retro librarian

In thinking about how to present, or “re-present” ourselves/librarianship, or “brand” ourselves, our services, why not consider this: The old is new again. Or, instead of going to great lengths to re-invent the wheel and work our asses off and frankly, be uber-silly like creating such freak-of-nature bookstore-library hybrid spaces, let’s examine what we have and regroup.

I’m an unapologetic traditionalist librarian. I love books. I love libraries. I also love and use technology. Both are awesome and neither should necessarily be separate or divorced from one another. I like balance, but I also believe in the sanctity of the library and in the power of the library as a space and I believe it will contain print materials until the end of time. Books are not going away. I say this as I purchase more and more “ebooks” via my Kindle. And yet, I also buy more and more “print” books too because there are certain types of books that are inappropriate for the Kindle, books with color photos (yes, I know I can do the color nook–it’s not the same), books I want to collect, and books I plan to use for research purposes.

So that said, you know where I stand, and how I feel about all those experimental libraries popping up. Sure, a year or so ago, I was slightly gung-ho about adopting a bookstore model in one of my academic library’s collections. That went nowhere. It was yet, another exercise in futility. Yet another spinning of the wheels. Sigh. Let’s not go there, yet. Perhaps another time.

And then there’s the Rangeview Library District in Colorado where they simply rename parts of the library into zones instead of departments and “rebrand” the librarians as “guides” and they’ve done away with fines, but that hasn’t solved and problems, really, so they’re kind of…um… rethinking that can of worms.

Sure, it’s creative, and innovative and I love to see folks exploring ways to appeal to the masses and engage with their communities. It’s gimmicky. It draws attention, and it draws in patrons/users/clients–we like to rename our peeps, too, notice? One of my colleagues reminds me often–because I’m a terrible critic–that it’s easier to criticize than to create. It’s easier for most of us to rest on our asses and throw punches at other librarians who are out there trying to make a difference who are fighting in the trenches actually coming up with new ways of doing things and working them out for real, seeing what works and doesn’t work, while the rest of us sit back and read the articles in LJ, nod our heads, cross our arms, and lean back in our reclining wheeled chairs, and say, “Yep, I knew that wouldn’t work. Toldja so.”

So, coming around to what the whole “retro librarian” title is about, is this: instead of going to all the trouble to come up with a new brand, a new gimmick, why not try the Old Spice trick?

Their new campaign slogan reads:

If your grandfather hadn’t worn it, you wouldn’t exist. 

This reminds me also of something IR Day in Baltimore last week reminded me of:  The elevator pitch. I learned of  the elevator pitch from my reading in business/marketing journals, but as a librarian, there aren’t many reasons to develop an elevator pitch. Yet, as an IR administrator, something I half-aspire to be, someday, maybe–don’t want to get my hopes up because it rather depends on money appearing in a budget line, and we all know how funds can be like quicksilver–having an elevator pitch is essential when you’re selling your snake oil medicine show to faculty and administrators.

You say something like:

I’m the original search engine.

Or thereabouts. And launch into why you want them to give you their c.v. and blah-de-blah-de blah, you build relationships, and communities, and begin the collaborative relationship and the legacy and the IR and all that schnazzy jizz. And so surely we can develop a library-appropriate and potent slogan along the lines of the Old Spice slogan, no? But not so much the original search engine elevator pitch mentioned above since that serves a different purpose. I must ponder this idea a while before coming up with ideas, but when I do, I’ll gladly share them here.

Basically, you must remind folks of your value, not dress up like a mermaid or a pirate when you’re–duh–a librarian.

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