Do you have a help page? On the main page of your website or your catalog?

Have you made it prominent?

And if so … Why?

If you have to have a help section … on the main page of your website … you’re doing something wrong.

Instead of making a help page, or an FAQ, or a list of frequently visited pages … why not just redesign and fix those things so people can find them without needing Help or FAQs??

Usually, the reason you are adding that help page is because lots of people are having problems that information on your website. The reason you’re adding that list of quick links is because people have been looking for those pages, but they can’t find them. Your FAQ? Most likely explaining something that doesn’t make sense to your customers.

Focus on fixing, not on bandaids. Harder to do? Yep. Takes more time? Probably so. But if you fix the underlying root problems, then when it’s time for a major redesign, much of your work will already be done. You’ll have a strong underlying structure in place, and your navigation will work great. And your explanations of how to do things will be simple enough and customer-focused enough that they’ll make sense to the average user.

And you won’t need a Help page.

Image by Dimitri N.

Check out LISEvents

The always excellent Blake Carver, who runs LISNews and LISHost (they do an awesome job of hosting my website), has recently created a new tool for us library types – LISEvents.

Here’s what Blake says about LISEvents:

“LISEvents is a community-based site intended to aggregate listings of library-related events of all types, sizes, and locations. The site also helps speakers find gigs and event planners find speakers.”

Blake’s goal is to list every conference,large and small, that might be of interest to those of us working in libraries. There’s also a place for speakers (just added myself).

So – check it out, add your library-related events, and add yourself, if you like that public speaking thing!

Why Just This Week?

Yay! It’s National Library Week! It’s the week libraries remind their patrons they should love a librarian. We make buttons. We remind people that a community thrives when they have a good library. We ask people to tell us their stories. We bake cakes.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with National Library Week. It gets press. It gets us librarians organized a bit for at least one week during the year. And it can be a lot of fun, too.

But I get a little miffed during this week. Some libraries pour a lot of money and planning and time and festivities into a week … that no one else really cares about. It’s just a made-up week sponsored by ALA. Sorta like National Health IT Week (ooh! That one’s coming up on September 12-16, 2011. Be there or be square!).

As I was writing this post, I received a canned email from Michael dowling, Director, Chapter Relations Office at ALA, that starts like this: “Thank you for supporting your state’s libraries during National Library Week, the perfect week to let your state legislators and governor know how important libraries are to you!”

Why is this week the perfect week? Why don’t we do this stuff the OTHER 51 weeks of the year?

What would happen if we very actively pushed the idea of libraries, of loving your librarian, of reminding our community that libraries thrive with a good library (and then backing up that claim with proof) ALL YEAR LONG?

Something to think about…

pic by vanhookc

Shameless Self-Promotion is … Awesome!

Remember my post on rockstars awhile back? I’m taking that post a bit further, and I’m going to talk about … self promotion.

I have been called a shameless self-promoter before. Interestingly enough, I’d either agree or disagree with that label, depending on your definition of self promotion:

  • I DON’T promote ME for ME’s sake. I don’t generally push myself on anyone, brag about myself, put others down while building myself up, etc.
  • I DO push my small business. I brand most of my presentations/blog posts/books/articles/videos as – I use my full name as my brand for my consulting/speaking/writing business. And I DO promote that.

I’ll go so far as to say this – I think every single one of us has done a bit of self-promotion. You DO have a job, don’t you? You most likely had to sell yourself during the interview. You probably talked about yourself (in the best possible light), you actively discussed your accomplishments, and in general, probably made sure everyone knew that you were, in fact, the best one for the job.

Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so. In fact, I think more of us need to figure out how to do it well (myself included). Here’s why – if we don’t share why we, as librarians, are awesome … who will?

As Stephen Abram says (in the comments to my first Rockstar post), “Few can name staff at the big competitors like Google etc. beyond the rockstar founders/inventors/investors, because the staff are irrelevant to the site experience. That should never be the case in libraries … If we’re about relationships, then a true relationship knows the name of the person they want to deal with – not just an anonymous professional behind a desk wearing a badge that says ‘librarian’ or generic virtual reference identity [emphasis added].”

You simply have to put a name and a face to the library. Think of it as giving a face to your stuff and your services if you need to. But people relate to a face. People want to FUND a face.

So – where to start? Here are some self-promotion “starter” tips:

  • Be confident in what you’re promoting. Never feel bad about promoting content that deserves attention. With all the crap that exists on the Web, if you’ve created a wonderful resource for your niche, you should be excited to share it because it may help someone else. from Small Business Trends.
  • Use your voice. Don’t alter your voice to fit in with what you think people expect of you, and certainly don’t change your style in an effort to make yourself popular or appear to be an expert. By all means think about your audience, but don’t fall into the trap of trying to please them all. from bnet.
  • Share. Lots. Social media is also about sharing information – tons of it. And that, perhaps, is the best way to promote what you know and what you can do. If you want to be recognized as a leader in your field, you need to share what you know. You should use your social media accounts—Twitter, Facebook and blogs—to share information. from
  • Focus. Focus on your strengths, and share those. Do those, if you can, at your job. If you start a blog, focus it too. Don’t write about your job, your favorite projects, your cat, and your favorite recipe. Instead, narrow it down to … your professional strengths (or whatever it is you’re really interested in).
  • Provide a service to your community. And put your name on it, so your community knows where to find you, should they want more.
  • Circulate yourself. Leave your building, and start meeting people in your community. Find out how you can serve the hospital across the street (we actually have one of those).

And finally, actually be good at what you do.

Thoughts – agree? Disagree? How come?