or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk



Archives for Marketing:


We’re Off To The Library

   September 17th, 2009 Brian Herzog

My cousin saw the ad below in the Las Vegas airport:

offtothelibrary

I like seeing a library with a sense of humor, but it's also a smart place for them to advertise (and it's big, too: 5' x 7'). Good job, Las Vegas-Clark County Library District.



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Positive Marketing

   July 28th, 2009 Brian Herzog

I feel bad following up yesterday's fun Library Day in the Life project with a sort-of negative post, but I found the image below on another library's website and it bothered me:

Never on Sunday

The information is important, but the headline and image are very off-putting - and this message is prominently displayed on the library's homepage, above the fold.

Marketing is important to me, 1) because information and image are vital to an organization, and 2) it is something libraries have complete control over. There must be a way to convey Sunday hours to patrons with a positive spin, or at least a neutral one. "Never on Sunday" is a song, but probably not everyone gets that. And the red circle-slash on a book image should just never appear on a library website.

I know this sort of thing gets abused in the business and political worlds, but marketing isn't lying - it's telling people what you want them to know, and why it's important they know it. Libraries are all about serving the public, so almost everything we do is marketing - and since we depend on public perception for our survival, it is important to get it right.



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Demonstrating The Value of Libraries

   June 30th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Update 7/13/09: Final state budget lightens hit to Ohio libraries

Save Ohio LibrariesThis post is unfortunately timely - by now you've heard of the cuts facing Ohio libraries.

I haven't said anything about this because it's been covered elsewhere, but it really worries me. I have friends and family that both work in and regularly use Ohio libraries. And I know how badly a 5% cut affected my library this year - I can't even imagine a 50% cut.

The value of libraries is difficult to illustrate (one might say immeasurable), which makes proposals like Gov. Strickland's possible. Libraries need to make a special effort to demonstrate our role and importance in our communities.

Two years ago I posted about the Library Use Value Calculator - a tool to let patrons calculate how much their library use is worth to them. I've been working with the ALA on version 2.0 of the library calculator (as part of their Tough Times Toolkit), and even though it's still in beta, I wanted to get it out there.

The new version looks and works the same, it's just easier for libraries to implement. Instead of having to muck around with coding, libraries can now embed it in their website web 2.0-style, just by copy/pasting a bit of code (like a YouTube video).

Please check out the new calculator, and add it to your library website - let me know if you need help. And if you are in a position to do so, please Support Ohio Libraries.



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Reference Question of the Week – 6/21/09

   June 27th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Twitter @bloglinesThis week's reference question is one of my own. I use Bloglines to read rss feeds, and a couple weeks ago they changed their interface.

I didn't like the changes, so I used their Contact Form to express this and ask if there was an option to change it back. This was two weeks ago, and I still haven't gotten a reply.

Then it occurred to me that perhaps Bloglines used Twitter, and maybe I could ask them that way. I found an @bloglines user, but even though he's using the Bloglines logo, he indicates it's not an official Bloglines account.

I asked him my question anyway (noticing he was fielding the exact same question a lot lately), and got a reply in 5 hours. And best of all, his suggestion worked perfectly, and now I'm back to using Bloglines happily, the way that suits me best.

But this experience got me thinking. It's easy for organizations to let email messages slide, because only that one person knows they sent it in. But Twitter is public, and if someone is questioning or complaining, ignoring it won't make it go away.

Unofficial or not, @bloglines did exactly what I would have expected an organization to do - respond quickly and helpfully.

This is what librarians do, and it reminded me of Kate's post about their library suggestion box. I like that she's publicly displaying suggestions and answers, because in this case, one-to-many communication seems better than one-to-one.

So I thought, why not encourage patrons to use Twitter as a suggestion box? Being public, the library has to address patrons' concerns, but it also means all patrons can benefit from the answer, rather than just one.

I know a public forum isn't appropriate for every issue, and anonymity can be necessary, so I think traditional suggestion boxes (whether physical or online form) are still useful. But I bet there are some libraries already doing this very thing. I know I came late to Twitter, but it really is turning out to be a very useful tool after all.



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Things are not always what they appear

   April 23rd, 2009 Brian Herzog

paperfacesI was reminded recently that situations are not always what they appear.

This photo is one of my favorite on the internet - it looks confused and incomprehensible at first, but then, from the right point of view, it takes on perfect and surprising clarity.

This shift is sort of the point that Seth Rogin Godin is makes in the video below (recently on BoingBoing). Something might start out with the best of intentions, but in reality comes out horribly broken. This can happen for many reasons, but the end result is the same: it is no good.

It's difficult to play out potential scenarios beforehand, and trying to anticipate every possibility can paralyze something before it even begins. But it's worth some effort, and it's also important to build in flexibility and allow for mid-stream course corrections.

Of course, that's not always possible. When starting something new, try to work out who the users will be, and what their needs are, and then incorporate that into the available resources. And if things aren't working, start to stray, or just plain break, take some time to get input, reassess, and try to fix it. But don't be afraid to scrap the whole thing and start over - try something, learn from it, and try something else.



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Be Careful What You Tweet For

   April 14th, 2009 Brian Herzog

chelmsfordlib on TwitterTwitter has been around for a long time, so all the press it has gotten recently surprised me. Personally, I never really had much interest in it, so I just more or less ignored it.

Until a few months ago, that is, when I found a way to use it for the library.

The snowfall and storms this winter seemed particularly bad, and we had quite a few early closings or delayed openings. Whenever this happens, one of the ways we get the message out is to announce the change in hours prominently on our homepage.

However, it's the library director who makes the decision to close the library, but she had no easy way to update the homepage from home. She hasn't coded in html for years, and installing an editor and ftp program - and then her having to remember how to do everything - seemed like an unnecessary barrier. So, she asked me to find an easier way for her to update the homepage.

Ah-ha, I thought - I know libraries are displaying their Twitter feeds on their homepage, so why can't we?

homepage with embedded twitter feedI signed up for a Twitter account, learned how to customize the feed display, and added it to the library's homepage. I set the feed to only display one message, and after some trial and error figured out how to send a blank message (use the html code  ). That way, after the storm passes, we could send a blank message to remove the announcement from the homepage.

Then, to make it as easy as possible for my director to update from home, I also created a Twittermail account. Using Twittermail, all she needs to do is send an email message to our account, and whatever she types into the subject line with then display on our website (centered on the very top of the page). Neat.

When I demo'ed it for her, it worked like a charm, and she was very happy. But of course, we haven't had a snowstorm since.

And see, that's the problem - I created this Twitter feed for a very specific purpose, and we haven't had much of a need for it yet. However, since I created it, seven people have started following the library on Twitter.

We don't promote it, so how'd they find it? They must have gone looking. If our patrons are expecting us to be on Twitter, and voluntarily pay attention to us, doesn't it make sense that this is a tool we should be using? To me, it does.

So, in addition to storm closings, I've lately been trying to think of other "announcements" that deserve top billing on the library's homepage - just so I don't feel guilty about these Twitter followers not getting their library tweets.

This is very much a case of "if you build it, they will come." Now I need to live up to the implied second half of that saying, "when they come, make sure it's worth their while."



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