Online Discussion Forum January 2011

"Elevator Speech" - Elevator speeches: a very short 1 minute summary of what's going on at the library - a way to advocate easily. I often consciously think about what my response will be to people who ask me "What's new at the library?"

Facilitated by Maureen Barry, Initial email sent 1/3/11:

How many times have you been stopped by a patron outside of the library and been asked "What's new at the library?" It happens to me - OFTEN. And at times, I blank. I hesitate, and then lose my opportunity to really grab their attention. Or sometimes I don't think of anything "sexy" enough to really peak the person's interest. So, I've gotten into the habit of writing things down or purposefully thinking "What _is_ new at the library?" In a sense, I'm trying to constantly prepare and update my elevator speech.

So, this is January's discussion question - What's your elevator speech? What do you say when a faculty member, patron or student asks you "What's new at the library?" or the other question I often hear, "How's the library business?"

Contribution from Jamie Naylor:
I'm in my second year at a small high school in central Illinois. I can say this week that "I received three new exciting books, and I'm looking forward to the AP Psychology research project which will be piloting the school's use of the Big Six research skills." Many students will be intrigued by the new books (Junior Library Guild subscription), and several teachers will ask about the Big Six and/or about the AP Psych project.
Thanks for positive start for a new semester! (First day back from winter break)

Contribution from Daniel Jones:
I am currently in an unpaid internship (after graduating with my MLIS) at the Education Library at the University of Florida, and I have certainly gotten that question before when walking through the college or when I run into education majors. I, too, have blanked before being able to answer and like your suggestion of constantly preparing for it. Right now my answer is that we have a new study room and are working on a grant to acquire a couple SMART Boards for students to work with outside of the classroom. I still have to hide my wince when some of them (after their eyes light up regarding the SMART Boards) have to ask where we are!

Contribution from facilitator, Maureen Barry:
I'm glad I'm not the only one who has a habit of hesitating! Another way to think of this "elevator speech" is that it's a great opportunity to advocate on behalf of your library.

Contribution from facilitator, Maureen Barry:
In the interest of keeping this month's discussion alive...does anyone have any examples of how your elevator speech turned into a great partnership, sponsorship or another such opportunity for your library? For example, not long ago, I told another University staff member about our new First Friday events for students (after-hours events - game nights, move nights, etc., in the library every First Friday of the month). My one-minute explanation eventually led to his department sponsoring our event. Has anything similar happened to you?

Contribution from Linda Crook:
I’d like to tell the tale of a lost opportunity. I worked as a solo librarian in a local government technical library which had been almost shut down because of budget cuts. One day I assisted a despairing employee to find boring logs (as in, records of places they bored). He was ecstatic when I found him some and said, quote, “you just saved me ten thousand dollars.” I thought to myself, I sure hope he puts that in writing. I SHOULD have SAID it. “Could you put that in writing?” or “could you send an email to my boss and your boss and the head boss and maybe the newspapers?”
The library survived for a couple more years, but that anecdote would have been an excellent addition to my elevator speech. I think I used it once.
A twist on the elevator speech – do you have a short version for people who aren’t your patrons and don’t really want to hear all about it? I’m asked by my barista a couple times a week, “how’s the library business?” I usually say something like “busy!” or “great!” or “I just got back from conference!” but it seems like I need a quick way to say “libraries aren’t what you imagine, we’re really busy and doing cutting edge cool stuff, and if there were any jobs I would totally encourage you to become a librarian.”

Contribution from Lauren Doughty:
A short version of an elevator speech - what a great idea! Your usual comments to your barista are great starters. Just add a little bit of detail, like "we have cd's/ eBooks/ mp3 audiobooks/ art classes/ new cool library program/service besides books and magazines" or pick a couple of interesting things you did in the last month, like "I helped people apply for work, find a free place to file their taxes online, etc." It seems like lots of people don't know about everything the library has to offer, and starting to promote ourselves with two or three services or anecdotes can clarify who we are and what we do.