How to Respond to Bad Press

Mary A. Dempsey, Commissioner for the Chicago Public Library, responded exceptionally well to a story on Fox Chicago News that suggested that the $120 million spent on the library was a waste, given the amount of information on the internet and the budget needs of the Chicago Public Schools.

Here is the initial news story, including video:

Are Libraries Necessary, or a Waste of Tax Money?

Here is Mary’s response:

Chicago Public Library Commissioner
Responds to FOX Chicago News’ Story

Note that she doesn’t get defensive, and doesn’t attack Fox or their reporter.  She addresses the facts of the story, and explains in a straightforward manner the ways in which the library benefits Chicago, how they spend the money they receive from taxes, and graciously thanks the media organization for the opportunity to respond.

Every library staff member who might be in a position to reply to public criticism should copy this letter and have it available as a source for the tone and structure of an effective response.  I am sure that the number of library supporters in Chicago has increased since its publication.

Thanks to Lori Bowen Ayre for pointing me to the story!

Update:  The full text of Mary Dempsey’s letter has been posted on Libology.

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