Communicating with Our Customers

new catalog signageDuring my library’s ILS (library catalog) migration project, we wanted to make sure our customers knew about it. It’s not usually a good thing to have your customers show up the day after we go live, thinking “what in the world happened here?”

Communicating with 170,000 people is no easy task! Here’s what we did:

Signs in the building: We had signs everywhere in the building (check out my Flickr set to see some of our signs), including:

  • huge banner in our entryway
  • images pointing out the new catalog was coming on our digital signs
  • small stand-up signs on tables and at the service desks
  • signs on all the catalog-only computers
  • a HUGE sign at the circulation desk

digital branch signageSigns on our digital branch: if you visited our website in the past month, you knew about our ILS migration! We used one of our big ads on the main page of our website to point to an article and video about the change. People actually read the article (judging by our Google Analytics numbers) and we received 38 comments on the article (some from me, answering questions).

We actually used that article and the big front-page ad as a countdown of sorts, too. Every day, we updated the ad (i.e., 3,2,1, it’s here! type stuff) and updated the article with a “tip of the day” for the new catalog.

Social Media: We shared about the project widely via social media. For us, that meant pointing to the article and answering questions about the project using Twitter and Facebook. We also made a video about the project, and dumped it into Youtube and on our website.

Traditional Media: we have a good relationship with local media, so we were able to tell customers about the new library catalog via a local TV station (they do a “Library Tuesdays” segment during their 4pm news show) and through an article in our local newspaper.

And now, the big question – did all that communication work? I think so. While I’m sure there are people showing up at the library or at our website, thinking “what the heck? Why does this look different all of the sudden?” I also know that customers knew about our project. Why? Because they told us. I had more than one person come up to me, find out I worked at the library, and said “how’s that new library catalog project coming along? We love the library!” Other staff told me they had a similar experience.

That says to me that our customers, for the most part, got the message. So – mischief managed!

Have you ever had to communicate with a large group of customers about a project? Did you do something I didn’t list? Let me know in the comments!

Our Communicating Customers

Big ad on our website for the new library catalogMy library’s in the process of switching ILS systems – we just moved from SirsiDynix Horizon to a Polaris system (to all you non library types out there, I’m talking about our Library Catalog).

We just went live with the new system on May 23, and as you can imagine, it’s taking a couple of days to bring everything up, and get all the parts and pieces working like they should. It’s a huge, complex software/hardware switch, and it’s been a very smooth move, all things considered (mainly because we have awesome, great staff – they rock!).

We have two primary ways that customers can talk to us about the new catalog (well, discounting actually visiting the library and talking to us, and using the phone): an email form and through social media.

We set up an email feedback form that you can see in the catalog, and our customers are using it. So far, we’ve had maybe 20 or so customers communicate their love of the new catalog, their dislike of the “new thing,” or a specific problem with their account. Useful stuff.

Social media has been quite interesting!

First, I wrote a blog post about the catalog, complete with a short video. This post has received about 35 comments so far. Customers asking questions, and me responding to them.

Via Twitter, we have received some nice praise and good comments, including:

  • “Awesome! I’ve been hoping for this a very long time!”
  • “Can’t wait!”
  • “Good luck with the migration1 Bet the new catalog will be awesome!”
  • “We’re excited about the new catalogue! Not surprised that there are some hiccups.”

Facebook has been interesting, because some conversations were started by our customers.

This morning, one of our customers posted this: “Has anyone gotten into the new catalog?” And two people had a conversation about the catalog, about some of the third party things connected to the catalog (like our DVD Dispenser), and what was working/not working.

Since I’m one of the admins of our Facebook Page, I saw those conversations, and was able to answer their questions.

We also instigated some conversations. Yesterday, we posted this: “Today’s upgrade day & most upgrades to the catalog have been made. A few kinks are still being worked out, but you can now explore catalog.tscpl.org – and tell a friend! (Same goes for Facebook. We know you can use your influence to get us a few “likes,” right?;)”

… and that got us 25 Likes :-). And a couple more questions, too – which I answered via Facebook.

