I read lots of articles and posts about libraries, and I almost always look at the comments that readers leave at the end. This usually ends up as an exercise in frustration and disgust.
"Why, oh why, do I let myself read these upsetting comments?" I ask myself.
"Because you need to stay aware of what people outside the industry really think of libraries," I answer myself.
And we all should be aware of this. I know it's easier to stay within our safety zones and only dwell on the nice comments that library users make, but it's at least as important to know what non-users think -- and if you want to promote your services and improve your standing in the community, then listening to non-users is even more important.
So I want to share a comment I read today that is representative of many that I see. People honestly wonder why libraries still matter, and as long as this is the case, we have more marketing and promotion to do. This comment was at the end of an article about a state government here in the US cutting virtually all library funding in its latest budget proposal. Here it is:
With as much online content available these days and with the proliferation of e-book-enabled devises, I'm wondering why we need to spend so much on libraries very few visit? What's missing from this article are the millions of dollars currently spent at high schools, colleges and universities to maintain libraries, which come out of this very same budget. I'm a voracious reader, but I haven't been in a library since 2002, and that was to access the Internet when I was traveling -- the hotel's connection was down. I shop at Half Price Books and I can usually find my research material online. Let's not forget that this money isn't going to buy books, but to pay salaries, administrative costs, and overhead. Maybe these librarians can tell us what should be cut from this budget in lieu of this funding.
Does this make you angry? Sad? Hurt? Frustrated? All of the above? Probably. But what I really want to know is this:
* Does it spur you to take action? To improve your promotion?
* Do you, personally, have a response for this? Not a tirade but a calm, fact-filled response for why libraries do still matter? Do you have this elevator speech at the ready, and have you practiced saying it?
We all need to realize that people outside our profession think this way, and, more importantly, vote this way. How do we change their minds? What do YOU say when you hear or read things like this? Or what are the favorite responses that you've heard others use? Please share. I think this is an important conversation to have.