The Creative Group

Creative Group
The Creative Group

In my last blog post, I mentioned my library’s Creative Group. What is that, exactly?

My library decided that Public Relations and the web team did a lot of similar things, and needed to work together. PR routinely creates print ads, newsletters, posters, banners, and PR campaigns. The web team does much the same thing, just online. Why not collaborate up-front, so the message online and in-print is the same?

And hey – while we’re at it … both teams are highly creative. What’s not to like about schmushing two creative teams together into the same physical space, to see what happens?

So we stuck both teams into the same work space. We also started holding regular weekly meetings. So every week, our three PR staff, two web developers, me, our Programs Supervisor, our Digital Content Librarian (new position that’s part of Public Services), the Deputy Director, and sometimes our library director meet. Anyone else in the library is invited, too.

What do we do? We talk about projects. Last week, we talked about our Personalized Reading List service – we’re reworking the form and the page the form lives on. The staffer in charge of that service and the Public Services Manager came for that part of the meeting. We also talked about creating some database widgets (did you know database vendors like Gale and EbscoHost have widgets now? Who knew?), guest posts for book reviews, and a new blog we’re creating.

So what do you think? Is it helpful for PR and the Web team to meet regularly? It’s sure been helpful for us!

And – boring pic by me, using my account. Follow me at davidleeking on if you’re interested!

Copying Other Websites During a Redesign

During my library’s last website redesign, we went through quite a few design iterations, and we still weren’t happy. Two people in our Creative Group team (more on that in the next post) … ok, our head of marketing and the deputy director … kept sending us website examples they liked. Sites like shoe stores or clothing shops. Yes, they were beautiful websites, and nicely designed. But they weren’t really all that similar to a library website.

One big difference – these attractive websites did one thing well – they sold shoes or clothes. They didn’t have any catalog to speak of. The websites were full of single pages that pointed to single items.

But a library website has at least two basic needs – a site that talks about the library, and shares useful stuff. And we have a library catalog. So it didn’t really make much sense to me to base our library website design around a site that only does half of what we do.

So I started poking around, looking for websites that focus on two things:

  1. stuff, like a storefront.
  2. a “catalog” of some sort.

Amazon and Zappos? Pretty much all catalog. News sites? Pretty much large multi-blog sites – focusing on stuff. Then it dawned on me – library websites are like Apple. Apple essentially has two separate websites – the main site that focuses on their stuff, and their “catalog” – their online store.

We based our redesign around Apple, in these ways:

  • Top horizontal navigation with drop down menus. We also found some “nav bar inspiration” at NPR’s website.
  • Focusing on a single large ad, then a couple of smaller ones, then more detailed content below that – based on many of Apple’s pages. This directs customers to a few things that you REALLY WANT THEM TO DO, while still having easy access to everything else.
  • A prominent link to the store. That’s where you’d click “Find Stuff” to get to our three catalogs (catalog, digital downloads catalog, and DVD dispenser catalog).

So far, it’s working out great – few complaints, lots of compliments. Our public trainers have told us they cut down training on how to use our website from an hour to 10-15 minutes. Fingers crossed that it stays that way for a while!

Turning Strangers into Friends

The Thank You Economy

I just read The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk. Good read. Here’s an interesting thought I got out of it that relates to libraries.

On page 53, he writes about Nielson conducting a study on what drives consumer trust. 70% of people said they turn to family and friends for advice when making purchasing decisions.

Then Gary says this: “The ROI of your relationship with your mother is going to be much higher than that of the one you have with a good friend. Both, however, are more valuable than the one you have with an acquaintance, which trumps the relationship you have with a stranger. Without social media, you and your customer are relegated to strangers; with it, depending on your efforts, you can potentially upgrade your relationship to that of casual acquaintances, and even, in time, to friends. The power of that relationship can go so far as to convert a casual browser into a committed buyer, or a buyer into an advocate.” (pg 54-55).

This idea of turning strangers into friends works great in libraries, too. The goal is simply this – become casual acquaintances, or even friends, with our customers. We have done that for years in our buildings – I’d say that’s business as usual.

Online? We can do the same thing by using social media tools like Twitter and Facebook. Start friending people in your community. Your customers. That’s how you start turning strangers into friends … and into customers of your library.

