Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

I pulled this post out of my drafts and gussied it up both because I think it’s important advice (especially for libraries with fewer resources) and also because I’ve been quite busy preparing for a presentation and haven’t had time to craft something new. Enjoy my words of wisdom!

The past couple of months have been a learning experience for me in several areas, but the one I’ve been working hardest at (and becoming the most improved in) is asking people for stuff.  Libraries don’t have infinite resources, but because we endeavor to use our powers for good, there are many amazing people and organizations out there that are not only willing to, but happy to lend aid or assistance to libraries for free. All you have to do is ask!

Asking for help can be hard. There’s an instinct to couch everything in apologetic terms (“I’m sorry to ask, but…” or “I hope I’m not be an inconvenience…”) that’s frankly unnecessary – I’m not saying be rude, but the fact is that A LOT of organizations provide support for libraries and educational institutions!  I have a couple of programs that I run which don’t DEPEND on the generosity of others, but donations and support are certainly going to make them better than I could on my own.  And that support means I have another cornerstone to advertise with, which means I might get more and a wider variety of attendees than I would otherwise.

It’s important to note that this doesn’t just apply to material goods – speakers and presenters don’t have to break your budget either, you just might have to explore different avenues than the most obvious ones.  Local talent is the best source for this, as they won’t have high (or any) transportation costs and are usually excited to help out and support their local library.

Some examples of things I’ve asked for:

  • Program support from Paizo, Inc. for starting up a Pathfinder roleplaying group: I was fortunate enough to be able to introduce myself in person to Paizo’s community manager, but her contact information is easily found by going to paizo.com and clicking on Contact Us. She was able to send us a Pathfinder Beginner’s Box, a core rule book, Gamemaster Guide, and Beastiary to get our group up and running. It is not crazy to imagine that other publishers might have similar support for libraries!
  • ARCs from different publishers: I’ve sent out the most requests and gotten the most negative responses, but it’s worth it for the publishers that do end up sending books. I’ve had success with Penguin Random House and Orca; cast this net wide and see what you pull up!
  • Free presenters/speakers: Local authors, cosplayers, comic artists, you name it: if they’re driving distance from me and responsive to e-mail, I’ve asked them to speak at the library. Our mini comic-con this past January was incredibly successful partially because our guest speakers were SO great; and all of them were more than happy to come for free. (I’m gonna go ahead and plug Paul Erickson, Casey Renee, Dean McQueen, C. Spike Trotman, and Brendan Detzner as being some of our amazing speakers.)