Thursday, April 28, 2005

Where's the Library Fan Club?

A comment by Jill on my last post and a news story on our local NBC station got me thinking. Where's the big open-source marketing effort for libraries? (psst... you can learn more about open-source marketing from James Cherkoff's manifesto, "What is Open Source Marketing?" on ChangeThis.) Or, in other words, where is the library fan club? I'm not talking about Friends of the Library groups. They're great, but they're not enough. We need to inspire a movement.

How does Firefox come into play with this concept? If you haven't been following Firefox, it is an open-source browser that continues to gain momentum and take some of IE's marketshare. Firefox is succeeding because of the large number of Firefox users that are zealously seeking to spread Firefox. Go to the Spread Firefox site and check it out, the devotion of so many Firefox users is amazing.

So where are the library users? Why aren't they screaming about the proposed cuts to Ohio's libraries and other systems around the country? (have there even been any other editorials in Ohio except for the excellent by Thomas Suddes in the April 27 Cleveland Plain Dealer?) And, even more importantly, why don't they speak up at all except for during financial crises.

I think we have to inspire and cultivate widespread support for libraries on the level of Spread Firefox is we're to stop the trend of decreasing library budgets and decreasing library profiles.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to get this ball rolling?

ALA Runs Smartest Card Ads in Magazines

ALA is running ads that feature George Lopez and promote the Smartest Card campaign. The ad will appear in the April issue of Parents Magazine, the spring issue of Ms. and the May issue of Redbook. The ads will reach a total circulation of 4 million people.

In related news,the Public Library Association (PLA) is offering $100 cash prizes for the best examples of how libraries have used "The Smartest Card @ your library®" campaign. See the press release for details. You only have a few days left to turn in your ideas. The deadline is May 2, 2005.

For more on the Smartest Card Campaign visit the PLA site.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Newspaper Article That Should Appear in Every Paper Nationwide

"Why pay for free stuff? Go to the library," a column by Gregory Karp, personal finance writer for The Morning Call, a Tribune Co. newspaper in Allentown, Pa recently appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

The column points out what all librarians know and try to communicate to their audiences: libraries offer books, information, and entertainment for free. The article details how people can save money by visiting the library for Internet access, entertainment, business resources, recorded music, videos, meeting rooms, instructional programs and research help.

Now shouldn't an article like this appear in every US paper?

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Business Week Online Features Cover Story on Blogs

Are you still wondering what the whole blogging thing is about? What about RSS and podcasting? The cover story for the May 2 edition of Business Week might help you out. You can read the story, "Blogs Will Change Your Business" online now.

Yes, this story has a business slant, but it still provides a great overview of blogging and it's benefits. Why should libraries pay attention to blogs? In my view:

1. Blogs are learning tools and sources of information.
2. Blogs are communication tools.

Blogs, if they are successful, can help you reach greaters numbers of your audience than ever before. As the Businessweek article says:

Look at it this way: In the age of mass media, publications like our print the news. Sources try to get quoted, but the decision is ours. Ditto with letters to the editor. Now instead of just speaking through us, they can blog. And if they master the ins and outs of this new art -- like how to get other bloggers to link to them -- they reach a huge audience.

How many libraries are trying to reach a huge audience? All of them I hope.

I Missed the John Cotton Dana Library PR Awards!

I totally missed the announcement of the John Cotton Dana Library PR 2005 Award Winners. Congratulations to:

  • The Riverside County Library System (CA)
  • The Seattle Public Library
  • San Diego State University Library & Information Access
  • The Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library of Louisiana
  • Maricopa County Library District (Phoenix, AZ)
  • Calgary Public Library (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
  • North Suburban Library System

I know the winning entries will be displayed at ALA, but for those of us who won't be able to attend, it would be nice if the entries, or as much of them as possible, could be displayed online. I would think that a nice benefit of this award is to share best practices, but how can you share them if you don't provide case studies online?

Or am I missing something? Will this be covered in an upcoming library publication?

If you want to try for next year, applications for the 2006 awards will be due December 9, 2005.

RLG Offers Promotional Toolkit

The April 2005 issue of the RLG Focus newsletter contains information about new promotional kits that are available for RLG products. See the story for complete details.

