Trustee Workshop: Communication Best Practices with Municipal Leaders, Presented by P.C. Sweeney
Trustees and Library Directors from the Lebanon County Library District and surrounding districts gathered at the Holiday Inn- Middletown on May 5, 2018 for a presentation focusing on how to communicate effectively with municipal leaders about our libraries.
One of the functions of library trustees is to make an annual report to municipal authorities in the library’s service area. This annual report includes information pertaining to the library’s usage; however, library trustees should also be prepared to share stories of impact with municipal leaders. P.C. Sweeney shared some of his experiences as the former Administrative Librarian at Sunnyvale Public Library and former Branch Manager at San Mateo County Library.
P.C. noted the importance of having a visually-appealing annual report. He challenged the audience to make their library’s annual report widely available. Annual reports should be available for library users and non-users alike, through the library’s website, e-newsletters, and print newsletters. The goal is to make the library’s annual report highly visible, to spark conversation with municipal leaders.
When communicating with municipal leaders, library trustees should share a message with a theme. The theme should be similar to the library’s vision statement, and the message should tie back to the theme. A best practice is to use the 27-9-3 communication method; 27 words, in 9 seconds, using three examples. This method is recommended due to short attention spans, and 27 words is the average length of a quote in a newspaper. P.C. reminded trustees to consider the language they are using to describe library services to municipal leaders. Will the municipalities be more interested in hearing how the library contributes to economic development, or how the library provides connections to social welfare services?
P.C. demonstrated how to repeat and reframe messages that trustees may encounter during municipality meetings. One example P.C. provided was, “The internet has everything that I could find.” A library trustee could respond with this:
“The internet is a great source of information and that’s why we want to increase the community’s access to it and add value to what you get from it. For example, we offer high speed internet access along with databases that provide a level of well-researched and scientifically supported articles that you just can’t find for free on the internet.”
By listening to the statement, trustees can repeat and reframe the message to demonstrate the value and relevance of library services to municipal leaders. As a result of attending this workshop, participants walked away with several tools to communicate with authority and authenticity about their libraries’ program of activities.
This training is made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) as administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education through the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, Governor.
Stephanie Williams, District Consultant
Lebanon County Library District