Session Description

How do we communicate the value of our work to a non-library audience and get people excited about the work that we do? Bring a list of your professional goals to this interactive workshop in which we will discuss how to align the values of librarians and fundraisers and practice reframing our work to communicate maximum impact to our community and supporters.


Fundraising, self-promotion, public university, outreach, budgeting, perceptions, attitudes


May 12th, 3:30 PM May 12th, 4:30 PM

Act Like a Librarian, Think Like a Fundraiser

Chittenden Room

Do we abandon the core tenets of our profession when we reframe our professional activities through the lens of a fundraiser?

How can we reconcile our public service values with the forward-facing self-promotion that accompanies a fundraising mindset?

Are we at odds with our profession if we think of ourselves as library promoters, not just service providers?

These are some of the questions with which I have wrestled as I have transitioned into a new role at a public university facing a deep budget crisis. What I have realized is that whether or not fundraising is a part of our written job responsibilities, every single employee of a school can be considered a fundraiser on some level--whether it’s by creating transformative experiences that foster an engaged alumni base, contributing meaningfully to students’ academic success and well being, participating in innovative projects that generate positive publicity, or simply by creating a physical environment and policies that allow anyone who walks through the gates of your campus to feel welcomed and supported. I argue that this mindset does not detract from or cheapen our core purpose but rather allows us to hone and sharpen our work by asking the questions, “Why does this matter? What is this for? What difference does this make?” These questions make us sharper and more engaged professionals, more committed to the work that we do, more efficient and effective workers. In this workshop, we will reflect on those very questions: What do we do, really? Why is it important? How can we express that work in ways that are meaningful and exciting to people outside the library?

Competition for resources lately has felt like a zero-sum game as libraries are increasingly challenged to explain, clearly and effectively, the difference they make in the lives of their community members and the success of their institutions. The primary purpose of this workshop is to equip attendees with a toolkit that will help them reframe their work in ways that make their impact visible, particularly to those who might ask, “Well, why DO we need libraries anymore, anyway?” This approach does not fundamentally change the work that we do, but it does challenge us to think about how that work is understood by people outside of the library.

I will begin this presentation with an activity asking participants to compare the subconscious attitudes we have toward fundraising activities versus our traditional job responsibilities and activities. We will work to align those attitudes more closely as we discuss some opportunities for low-risk fundraising collaborations on campus. Participants will be asked to engage in reflective exercises: they will be asked to identify their core job tasks and reframe them for an “outside the library” audience, and will further practice this task by workshopping their individual professional goals through the lens of a fundraiser. In addition to the reflective exercises, participants will also receive a toolkit of suggested readings, resources, and strategies for engaging with fundraising in their library or on their campus.


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