RLG now has promotional kits available for:

Anthropology Plus

Bibliography of the History of Art
Chicano Database
RLG Archival Resources
RLG Cultural Materials

Links to promotional information from other vendors is available on this OhioLINK Marketing Toolkit site.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Listening to Your Users Isn't Stupid!

Don't miss Todd Miller's column in the March 15 issue of Library Journal. In the column, "In Defense of Stupid Users," Miller questions librarians' general disregard of federated searching.

Google gives its users a pitiful solo search box. How can it compete? The answer from the old guard is that it's dumbed down. The reality is that Google gives its customers what they want: simple searching, powerful results.

As Miller explains best, listening to users and giving them a single search box is good marketing. It means your finding out what users want and then giving it to them.

This is not lowest common denominator; it is listening to the market and giving it precisely what it wants.

Users just want to find the answers, right? Most of them don't want to know the intricate ways to do an advanced search in every single database that's available. You don't have to have a computer science degree to use a computer. You don't need to be a nutritionist to figure out the basics of eating healthy. Should users really be expected to know expert search skills just to get information to write a paper or research to complete a work project? Miller would answer this question with a resounding no.

The job of information professionals is not to make all users into information professionals. Our job is either to give them the right tools for the job or do the job for them.

Guardian Article Explores Ohio Libraries' Budget Struggle

There's a good article in The Guardian which discusses the funding problems of Ohio's public libraries. How ironic that such a great article appeared in a foreign publication.

"We cherish our libraries, but is it more valuable than school funding? No," said Republican state Rep. Jim Trakas. "Is it more valuable than Medicaid for a sick person? No. It's a matter of priorities."

[Thanks to Library Link of the Day for the tip]

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Celebrating National Library Week

Happy National Library Week! How is your library celebrating?

The University of Dayton's Library staff created a new set of Research posters to promote the library again this year. Instead of using the "read" theme for posters like ALA, UD Library uses the research theme, which definitely seems like a better message to academic audiences to me. Too bad ALA seems reluctant to print their own research posters with celebrities.

Once again UD library staff proved that you can create a fantastic series of posters on a small budget. To accomplish this, staff recruited a visual arts student to take the photographs and design the posters. Relying on the talents of students is an excellent way to get quality work at a lower cost. You can view UD's 2004 posters, along with a selection of posters from other OhioLINK libraries, in the OhioLINK's Idea Gallery, which is part of the online Marketing Toolkit.

The library is also hosting their third food for fines campaign this week. Users can reduce their library fine by $1 for every nonperishable food item they donate. The food is later donated to a local food pantry.

(Thanks to Heidi Gauder, at Roesch Library, for keeping me informed)

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Why Libraries Need Marketing: Reason #106

I hope I'm preaching to the choir here, but for-profit companies and Internet information providers (e.g. Learner's Library, Questia, Google Answers, etc.) are marketing many of the same information resources and services that libraries provide to your users and potential users. Sadly, most users don't know that those same resources, or better, are available from their local library for free. And they have no idea about how many resources they can access electronically through the library. Sometimes these for-profit services are fee-based, other times they just provide inferior information. Either way, you can be sure that someone else is talking to your users about them. So if you're not constantly informing and reminding your audiences what information the library provides electronically and otherwise and that they ALREADY paid for it, then you're losing opportunities and users.

Case in point:

Gary Price recently reviewed LookSmart's five new sites aimed at different user groups. Each offers access to FindArticles material along with an interface to search the LookSmart Web index.

There's certainly no mention of libraries on the about us page of 24hourScholar:

24HourScholar is a vast archive of published content, providing a comprehensive resource for academic researchers. Visitors can search or browse thousands of articles on subjects in the humanities, sciences and social sciences. Content is drawn from dozens of quality magazines, academic publications and professional journals. All articles can be read and printed in their entirety at no cost. 24HourScholar is powered by FindArticles, a service of LookSmart.

As Price said:

I've said many times before that it's really sad when students and the general public for that matter don't know that thousands of public libraries offer full text and free access to thousands of sources (newspapers, magazines, full text reference books that are accessible with a library card WITHOUT having to visit the library.