PLA 2008, Day 3: It Ain’t Necessarily So: Challenging the Assumptions of Legacy Librarianship

Speakers: George Needham and Joan Frye Williams

Aside – if you’ve never heard them speak, you need to. They are great presenters, and have great things to say. The combination is awesome!

Aside – George pulled up iTunes before the presentation and is playing some cool blues as background music. What a cool way to add a certain feel to a room!

Joan started by reviewing the “presentation policies” – spoofing all the rules that libraries have

“Legacy Librarianship” describes the fundamental truths learned in library school, handed down through the generations.

Some of our basic assumptions of librarianship need to change – recent studies have shown that!

Assumption: libraries are the go-to place form information

– libraries don’t rank high – search engines 82%, libraries 1%
– Another study asked a similar question – libraries 1% (from a study done in 1947!!!)

We need to design for open use – not in-library use
– mainstream data formats
– easy import/export/snip
– toolbars, gadgets, APIs
– institutional and civilian-defined tags
– mashup was a graphic on the slide, and a great example

enhanced discoverability
– engines, not opacs
– crawl-able databases
– text/IM/microformats
– digitization
– captioning
– contributions to non-library sites and sources

We cannot offer a service if you have to find us to use it

More important to post good info on other blogs rather than your own (people clapped! I’m wondering if those people understood her point)

Assumption: libraries aren’t just about books anymore

reality: people think we’re about books
– this is not a bad thing – that’s great brand recognition
Why do people use the library? Studies show it’s mainly books…

If we have a brand, let’s use it.

Talk about reading, learning and enjoying. We aren’t in the information business – we are in the ideas business. We need to be in the ideas economy.

Push the books/reading lifestyle
– Success through reading
– sociable reading
– artistry of books
– write it yourself
– reading to maintain your brain
– books as ties to popular culture/books

“Civilian” – anybody that doesn’t have library training

Emphasis on abundance:
– focus on assets, not deficiencies
– demand-based resource allocation – if you need more best-sellers, you need to buy more.
– fast, convenient service delivery – spend more time and money on delivery tools
– minimal rationing – Libraries usually do this – “the more you want it, the less you can have it.” -Don’t do that!
– appreciative inquiry
– no victims

Assumption: patrons aren’t capable of finding good things on their own

Reality: time is scarce, not information

The world is changing. Ex – we do stuff ourselves now instead of using specialists (ie., Expedia or Travelocity vs travel agents).

Who provides worthwhile information? Libraries don’t rank high among civilians.

Comparing libraries to search engines – SEs win in categories like easy to use, convenient, fast, reliable…

Why? People think there’s no difference between the trustworthiness of libraries and the trustworthiness of search engines.

What to do:
– make the library very different than it is now
– we like it that users need help – that’s a bad thing! We should knock down those barriers
– we need to simplify everything!
– less clutter, civilian terminology, situational directions, power paths & nodes, layout by activity, not collection
– this is true in both online and physical libraries

Use civilian words!!!
– focus on situational terms
– Pay here, ask, get
– circulation or fines doesn’t tell civilians anything situational

Arrange the library by what people do there
– Do Your homework
– ask a question
– read new stuff

Zone staffing
– service points are wrong
– not just on desk – you’re responsible for a whole area.
– you’re responsible for the civlian’s successful experience – not just for specific transactions

Success insurance
– information at the point of use
– minimal gate-keeping
– fewer simpler rules
– presumption of innocence

the real world is training people
– ex: if customers already know how to get in line at starbucks or the grocery store, use that experience

“I have a really dumb question”
– this means your library just made me feel stupid
– is that really the experience you want to leave your customers with?

Assumption: one-on-one service is our most valuable product

Reality: comparing librarians to search engines: no difference

how can we highlight and reinforce librarians status as professionals?

Great idea: dispatched service
– no other profession puts their professionals at a single point (desk)
– librarians should not be the first point of contact
– centrally located desk:
– staffed by non librarian dispatcher
– matches questions to the best person to handle it
– librarians work on call
– tech staff work on call
– work to completion with each person

Don’t call it reference librarian – call it researcher (aside – I’m thinking of the Apple Store’s Mac Genius)

Redeployed reference – if they aren’t sitting at the desk, what are they doing?
– creating prepackaged information, FAQs
– research
– check your work
– appointments
– learning specialists (instead of subject specialists)
– constituent specialists
– someone focused on certain community groups
– understanding what makes them tick
– and working to meet their needs
– outreach – out in the community!

Aside – OMG – this is the missing link for the digital branch! More time for librarians to write, present, do FAQs, etc…

– this is what store clerks do when you’re looking at pants, ie., “this belt would go great with those pants”
– for staff in the stacks:
– Not just “here’s the cookbooks”
– but here’s the cookbooks, and we have a cooking program today”

Assumption: civilians recognize and value library confidentiality

– not so much.
– many people have given up on the idea of privacy
– we don’t use the data we have to improve our own services!

How can we use the data we already collect?
– real-time activities buzz
– show live circulation activity ex.: yorba linda pl book feed – here’s what people are turning back into the library – it’s a web feed widget thing on the websites…??? it’s the most popular thing on their site

live program excerpts
– use video
– show people what’s happening in programs (2 minute thing)

Push stuff!
– new titles – 800 new books this week!

wireless strength – tell people which rooms have the best wifi!

parking cam! We could do that!

These are ways to show the buzz already happening at your library, and to bump the buzz up a notch.

Evidence-based planning and marketing
– design for most common situations
– community segments/profiles
– reports framed to match stakeholder (civilian) agendas
– collaboration based on audiences shared with non-library partners

Assumption: we need to educate these people

Reality – we need to provide what they want
– how can we contribute to civilians quality of life, work, and learning – on their terms
– how can we be part of their story?
– it is not our job to straighten these people out!

Don’t try to get people to care about libraries. Show them how the library helps them care about their stuff.

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  • Marketing Consulting

    Very interesting read. I never knew that libraries ranked so low for a place to get information!

  • Marketing Consulting

    Very interesting read. I never knew that libraries ranked so low for a place to get information!

  • Rob

    I love the idea of parking cam. I am guessing this means the public can pull up a feed from the camera on the parking lot and see how busy things are? ShakeShack in NYC has a “line cam” to see how long the line is. Why not us?

  • Rob

    I love the idea of parking cam. I am guessing this means the public can pull up a feed from the camera on the parking lot and see how busy things are? ShakeShack in NYC has a “line cam” to see how long the line is. Why not us?

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