During a LIANZA workshop about advocacy in libraries, I was intrigued to hear Sue McKerracher talk about ‘elevator speeches’ I was intrigued enough to search the origins of this term when I returned to my office. Initially it was literally an elevator speech or ‘pitch’. The term is derived from the time it takes an elevator to go from the ground floor to the top floor of an office building and means a short, prepared spiel used to market yourself, your product or service.
Elevator speeches are useful in the situation that many of us find ourselves in, at one time or another, when we have an opportunity to talk about our library service briefly and unexpectedly. A carefully crafted, memorised presentation can be very handy if we suddenly meet someone from our community or school board.
Often people ask: “What do you do?”, and just as often the response is a job label: “I’m a librarian (or photographer…artist, etc)”. The listener immediately attaches all the stereotypes that she associates with the label. However, if our response is: “I support teachers and students in their search for information and knowledge as a school librarian”, our listener may respond differently and engage in conversation. We might perhaps, erode a stereotype as well.
In her presentation Sue also talked about occasions when we might meet our manager or principal in the hallway or the lift or staffroom. Often we may comment about the weather, rather than maximising the opportunity: “Have you heard about the latest library success?” Or: “I’ve just come from a great session with a group of year 9 students during which we introduced them to some new tools and resources which has supported their learning and has set them up for success with their major project”
Now, more than ever, we need to articulate clear messages about the importance of school libraries and the valuable service we provide to our learning communities.
We need to be heavily involved in student learning. We need to measure our successes and, most importantly, we need to tell our stories. Elevator speeches are a great way to do this!