Lessons From The Library: Finding Value In Public Service

June 20, 2012

Since January I’ve been proudly serving as the newest member of the Stillwater Public Library‘s board of trustees. It’s a volunteer position perfect for this geek’s blood: I love libraries and books and everything that comes with them. I love the idea of starting to get involved in my community. I love the idea of public service.

And simply, I just love the idea of trying to find ways to do things better — whether that’s running a public library or fixing my toilet or diving into a brand positioning project for a client. In that spirit, I’ve taken some lessons from the early month’s of my three-year stint on the library board that apply to what I do here at Fast Horse. They might be interesting to you, too, in whatever you do to fill your days.

Ask questions: I’m the new guy, so there’s a lot to learn. Luckily, I’ve never really been shy about asking questions. When your new to a job or a client account or a project, ask questions like it’s your job. (It kind of is.) It’s the only way to learn. The faster you get up to speed, the sooner you’ll become an invaluable part of the group.

Recognize the power of data: The folks who run the library seem to have a passion for tracking and reporting that’s on par with their passion for good books. Tracking just about everything of substance — visits, check-outs, computer usage, event attendance, and more — helps the board gauge success, weigh priorities and make decisions. (Sounds like my day job!) Without it, we’re just making educated (poorly?) guesses.

Share what you have: While it might feel, from time to time, like your work as a marketer involves little more than pushing papers and shuffling slideshows, we all know there’s far more than that. Like so many other pros, we possess skills that are in high demand, particularly for smaller and non-profit organizations that usually can’t afford to pay for professional help. Share your time and your skills, and you can pretty easily make a big impact.

Not rocket science, to be sure. But good reminders of the simple things. The simple things that can make a big difference.