Archive for December, 2008

Embedded Librarianship and Tough Times

December 11, 2008

Tough times have reached the world of librarianship. In the past couple weeks, I’ve learned of two good librarian friends experiencing layoffs in their organizations. One is one of the people being laid off, while another is one of the survivors who have to pick up the pieces and carry on with a smaller staff. In both cases, the library layoffs are part of a downsizing across the parent organization.

The first point to acknowledge is that there are no guarantees and no way to inoculate yourself completely against a layoff. Good people lose their jobs in spite of their best efforts. However, that doesn’t mean you should wait passively for the axe to fall. There are things you can do to improve your chances of survival.

What things? I’m reminded of another good friend, not a librarian but the executive of a small nonprofit. Faced with the last serious recession, in the early 1980s, this leader turned up the marketing communications to her constituents several notches. She went out and built new relationships and strengthened existing ones. Largely, this was done through intensified communications and information sharing — in those days, via a newsletter. The strategy worked, the organization survived the tough times and went on to prosper when better days returned.

It seems to me the embedded librarian is well positioned to do what my friend did. As an embedded librarian, you know the needs of the organization. You know how decisions get made and who makes them. Communicate. Share information. Make yourself valuable, and visible to the decision makers. Tailor your services to what the organization will need to survive the tough times. Don’t automatically keep doing what you have been doing.

Now is the time to ratchet up your communications and relationship building several notches. There are no guarantees, but it could make the difference.