One of my colleagues was talking about corporate messages, the subtle ways in which schools (and corporations, obviously) show what they really believe and value – not always the same thing as what they say they believe and value. For example, a school that says that it values diversity, but has an all-white faculty. Or a says that it prizes honesty, but doesn’t act in a transparent manner. This has resonated with me as I’ve thought about two former colleagues and the messages given at their memorial services (one I attended, the other I’ve only heard reports about, although I’ve also seen many comments on social media about both).
The first, whom I’ve written about before, had a very clear message. Eulogy after eulogy spoke of the simplicity of his life, how he didn’t spend frivolously, how much he cared about others, and that to him, good friends and a good time with those friends were prized above all else. There was nothing hidden about him: what you saw was what you got. The second was also not interested in “things” and “stuff” – she lived for her school and her students. Despite having her own children (and, eventually, grandchildren), every student at the school was, to her, “her child”. In the moment, they may not have realized how much she cared, but after a few years being away from school, they certainly recognized how special that feeling was. Whether or not you agreed with her, you knew that the school, and the students, was of paramount importance to her and the only motivation she had.
The other day a friend mentioned that she had just been to kiddie storytime at the local library and that the librarian there was “exactly what you’d imagine a librarian to be” – I jokingly mentioned the cardigan and bun, and her response was “no, OLD. Like, 100” My guess is that there may have been some shh’ing going on, and perhaps this librarian wasn’t as warm and fuzzy as my friend would have liked. To be honest, it’s been so long since I’ve seen one of the “real” librarians in the wild that it took me aback! But it did make me think: what is the corporate message I’m sending? Do my staff know who I am, and what I stand for? Do they know my values and ethics? Can the students sense those things?
Bigger picture, can I convey them in such a way as to create the “right” corporate climate here in the library? What messages does the library send? We’re hardly a warm, fuzzy space (seriously, that 70s dressed concrete architectural style has a lot to answer for!), and the collection is on the aging side. We do allow food and talking, but not full meals (yes, I’ve kicked out both salad eaters and Domino’s delivery men; we’re open during dinner hours) and because of the acoustics, the noise needs to be kept to a dull roar. Will having an Instagram and Twitter account help connect the community to the library?
What about you, and your message? Do they mesh, or is there a disconnect? And if there is, how do you overcome it (or doesn’t it matter)?