These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things: Library Strategies Consultants in Their Own Words

Our consultants will be the first to tell you that each library and library support organization brings unique needs, experiences, and expectations to the discussion when they contact us about Library Strategies’ services. The good news is our consultants are just as individual about their approaches to the process, and each of them brings a different set of skills to bear on the projects they support.

This month, my colleague Betsy Bartholomew and I thought we should check in with some of our busiest consultants about what makes the work interesting for them, in an effort to give you the “under the bonnet” view of our consulting process. In part, this came about because of responses to surveys in our ongoing IMLS project with the Montana State Library. In many of the pre-planning surveys, we noticed some reticence around engaging the services of a consultant. Perhaps there is an assumption that the consultant is there, not to offer fresh eyes or see who you might be missing at the table, but to say “This is The Way because we at The Firm have studied this.”  

That’s not us. We are people-centric, not one-size-fits-all, and genuinely interested in what makes our partner libraries tick. But what makes our consultants tick? What do they enjoy? We’re glad you asked. (Oh, fine. We asked, but the answers are excellent, so we’re sharing.)

Well, true to the library ecosystem, our consultants value and enjoy the learning experiences with each project and community. These are a few of their favorite things:

  • “One-on-one interviews and site visits where I am able to interact with staff, board, community, and library administration.”
  • “People everywhere in the library world are so interesting and diverse; it is terrific getting to know so many people.”
  • “I really enjoy getting to see and experience the diversity of America across many different places and cities.”

Each Library Strategies project team includes at least one consultant with professional experience related to the scope of the project – strategic planning, capital campaign, community needs assessment, facilities assessment, etc. – plus a project manager. Working in tandem, the consultant(s) and project manager facilitate the project activities, guide the library or library support organization team through the project phases, and develop locally-relevant reports and action plans for the clients to take forward in their next steps. As one Library Strategies consultant says: “Consultants spend a great deal of time in preparation and planning for each client and activity. Taking care of the details ahead of time ensures more productive meetings and outcomes.”

Consultants are your problem-solvers, bringing their library-style curiosity and flexibility to their work. When we asked which projects they find most rewarding, these are some answers we received:

  • “I like the Needs and Space Assessments.  [In these reports] we are able to outline short and long terms goals. The short-term goals can be acted on immediately (often with little money).”
  • “The most rewarding projects have been working on grant projects that help libraries across whole states or regions. Being able to provide assistance and guidance across multiple libraries at the same time is both effective and rewarding.” 
  • “Enhancing the flexibility and inclusivity of institutions already inclined in this direction will be especially important after the pandemic. Helping libraries see their strengths is very rewarding.”

Many of our clients have completed background research about the type of project they are embarking upon and have solicited inputs from some stakeholders. Our consultants help the client probe deeper, ask challenging questions, and hear from a broad range of constituents and stakeholders. Our consultants are hearing and listening, too; they sometimes sense that the client leadership is “surprised by [the Library Strategies consultant’s] honesty as it relates to their project and what we recommend after listening to their communities.” The Library Strategies team is passionate about improving libraries – of all sizes, types, and resources – and that is demonstrated through honesty and flexibility to accommodate evolving needs. We stay on top of the changing library world, but we’ll never bring rigid assumptions into your landscape or try imprint your library with the precise impression of another. Your library, and your library community, are the reason we do this work.

(Extra thanks this month go out to Betsy, Stu, Melissa, and Cathi for their thoughtful answers and time.)

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