Advocacy, Consulting, Libraries, Professional Articles, Training

Communications Tips for Libraries Facing Book Challenges

My typical weekend routine, if I’m not dashing off to a kid-related activity, is to listen to NPR’s Weekend Edition while I drink my coffee. This past weekend, I was intrigued to hear a promo for a story about a library director.

“This library director resigned after continuous dramatics over featured books”

The story itself was not surprising. If you’ve been following the news, you know that there have been more and more challenges to library collections and programs around the US, including some recent high-profile attacks on LGBTQ-related library events and book displays during Pride Month.

This has saddened me on a personal level, but it has also prompted a lot of thinking about how I, as a consultant who works with libraries, can help. What role does communication play in these challenges, and how can libraries be better prepared?

  • The first thing I would recommend is having a strong marketing and communications plan. If your community has a high level of awareness of the library, its services and programs, and its impact, then they will be more inclined to support the library in challenging times.
  • The second thing I would recommend is to increase transparency about your library’s structure, governance and policies. Ensure that your policies are updated, easy to understand and readily available for the public or media to read. Ensure that your board is educated about the library’s policies, and that they are aligned with library administration about what the steps are. And finally, ensure that local stakeholders – elected officials, community leaders, residents – understand how the library is governed, so that you don’t have to scramble to explain this information while in the midst of a challenge.
  • The third thing I would recommend is to have a crisis communications plan. This may sound daunting, but it’s actually much simpler than you would think. I have written several blog posts about this topic, providing advice, training, and even walking through the steps of creating one.

I can’t make these challenges go away, as much as I would like to. But I hope some of these tips can make it easier for libraries who are struggling with this issue. If your library is facing such a challenge, feel free to send me an email. I’m always happy to share advice and learnings from my own experience, or to work with you as a consultant to help prepare your own plans.

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