I just returned from a training session for an ALA/National Video Resources grant program in Oakland, CA where 25 librarians and their 25 partner/scholars got tips and support for a new video/discusssion program on the Sixties. It's always good to get out of the home office and see what's going on in the larger world, but it was pretty stunning to talk to folks in different situations.
I'm a pretty experienced programmer and talked to a couple folks who were new to programming. I offered what I thought was pretty good advice about our standard practices for publicizing any sort of programs or services. But what my library considers basic PR is next to impossible for some (many?) libraries out there. I spoke with a librarian who said "we don't have a postage budget," after I told her about our mailing lists. When I gave her ideas for shagging flyers around town she said, "we don't have a paper budget." There were similar stories, all of which shouldn't have, but absolutely blew my mind.
I read, and even post the horror stories on LISnews.com. It was only after talking to people who live these stories that I made a connection to what's really happening. The training itself was fine and useful (and just plain fun). But I also left with a sense of sheepishness over any bitching I may have done about what happens (or doesn't happen) in my library. Like many libraries, we've been scrambling for funding, cutting corners and worrying about future budget cycles. It's damn sad that any librarian feels the need to offer a prayer of thanks for being able to print a flyer and having a stamp to mail it out with.