Just the Facts…

By: Andy Minister

As we were driving from LAX into the city last week for the Library Journal Director’s Summit, my colleague Clark quoted the opening line from a famous TV show – Dragnet. After the Summit concluded, I imagined how the opening voiceover would sound at the conference…

“This is the city. Los Angeles, California. I work here. I carry a badge. My name’s Friday – I’m a cop. My partner is Frank Smith. It was November 29th. It was raining in Los Angeles. We were working the day watch out of the Library Security Division. A steady stream of disruptions had been finding its way into the city’s library system. We’d gotten a lead on some of the sources of those disruptions – We had to check it out.”

Joe Friday was no-nonsense, straightforward, diligent and paid attention to detail. Those characteristics led to solving crimes. But Friday was also a man set in his ways about how police work was done.

The Director’s Summit’s theme was Disruptions and Opportunities: Libraries Welcome Change. Many libraries find change difficult. The summit showed that libraries are getting out of their comfort zone and realizing a new way of thinking is necessary.

The positive energy from all the directors at the summit was truly exciting to see, and change is certainly coming. Like Friday, today’s libraries are diligent and pay attention to detail. Many have already begun to find opportunities in the pile of disruptions they face in order to make their library more effective and efficient.

“Just the facts, ma’am.” This is thought to be the most recognizable catchphrase from the show. But I learned while writing this, the actual phrase is “all we know are the facts, ma’am.” Think about the difference of these two phrases. In the former, Friday is asking for the facts, in the latter, he is telling her the facts are all that matter.

In our work at OrangeBoy, we have been evangelizing this approach for years, touting the benefits of customer segmentation and data-driven approaches to allocate resources, retain customers and build library support. We believe the facts are what matter, and we truly enjoy working with libraries to uncover those facts. When the facts are all that matter, libraries are able to make decisions that are not only easy to defend, but bring opportunities that result in outcomes that benefit the community.

It was refreshing listening to the thought leaders that participated in the Summit. All of the presentations were excellent and educational, but a few in particular stood out.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to hear is true. The names have (not) been changed to protect the innocent.”

Corrine Hill and Nate Hill (no relation) put on a show outlining a whole new way of thinking about how a library operates and serves its community. When Corrine’s vision becomes reality, the future Chattanooga Public Library will look more like an Apple Store than a Barnes and Noble. Nate has literally turned the library into a virtual playground. He has taken the fourth floor and turned it into a laboratory of library experiments. When those experiments are successful and validated, they find a way to implement them throughout the library…when they aren’t successful, they throw them out and move onto the next. I for one cannot wait to pay a visit to Chattanooga, a.k.a., Gig City because of the city’s commitment to high-speed Internet for all residents.

Admittedly, I may have some bias since he is from my fair city and a client, but Patrick Losinski, CEO of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, shared how he views his effectiveness having served for 11 years in that role. He discussed ways for long-tenured directors to stay focused, keep enthusiasm high, and determine when it is time to make changes. One of his success stories in Columbus is inviting local CEO’s to his office for lunch. He claims that he has eaten more turkey sandwiches than anyone in the city, but the relationships he has made, and the advice he has received in those lunches, has enhanced Patrick’s skills as a leader, and in turn made the library more successful.

It was a pleasure meeting so many directors and hearing about their challenges, but more so hearing their ideas and opportunities to meet those challenges.

As I left That City. Los Angeles, California. All we knew were the facts. Not all the facts are positive. But they do provide opportunities to grow. Growth is positive. And that’s a fact, Jack (uh-oh, I think that’s a line from one of my other favorite movies – Stripes.)

Leave us your comments or questions below.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

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