Sometimes three sentences are a good day’s work.
I’ve been helping library leaders to refine an elevator pitch for the work State Library of Queensland does with public libraries.
RAPL, the Regional Access and Public Libraries team, has a range of duties – from administering grants to delivering professional development, fostering peer-to-peer networking, and setting industry standards. RAPL staff also promote literacy and wellbeing for children under five years old, support the digital skills of senior citizens, and advocate to local government on libraries’ behalf.
How do we condense that into something that is clear, elegant, brief, and compelling?
Well, here’s what we came up with:
Our scope, our goal, our offer:
Queensland has over 300 public libraries and Indigenous Knowledge Centres in communities from the desert to the reefs, from the mountains to the Torres Strait.
Together with local government, we ensure all Queenslanders have access to great public libraries that help communities thrive.
We advocate for public libraries, support their collections, their staff, and their programmes, and we share their successes.
Starting to whittle down our offer
This took two rounds of meetings with various senior staff in the State Library.
We looked at everything we do for and with public libraries; considered the organisation’s statutory duty (in Queensland, public libraries are run by their local government body but supported by the state); and acknowledged that some communities are served by Indigenous Knowledge Centres rather than libraries. These Centres are specifically designed and operated to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
We debated the way in which we described our scope. Queensland is three times the size of France, and although the language is a tad poetic, we wanted to evoke a sense of the diverse locations you might find us working across the state.
We needed to capture a sense of our goal – no easy feat in an age when library services have transcended mere books on shelves, when reading is still a priority but digital skills, play, technology, and wellbeing all have their place in our activities. Hence “great public libraries that help communities thrive”.
Finally we needed to explain what it is we actually offer – to make clear how we meet the challenge of these good intentions and this vast, varied geography. How to condense and reconcile those many initiatives, those funding rounds, the programming we deliver and the work we do to sustain local libraries’ own homegrown initiatives? We focussed our diverse offer on three strong verbs: to advocate, to support, and to share.
A scribbled draft gradually takes form
Together, these sentences capture the essence of what we do and pique the interest of an audience who are always welcome to ask more, to find out the details behind this broad outline.
They are also sentences that can be delivered in any order – our scope, our goal, our offer – depending on your priorities.
They’re just three sentences. You can say them in under twenty-five seconds. But they express the regional reach of a multi-million dollar organisation, and that is all in a day’s work here at the State Library of Queensland.