What librarians can learn from Apple

appleLibrarians around the country are facing hard economic times.  There are a number of pressures in our field. Some of them are economic, some of them are driven by technology and mobility.

In the current budget cutting climate in Texas, many librarians have been laid off or reassigned (see my previous post: Mapping Librarian Cuts map).   We’ll have to address the day to day realities of coping with that, but we also need to think forward to what we want to happen once the funding crisis lessens.

In the library advocacy world, we often talk about making ourselves “indispensible” by working harder, publicizing our efforts, etc.   But after reading Guy Kawasaki’s book Enchantment, I started thinking about that a little differently. I realized there’s a complex relationship between desire and being indispensible.  Take the iPhone for example. Steve Jobs took something we didn’t even know we needed, created consumer desire for it, and now we find smartphones indispensable, both because of the craft and design and because of their usefulness and power in our every day lives.

So, translating that to library advocacy, it’s up to us moving forward to enchant our districts with a picture that is irresistable–to enchant them with what is possible in the years to come, and changing the focus from how to struggle through the economic troubles at hand.  That is how we can use this economic crisis as a real opportunity for reinventing what our libraries can be.  Through helping our district leaders “revision” libraries, we can build tremendous enthusiasm and support for what we can do for students. Having “buy-in” for 21st century libraries helps transform their perception of libraries, which will also garner us more support in the future, because we’ll have gained their backing and support.

In my keynote at Region XI’s SALSA (Secondary Librarian academy), I explored how Apple can provide us with examples of what that reinvention might look like. Apple’s product and marketing can inspire us with what a coherent vision looks like in practice. Everything from how the company reinvented itself to how their new stores create an experience to how Steve Jobs presents products has a lesson for us as librarians as we help our districts envision the future of libraries. It’s time we help our districts “Think different.”

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