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Reviewed by: Christine Oka, Library Instruction Specialist, Snell Library, Northeastern University
Libraries are operating within a rapidly changing, and challenging, information environment with expensive new technologies and heightened user expectations juxtaposed with shrinking budgets and resources. All libraries, whether public, academic, or special, need good strategies to survive in this evolving highly competitive environment.
Strategic Library is a monthly newsletter with stimulating, in-depth articles aimed at addressing the real problems librarians face. Written by active library professionals, articles here describe trends and recent innovations in libraries and recommend best practices for issues such as management, assessment, marketing, and funding “to promote organizational success.” Each newsletter contains articles for a variety of library types.
In his article, “Why is Library Fundraising Unique?” Samuel T. Huang describes his experiences with library fundraising campaigns at three different institutions. He notes library-specific fundraising is fairly new to the profession, which means “library administrators and librarians often have limited development experience.” He further notes that fundraising is now an ongoing necessity, rather than a one-shot pass at raising construction funds for a new library building, with libraries often having to raise funds for ongoing operational costs, to create endowments, and to “enable library expansion to meet users’ needs with cutting edge technologies.” Huang also observes that academic libraries are at a disadvantage when competing with other academic departments for donor dollars as they do not have alumni: “It is true that nobody ever graduated from a library. It is also true that nobody ever graduated without a library.” Some solutions proffered include outreach to institutional development offices, reporting progress to both library and development administrators, and transparency in the management of donor gifts.
Another article, “The Science of Browsing,” is not about looking at computer screens, but looking within the library environment. While the author, Wendy Bartlett, is writing about public libraries, other libraries should take note of her advice. She explains how “the simple act of experiencing what your customers are experiencing can be a powerful tool for change.” What type of environment, or atmosphere, does the library project? Is it clean and does the lighting encourage users to come in and look around? Then there’s “the butt-brush factor,” a colorful description of the fact no one likes someone behind them when they are browsing the stacks. This is similar to “shoulder surfing” with someone looking over your shoulder while you work at a computer—not too pleasant. One retailer “tip” was the use of endcap merchandising at the end of shelves. “If you put lots of biographies at the end of the biography stack, trust me, library patrons will get it” and explore the materials in that area.
Strategic Library presents stimulating and practical approaches to improving the library; and these are not one-size-fits-all solutions. Also, the newsletter contains no advertising. It’s recommended for library professionals.