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

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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Library as Selling Point

   March 10th, 2009 Brian Herzog

new england real estate teamI use a couple Google Alerts to try to keep on top of websites that mentioned the Chelmsford Library or just Chelmsford, MA in general.

I set these up in the hopes of connecting to people in the community, or people talking about Chelmsford. I thought if someone mentioned the town, a local event, or the library on their blog or website, I might be able to comment and contribute on behalf of the library (but it's also an interesting way to find out what's happening in town - example).

A recent alert led me to the website of the New England Real Estate Team where I saw, big as day right on the top of their website, a photo of the library. I was kind of surprised at first, but then I was happy that a realtor is using the library as a selling point for the town. It certainly is, and it's also a nice looking building.

I think this is great, and I wonder if it would be worth it to encourage other local businesses to use the library's image to promote their services or Chelmsford. It certainly wouldn't make sense for every business, but it's nice to know that at least one feels we're worth showing off.

Now they just need to link to our website, in addition to the local schools.

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New Massachusetts Library Directory

   January 17th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Massachusetts Libraries logoThe Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners has just launched mass.gov/libraries, to go along with a new public awareness campaign for Massachusetts libraries.

Sometimes "top-down" efforts like this end up being a waste of time and resources, but I actually do think I will use this new website. For one thing, it is simple and clean, which makes it easy to see what information is available. I like that.

Also, it is very limited in scope: it is information about the public libraries in Massachusetts and the services those libraries offer. So even though their slogan is "There's something for everyone," they don't try to be "everything to everyone" - no subject listings, no web search boxes, etc.

The target of this website is Massachusetts residents, and the focus is to connect those people with their local library - or better yet, its online resources - and to maybe answer a few library questions along the way.

Here's what this site offers:

  • A directory of Massachusetts libraries, searchable by Town name or zip code
  • The contact information of the libraries, their hours, and whether or not wi-fi is available
  • A single login box for subscription databases funded by the state government
    (with one particularly neat feature being that when I logged in, the site knew I was logging in with a Chelmsford Library card, so it also automatically offered me a search of the Chelmsford catalog in addition to the subscription databases [though I didn't like they called it "Primary Search" instead of something more obvious and logical like "Library Catalog"])
  • A link to MassAnswers, our 24/7 online "chat with a librarian" service
  • Some basic general library-related information, contained in "Fast Facts" and "FAQ" sections. The Fast Facts were a lot of statistics, ie:
    • number of libraries (370), branches (106) and bookmobiles (4)
    • total holdings: 43.8 million books, magazines, videos, etc.
    • reference questions per week: 99,529

    Some examples from the FAQ are:

    • How can I get a library card?
    • Can I borrow from other libraries in Massachusetts?
    • How do I find library materials online?

They even included an article about why using library resources is better than Google for homework and student research.

I can see a lot of librarians using this, simply to find the contact information of other libraries, but I also like the single login box for database searching.

I also think patrons could easily use this website, too, but the key there is in the patrons finding it. This is the first year of a three-year marketing campaign, but aside from emails sent directly to librarians, I haven't seen anything.

awareness, campaign, libraries, library, ma, marketing, mass, massachusetts, mblc, public

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Library Marketing Ideas (sort of)

   February 6th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Marketing. There's always workshops concerning how to market libraries and services at conferences, and they are always well-attended. This past weekend seemed to be a perfect storm of marketing-related events, so I thought I'd convert-to-library a few ideas I witnessed recently.

  • Guerilla Marketing: If you live in the Boston area (like I do), you couldn't help but hear (endlessly) about the "terror scare" that gripped the city last week. If a library wrapped up books in duct tape envelopes and left them on busses and trains, they might be able to get $800,000 worth of advertising. And up to five years in prison.
  • Movie Theaters: I went to a movie this weekend, got there a bit early, and ended up sitting through a good ten minutes of advertisements. Personally, I dislike these commercials, but doesn't it make sense for a library to sponsor some kind of trivia game for all those captive teens to play while waiting for the movie to start?
  • Logo Recognition: One of the ads at the movies was for some show on the NBC network. At the end of it, they displayed this image:
    NBC.com logo
    What impressed me was that they consider their logo so recognizable that they don't even need to spell out what their web address is - just their logo+.com is enough. My library has a logo, too, but I don't think patrons would be able to make that same leap:
    Chelmsford Library.org logo
  • Water Survey KitDirect Marketing: I got this "Important!" water survey kit in the mail. Survey questions regarded water use/quality and home ownership, including space for me to fill out my name, address, phone number, etc. They also asked I fill the little bottle with tap water and return everything back to them. I did not like that this company barely identified themselves (I needed the internet to find out this is just a marketing campaign of a company that sells water systems), but could libraries do a similar direct mail campaign to find out what patrons want from libraries? It could be a good way to reach those people who don't come into the libraries, what their reading habits/tastes are, and what the quality of water around town is like.

So much to do, and so little time.

ideas, libraries, library, marketing, promotion, public libraries, public library

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