In 2005, my valued colleague Dr. Christie Koontz came across an RFQ put out by the New York State Library. NYSL was looking for consultants to write a marketing plan, and we were very interested. Christie and I wrote a detailed proposal, bid for the job, and won the contract. During the course of the paperwork, we learned that this state-government organization could only work with registered businesses that had tax ID numbers; they could not pay individuals for this service. I’d been thinking about starting a library consulting business for a while, and winning this contract provided the final push that I needed. So it was necessity that got me started on the paperwork of officially creating and registering a small business.
Filling out the government forms was a pain, but the most difficult part of it was choosing a name. For any business, a name is important, but when you’re all about marketing and promotion, that name has to be really good: recognizable, memorable, promotable… I had some ideas, but I was feeling the pressure to be perfect, and none of the names seemed good enough. I had all the other parts of the paperwork filled out and was about to give up and type in my least-hated business name out of desperation. With my head in my hands, I asked myself just why I was doing this. Why did I want to start this business and branch out from the writing and speaking work I was already doing for Information Today, Inc.? What was driving me to go to all this trouble? And then it hit me: The main reason was my conviction that libraries are essential to society. Suddenly I knew I’d come upon the perfect name for my little business: Libraries Are Essential.
As soon as that sprang to mind, I knew it was right. The name fit my personal feelings about libraries as well as my desire to help improve and promote them. It said, very clearly, exactly what the business would be about. It was catchy and memorable, short and sweet. And, as I thought more about it, I realized that the name would be a tool unto itself, for every time someone would hear it or see it, that phrase would be in their heads: Libraries are essential. It would promote the value of libraries on a constant basis. Everyone who ever saw the company name—the officials who would process the paperwork, the postal carrier who would deliver my mail, the bankers who would tend to my accounts—they would all get the message, even if it was only subliminal. It was smart, and sneaky, and snappy—and it was also available as a business name in New Jersey and as a domain name globally. I loved it, and I typed it in. And so, Libraries Are Essential (or LAE) was born.
I decided to sum up my business mission in the consultancy’s tagline: “Advice and consulting on library marketing, promotion, and public relations.”
And I did go on to work with Christie Koontz on a major 3-year marketing plan for the New York State Library. Later, over 2006 and 2007, we partnered again to write a marketing plan for the Ocean County Library, a 20-branch system here in New Jersey. And once I cut my full-time job at Information Today, Inc. (ITI) back to being a part-time job in January 2008, I had more time to seek out and to do speaking and training for librarians.
Today, I still edit the Marketing Library Services newsletter for ITI, and that job entails keeping up with library and marketing trends, traveling to conferences, plus writing and editing. With the rest of my time, the LAE side of me works hard to strengthen social connections, to spread the word about the importance of marketing, and to give workshops and webinars that teach info professionals how to improve their promotional materials, value statements, social media messaging, marketing and communication plans, media relations, and more.
Over the last 25+ years, I’ve worked with numerous libraries around the U.S. and Canada. I’ve presented at local, state, regional, national, and international conferences. I’ve been contracted as a writer or marketing consultant for various library vendors and nonprofits. And I’ve published countless articles, a couple of papers, a few book chapters, and my own how-to book.
To me, this work is very fulfilling. And it’s essential.