Photo of Michael at Maker Faire

A new role in academic libraries: communications and public programs

I am responsible for communications and public programs at an academic library, and my librarian friends say this is an unusual position. I’m glad to be one of the first, but I hope I’m not alone in this role for long. (Are others out there? If so, please let me know!)

It’s a fabulous role to play, making memorable programs and shining a light on the library. This role is one way that our library addresses the prevalent question:

How do we show the campus and community we are a valuable partner?

The showing not telling is a very important distinction.

Communication is about making, sharing and listening

Yes, there are some basic questions (with complex answers) that everyone must ask as they form a communications plan. Things like: What do you want people to know? When you say people, who do you mean? How are you going to reach them? How are you going to know you’ve succeeded?

However, you can communicate a lot by making and sharing. People are making things at your library all the time. Document it to celebrate it! This means sharing it socially in a human voice, one that gets excited, one that can make mistakes. One that supports and encourages and listens.

Listening! That is important. Communications isn’t just about telling. It’s about inviting response and being ready to listen. That’s a part of the culture at our library.

Public programs are for the community

Designing interactive programs for people also lends itself to storytelling. If you’re engaging people, they’re going to want to share their good times with others in their own way. But also! You can leverage the hard work that goes into memorable event making by documenting the experience to share with the world. Beautifully, if possible.

Remember that time you popped real balloons using a button on your smart phone? Watch the video. Bummed you missed the conversation with your favorite history professor about his new book? Listen to the podcast.

What can this role do for your library?

Granted, this is a quick overview of designing communications and public programs, and how the two work together. There’s a lot to it, but it’s a lot of fun, too.

What could someone dedicated to communications and public programs bring to your academic library? Do you think it would be helpful to have someone in this role?

Photo (Kennedy Library on Flickr): Michael Newman at Cal Poly Science Cafe, one of the public programs we offer. This was a collaboration with the San Luis Obispo Mini Maker Faire and it was a great time.


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