans and Alire define advocacy as being about “supporting a cause or course of action.” While advocacy is certainly a job for the staff member or members in charge of marketing, advocacy should be a goal of every library staff member. Both on and off the job, library staff members may have opportunities to advocate for the library. For example, when a library staff member and their friend are conversing about a need that the friend’s child’s school is not fulfilling, the library staff member may know of a library program that fills that need. In this case, the library staff member has an opportunity to advocate for the library and suggest that the friend not only take advantage of the program, but also that the friend support the library in other ways (monetary donations, volunteering, attending other library events, bringing friends along to increase even attendance) to ensure that programs such as the one in question continue to be made available to library patrons.

The American Library Association (2016) provides opportunities for supporters of libraries to advocate in more formal and far-reaching ways as well. Plenty of legislation at all levels of government can have a significant impact on funding and other critical library issues. Whether writing a letter to a state representative in favor of a bill in Congress or raising awareness with acquaintances and friends about challenges libraries are facing, anyone can find resources and tools through the American Library Association’s Advocacy, Legislation & Issues page.

Evidence

LIBR 204 SWOT Analysis

The SWOT analysis of the [Redacted] Public Library is an excellent starting point for planning for the future. SWOT analyses can inform strategic plans as well as shorter-term plans. Listing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats provides plenty of options to consider when designing a plan to change or maintain components of the library. A careful look at these components also demonstrates the ability to manage a library. While this particular analysis shows only the very beginning of an enormous amount of consideration, planning, and management, the basic concepts of the project can be easily transferred to a branch or even system-wide analysis.

 

LIBR 267 Rationales Paper

Because books for children and young adults are sometimes, depending on their content, likely to be challenged in a public library setting, creating rationales for books with potentially controversial content can be a great first step toward advocating for library materials. Although the advocacy in this case focuses on two particular pieces of literature (The Catcher in the Rye and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), the general concepts found in this assignment can be applied in more general terms to other works. The best defense is a good understanding of the book’s content, information on why controversial content was included in the literature, and positive reviews from trusted sources such as School Library Journal. This kind of advocacy not only protects tangible items within a library, but also works to protect and promote the greater concepts such as intellectual freedom, a value held in high regard in the field of library science. As a piece of advocacy in action, this assignment demonstrates an understanding of advocacy in libraries.

 

Conclusion

Leadership within a library can mean taking on several different roles at once to ensure the library leads a long and healthy relationship with its community. Planning may be one of the tasks a leader in a library is asked to undertake. This task is crucial to a library’s longevity and success. Planning shows a sense of thought and responsibility to the library and its materials and services, improving the odds that the library’s relationship with its community will be a positive one. Similarly, management works generally in a more internal manner. If staff can see that they are valued, they will be more likely to value their workplace. There are many facets to good management. Self-education on management theory and practice are excellent steps toward successful management. Marketing, meanwhile, is a fantastic way to increase library visibility within a community and remind community members of the importance of the library. Advocacy is an especially important part of marketing, though perhaps overlooked. Advocacy can happen at any level and should be applied regularly to show a committed and passionate team.

 

References

American Library Association. (2016). Advocacy, legislation & issues. American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/

Evans, E. and Alire, C. (2013). Management basics for information professionals. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

Ross, C. S. and Nilsen, K. (2013). Communicating professionally. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.