I get asked this question like literally almost everyday by different people in my library, on my campus, or at some other related luncheon or event where someone who loves books wants to meet the new library director at the college. Last December, I got a chance to pitch my vision to the Board of Directors for the college. It was a huge deal and to celebrate I wore my beautiful new Kate Spade 4 inch heels that made my feet hurt like a bitch by the end of the night, but an important person’s significant other loved them! So, it was worth it.
But my point here is that *everyone* needs to have an elevator speech or four ready, no matter what your job in your library (or most organizations really). So, have you ever thought about what your elevator speech is? If your an instruction librarian, are you prepared to talk with a faculty who says, “my students already know how to do that,” OR “I thought they learned that in their writing course.” For those of you more experience, I’m going to bet you do. BUT, do you have a speech ready for the time you are sitting next to the college president and he says, “so what is this information literacy thing and how is that different than information technology?”
How do you prepare a good elevator speech though? Do you sort of daydream scenarios in your head and talk in front of a mirror once a month? What I used to be able to do was talk to my boss and practice some. When I was down in the trenches of librarianship, this sort of exercise was often part of our biennial instruction workshops. But, as the library director, there aren’t a lot of people on campus that really *get* what I do. So, after being asked this question a time or two, I did come up with five points that I can use in any setting, but I emphasize differently for different audiences and insert appropriate buzzwords (though I hate that term) if necessary that are related to different audiences. For example, Board members want to know a bit about enhancing student learning, jazzing up the space physically, but they all nodded when we talk about educating better graduates for the workforce. Boom. Presidents want to know why libraries are so expensive. (OK, maybe not that callously.) So, I’m ready to talk about the current research on correlations between library space and student learning, and add a dash of inflation/serials/information is expensive. It has certainly been a learning curve for me to be able to intelligently talk specifics about areas of librarianship that are *not* my specialty, like copyright, serials, or just space design/workflow.
My vision for my college library is a stronger, curriculum integrated information literacy program; a deeper partnership in the co-curricular life of the campus; better designed space for student study needs; a healthy collection that emphasizes just in time versus just in case; and, the creation of a culture of assessment throughout everything we do.
Sounds like a piece of cake, right? Check back with me in five years and see how I do. In the meantime, draft up some talking points/elevator speeches for your faculty, your boss, your boss’s boss, and alumni. You never know who can help facilitate your vision.