Here’s what Gary did – he created Twitter alerts for wine words like Merlot. When someone had a question about that term, he answered it … and started growing a reputation about actually knowing something about wine.

We know stuff too – we are librarians, after all! Use a tool like Twitter. Do a zip code search for your local area or a town search … then add some words to that search, like book, reading, etc. Or business terms … or whatever the hot issues in your town happen to be.

Then start answering questions or making comments as they seem relevant. Point to your stuff, like the book that answers it, when it makes sense. Be helpful … like you already are in your building.

It’s a way to get out in the community without actually leaving the air conditioning!

Pic by Steven Rosenbaum

My AHA Moment

Recently, the Mutual of Omaha’s AHA Moment van stopped at my library and took some “AHA Moment” videos of Topekans.

Pretty cool project! They’re on a 25-city tour, capturing people’s “Aha moments” – which they define as “It’s a moment of clarity, a defining moment where you gain real wisdom – wisdom you can use to change your life.”

Anyway – I did one – my Aha moment is embedded in this post. Mine was (in true librarian fashion) the reason I became a librarian. A couple of other people from my library did these, too – check them out!

Why show these? It’s a cool project … and one you can potentially mimic. The Mutual of Omaha is doing a national “aha moment” thing … but why couldn’t you do a localized AHA Moment? Or even better – create some “library aha moments” of patrons saying why they love your library! Show patrons sharing what rocks about your library – reading, books, free wifi even.

Either way, it could be a cool way to get your community talking about your library or organization. nothing wrong with that!

Salespeople of the World – 5 Ways to Improve your Pitch

sales repA sales rep visited our library earlier today (Recorded Books was showing off their fledgling Rdio for Libraries product). Cool product, though I’ll guess not many libraries will go for it – bad pricing model, and no way to brand it as coming from the library. Just my opinion of course – prove me wrong, please!

But that’s beside the point. The sales rep, of course, was fine – he presented the info we needed to assess the product. It was an interesting meeting on a new model for music in libraries. What’s not to love about that?

But on the other hand, he did a couple of things that I have seen A LOT of sales reps do over the years, and it reminded me of other things I’ve seen in other product demo meetings.

So – Sales People of the World. Here are 5 ways to improve your pitch:

  1. Know how to use your own technology. I’ve seen this more than once – a sales rep takes us through a Powerpoint presentation, but never actually uses … um … the presentation mode. Instead, they have scrolled through the individual slides with a mouse. Or they advanced one slide too many, then didn’t know how to go back to the previous slide. Or simply didn’t know how to plug their laptop up to an LCD projector. All that says is that you don’t know how to use technology … even thought you are trying to sell us a technology product. Not. Good.
  2. Know technology in general. Be familiar with general technology terms, especially when it relates to the product you’re trying to sell. For example, don’t ever confuse downloading and online streaming. Two very different things. If you confuse those pretty basic things … and you’re selling a technology-related product … why should I trust you with my organization’s money? Ever?
  3. Don’t be negative about your own product. I’ve seen this many times. Either the rep will say the pricing will turn off many libraries, or the product isn’t really ready yet. Really? Then why are you here, wasting my time?
  4. Know your product. This happened in today’s meeting. Part of the coolness of the product is that it connects to Facebook and Twitter. If that’s the case, then by golly gee whiz, you had better show us what it does by clicking the Facebook button and hooking it up through your Facebook account – instead of saying “I don’t have a Facebook account yet.” One more example: I remember … granted, a LONG time ago … seeing the first web-based GEAC interface (that’d be a library catalog system). It didn’t display call numbers.Really. The rep didn’t seem to notice this in his product, until I pointed it out to him. Then he proceeded to blame the “home office” for it. Not the best way to sell a product, I’m thinking… which leads me to #5:
  5. Don’t blame the home office. If you don’t know stuff, never say “they didn’t tell us that.” I could care less who told/didn’t tell you, and it makes it sound like the sales staff and the home office are somehow at odds with each other. Instead, just say “Great question! I don’t know, but I’ll find out. What’s your email address?”
So – what else? Any of you notice something that sales people do in product demos that really just drives you crazy? Name it … and then tell us what they can do to improve!
image by Celal Teber