Why mention this? I find it fascinating to see conversations about library catalogs taking place via social media. 10-12 years ago – last time I helped with an ILS switch – I don’t remember seeing much customer feedback (though I’m sure someone got an earful). We didn’t se up email feedback forms, and social media pretty much didn’t exist yet. This time around, customers are helping each other, asking questions and tagging us … and I’m able to see them. And help. And hear.

Amazing.

Playing with the ProJive XLR iPhone Cable

I just bought the ProJive XLR mic cable for my iPhone. What’s it do? It’s an XLR to headphone jack cable adapter, and it’s made to plug a normal XLR microphone into an iPhone.

This lets me use my better-quality microphones (well, better than the built-in iPhone mic, anyway) for recording. It works with any audio app (like the voice recorder) or with video apps, too.

So – check out the video above, and listen to the sound. Not bad for an iPhone video, huh? Also listen for the unmistakable cell phone interference – that “beep beep beep” noise that you sometimes hear when a cell phone is close to some speakers. I’ll have to experiment more – if that interference happens a lot, the cable isn’t going to be all that helpful.

But we’ll see. Until then, I can now get quality audio in my iPhone videos effortlessly. Sweet!

Doing Your Part in the Library Ebook Wars

ebookWhen talking to librarians about ebooks and econtent, I often hear things like this: “we can’t do anything – we’re just a small public library going up against Amazon/Apple/Barnes & Noble/fill in the blank.” Or “we don’t have the right connections” or maybe “we don’t have the resources we’d need to do something.” Etc.

I think we CAN do something. Many somethings. From my library alone, here’s what we’re currently doing:

  • Our Ebooks for Libraries campaign – going for 10,000 signatures on a petition that will be mailed to the big six publishers, asking for books in all formats for libraries.
  • Our community novel project – our community is writing a serialized novel, and we plan to publish the finished novel in print and in ebook formats. This is a small step in teaching our community that they can “do it themselves.”
  • We have two staff members on the Library Renewal board – we’re giving time and expertise to organizations that are trying to make a difference.
  • We have staff members on ALA boards – this one is indirectly related, but it gives us a say at the table when ebook-related issues get raised. And again, it’s giving time and expertise to organizations that have the potential to make a difference for libraries.

Other libraries and organizations that are trying to make a difference?

  • Douglas County Libraries – you might have read about they are purchasing ebooks directly from publishers, and serving them back out to customers? Here’s an article with more info on that.
  • Califa, a California-based library consortium, is doing a similar thing.

And those are just six examples – I’m guessing there are many others out there (and please – if I missed a major one, share the details in the comments!). My point? You CAN do something about it. Whatever “it” is to you and your organization, there are definitely ways to start successfully tackling the issue.

Why tackle this particular issue? Read Jason Griffey’s recent post about Amazon’s Lending Library. Amazon wants your customers to borrow from THEM. For free (well, after the purchase of a Kindle and an Amazon Prime subscription, anyway).

Sound like a challenge to you? Let’s meet that challenge head-on, folks!

ebook pic by nikkorsnapper

We’re Writing a Novel!

book and ebookMy library is heading up a really cool project that I thought I’d tell you guys about.

In short, we thought we’d write a novel.

A community-driven novel, that is. Here’s a blurb about the project: “A community novel is one that is written collaboratively by members of your community. The library invites writers to each contribute a chapter to advance the group’s story. The story is set in Topeka and will use landmarks and a setting that all will recognize. Writing and publication began in April and continues through August with a chapter added each week (just like any other serial novel you’ve experienced). Each chapter will appear here so you may read them in order, with a new chapter published each week.”

Here’s a link to the main page for the project, and here’s chapter one. Please read it!

When we’re done writing the novel, we plan to throw an author book signing party! We also plan to publish the book in both ebook and print formats, and sell it online. And we’ll put the book in our collection, so people can check it out.

We have two goals:

  1. We want to showcase content creation in our local community, and this type of focused writing project provides us with a fun way to start doing that.
  2. We also want to get our feet wet in content creation. Libraries traditionally house books, help customers find books, and create programs around books and authors, etc. Why can’t a library and a community … create a novel?

Anyway – check it out – chapter two comes out this week!

book pic by Remi Mathis