Get the latest articles and downloads sent to your inbox in a monthly newsletter.

Get the latest articles and downloads sent to your inbox in a monthly newsletter.

Communicating with administrators and executives: 5 tips from the top

Regina Kilkenny, CU Denver | Mar 26, 2018

Denver Skyline

During the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Denver, I had the privilege of addressing and interacting with librarians at Elsevier’s Hunter Forum as part of a panel discussion on “Library Impact and Value Across the University Landscape.” The request from Jean Shipman, Elsevier’s Vice President of Global Library Relations, was to give insight into the administration’s frame of reference and how librarians can use this knowledge to advance their worthy cause. As chief of staff for the University of Colorado Denver chancellor, and varied roles working with top-level decision makers under my belt, I know from experience that applying these tips will increase your success in gaining the attention of time-strapped administrators and executives, and breaking through with messages about the mission-critical resources, services and facilities provided by the library.



  1. Invite them to tour the library.

Nothing dispels the myth of dusty stacks like a walk through a vibrant space where students are working, collaborating and getting the assistance they need. Of course, time it right so that you are showcasing your library during peak usage and preferably when some instruction or other events are happening. And invite the administrator for a one-on-one tour to provide space for informal and personalized discussions.



  1. Do your research in advance of the tour.

Find out where your administrator or executive went to school and what the library was like at that institution. Use this as a jumping off point to discuss how you want to be as great as that library, or to showcase how the library has evolved since then. Also, learn more about their research and highlight resources that would appeal to them as a chemist, physician, humanist, etc.



  1. Get others to tell your story.

Have a dean, student, researcher or donor reinforce the value of the library to their work. As a representative of the library, you will be reasonably regarded as biased and your messages will be put through that filter. To strengthen the message, enlist energized, successful library users who are willing to share how they couldn’t have achieved their goals without the resources and services provided by the library. Include quotes from top-performing faculty or staff on a takeaway fact sheet.



  1. Know their communication style.

Talk to others in the institution and their close colleagues about how they like to receive information. Do you need to keep it under 15 minutes? Are data visualizations critical? Do they want all the back-up information or would they prefer five high-level points? Do they like to walk and talk? You might gain a longer audience if you are willing to put on your running shoes.



  1. Use language they will understand.

Don’t talk about ILL and PDA — unless you are willing to mix up patron-driven acquisition with public displays of affection. Take a look at the messages they have written to the university campus or key stakeholders and see what terms are critical to include to show library understanding and support of the institution’s mission and key initiatives.



I appreciate that every library and administration will have its unique elements so use those to your advantage as well. And I’m sure that many librarian readers will have equally good tips from their own experience. I hope you will share those in the comments below.