Fall in love again: library communication is not like an art film

This last Sunday my husband and I went to see Amour directed by Michael Haneke. On the walk home we talked about how nearly everything happened in the couple’s Parisian flat. The flat was a sturdy frame for understanding the landscape of life in the final moments before death. It was as honest as green beans at dinner or an electric razor left on the basin’s edge… Indeed, we went on and on agreeing about the amazing details of ordinary life…

Then it turned out that we had totally different interpretations of what happened at the end. Huh. Weird.

Library communication is not like a French/German/Austrian film

You don’t want people trying to figure out the ending. You want to go give it to them straight. That isn’t to say be a low-brow blockbuster. It’s to say, get clear on your storyline. A clear storyline is a compelling storyline, especially if it isn’t “we provide everything for everyone all the time in any way possible.”

Messaging is hard, because it means making choices. It means not everything can be told at once.

How do you get them to listen?

Know your story (message). Let’s consider the “dealers” we met in my last post, specifically the provost. What does she want to know? She wants to know how you’re supporting the strategic objectives set forward by the university leadership. So, a great place to start building your message is with a question — How do we make X strategic objective happen? We Y.

That (Y) may be your message, it may not, but it’s a good place to start. And by start I mean, begin a process. Examine the president’s speeches and emails and other messaging for themes. Take a look at your university’s strategic objectives with the goal of reaching a shared understanding of how the library addresses those objectives. Then, eventually, make choices about what to focus on.


An advantage of this approach is that the dealers know their strategic objectives and vision intimately. If you speak to their vision, you’re attaching yourself to an anchor that has already been cast by the persons who decide the fate of your library. That means the provost, who in addition to being a member of an important audience, is also a communicator, has something solid. What better outcome than this:

Donor Warbucks: What about the library?

Provost Wise: The library is supporting X by Y.

Donor Warbucks: Oh really? I’m intrigued by this high level vision. Please tell me more.

If this dream were to come true, (Y) would have to be simple and inspired. Also, graspable! Able to slip into a neural pocket in your brain!

Back to the beans

Okay, quick question, and we only have a minute: You haven’t seen the movie Amour and you ask me about it. I could say:

“It’s a powerful meditation on death that made me fall in love with film again.”

Or, I could say that there were green beans and tooth brushes, a grand piano and a wayward pigeon. Again, we only have a minute.

Photo info.


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