Good Listening Grows Loyal Friends
(Case Study)

Like many New Yorkers–along with scholars, researchers and librarians—I was outraged to learn that the New York Public Library (NYPL) planned to reshape its flagship research library to incorporate a circulating library. Especially since the obvious outcome would be moving most of the library’s research collection offsite, delaying retrieval requests, making research difficult and diminishing NYPL’s value as a top-line research center.

This plan was launched with enthusiasm and a loud call for community discussion: “We want to hear from you about what you want your library to look like. Read about our plan and join the discussion. Help build the Library for the Future that New Yorkers need and deserve.”

Dissent on this proposal has been burning since February. So you can imagine how thrilled I was last week to hear that a board member would fund the expansion of on-site storage for 70% of its research holdings. And although the circulation services will still be added, NYPL fans are relieved.

New York Times coverage heralded a positive response by most: “I’m very pleased both by the outcome but also by the process,” said Anthony T. Grafton, a Princeton University history professor who serves on the plan’s advisory panel. “It seems to me we saw a great public institution and its leader actually listening to the response of its public.”

Although the solution doesn’t satisfy everyone, it does demonstrate that NYPL gives more than lip service to what its community wants. It asks for input, then listens and responds. NYPL leaders even thanked those who shared their thoughts in their announcement.

Kudos to NYPL for a listening job well done. It’ll help pave the smoothest path forward as the balance of the plan comes to life, and is the best way I know to build a base of loyal supporters. Take their cue.

What works best for your organization in asking for input and ensuring the right folks listen? And how do you respond? Please share your listening guidance here.

Learn more about effective listening:

How Joedy Isert’s Listening Helps Heifer International

They Said What? How to Listen to Online Conversation

3 Proven Ways to Make an Impact When Message Control Is Out of Your Hands

P.S. You too should visit this grand library, with entrance flanked by famous literary lions Patience and Fortitude, if you haven’t already. I frequently work in the splendid Rose Reading Room when running between meetings, and am always inspired by the industry of its users. Every visit is a memorable, only-in-New-York experience. Don’t miss it!

Nancy Schwartz on September 24, 2012 in Audience Research | 0 comments
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