I use a Macbook Pro at home and when I travel to speaking engagements. Once in awhile, when the library’s IT person discovers I use a Mac, he/she says “make sure you bring your vga adapter.” And I always do.
Recently when that happened, it made me think – sometimes libraries aren’t all that friendly to Mac users. Do you:
- Allow Macs to plug into your LCD projectors in your meeting rooms? Or any “non-library-approved” computer, for that matter (some libraries don’t).
- Provide help to Mac users when they plug into LCD projectors and something doesn’t work? (my library used to have a disclaimer for that).
- Provide a handful of $30 VGA to Mac adapters in case the speaker forgets to bring one? My library does now.
- How about public wifi – do you have general connection instructions that work for a variety of devices (i.e., Mac, PC, tablets, mobile devices, etc), or just for PC users?
And if not … why? Make sure your library is device agnostic and device friendly, at least for the public.
Image by raneko
- RFID tag almost 500,000 items
- Install 11 new self-check machines throughout the building
- retrofit our automated material handler for RFID tags
- Install new RFID security gates
- Remove a bunch of DVDs and CDs from lockboxes (and get rid of the lockboxes)
- Oh, and put in some new carpet too, while we’re at it!
To get all this done, we’re using our staff (because they are awesome), and we needed to “close the library.” But here’s the deal: our building is (mostly) closed, but the library? Not so much. Here’s what I mean:
- First off, the whole building isn’t closed. You can still use some of our meeting rooms, visit the art gallery, the cafe, or our bookstore.
- Telephone and chat reference is still open.
- The digital branch is open – our website, our library catalog, our social media channels are still running.
- Databases? They’re still available.
- Ebooks? Yep – still available.
- Bookmobiles? Still running.
- Our outreach vehicles? Still going strong.
- WIFI in the building? Still available.
- Computers at local community centers (run by the library) are still available.
- Holds? Still available on bookmobiles and through our book locker in one of the community centers.
- … and probably some other stuff that I missed.
This actually made signage difficult for us! Some of our signs around the building say “library closed.” And some of them say “library closed, but …” You can see more of our signs here.
So – is the library closed because we closed a building? Nope. Today’s library is much larger than the building.
Don’t make major announcements on April Fools Day … or your customers might just think you’re a fool.
So, apparently Innovative Interfaces acquired Polaris Library Systems – two major ILS vendors (and yes, Polaris is my library’s ILS vendor).
When did they decide to announce this? On April 1, better known as April Fools Day. The day when companies large and small … make up stupid stuff on purpose. Just to be funny.
Many of us “online types” know that Google does this every year (this year’s Shelfie was pretty funny). Other companies do this with varying levels of success.
So when a major announcement from your ILS vendor springs up from out of the blue on April Fools Day? It makes you think twice, to say the least. That’s certainly what happened over at ALA Think Tank (a Facebook Group for librarians) – much discussion – none of it about the actual merger.
I tweeted about it, and Polaris answered:
— Polaris Library (@PolarisLibrary) April 1, 2014
So – Polaris and Innovative Interfaces:
- I get that you have to announce it. It’s probably a legal thing.
- But – the purchase happened on March 31. That’s when you should have announced it.
- If you really HAD to announce it on April 1, you should have mentioned that at the start of your press release (which they did finally add sometime late afternoon yesterday).
- The email I received should have gone out on March 31 – not April 1.
- That’s besides the whole “talk to your customers” thing. I’m lookin’ at YOU, Polaris (who tried to sell us an early release beta version of their new LEAP software. No way now – not until the dust settles with the merger).
I’m pretty sure you guys both have some PR types on staff – use them next time, please?
If you haven’t seen it yet, go read Bobbi Newman’s article on Why Libraries Should Look Beyond Library Card Ownership as a Measure of Support. Bobbi sometimes has a slightly different perspective than me, so her articles make me think.
I left a comment on her post that said this:
Yes … but. It’s also a problem of simple marketing. We aren’t offering something those people want, so they don’t use the library.
Perhaps we should ask them about their information/entertainment/distraction needs, and see if we can meet those?
I wanted to expand that thought a bit more – hence this article! The point that hit me in Bobbi’s post was her last paragraph:
Rather than focusing on the percentage of the community that has a library card, libraries would be better off focusing on public support of the library and accepting that some people don’t use the library for one reason or another.
Do I agree with that? Well, yes and no. Here’s what I mean.
No, I don’t agree with Bobbi:
First off, for my original response. I think many libraries could get more cardholders simply by:
- asking their community what they want, and what’s missing.
- Then working hard to provide those things.
That’s basic marketing and promotion, and most of us library types really don’t do marketing and promotion all that well. Figure it out, and you’ll get more cardholders – simple (well, not really simple. But you get my drift). There are definitely “potential cardholders” out there who want your library’s services … they just haven’t yet bothered to get a library card for one reason or another. With a little nudging, they just might get one.
Yes, Bobbi’s right #1:
Then again, focusing on “people who don’t have library cards” is probably NOT the best approach. Your library should have a strategic plan focused on narrower groups of people.
For example, maybe one of your library’s long-range goals is to attract more kids age 5-10 to the library. In this case, who should you target? Certainly not everyone, and not “people without library cards.” Why? Because not all of those people have kids age 5-10.
Instead, you should focus pretty specifically on young parents. Do that well, and you will attract more library card holders … within that targeted group. In the process, you’ll be working towards achieving that long-range goal.
Yes, Bobbi’s right #2:
Or, for something completely different – don’t work too hard on those people who don’t use your services. Instead, why not focus pretty heavily on your current customers? For example, my library has 92,000 or so library card holders. Why not provide those library users with the most awesome library experience ever? Or even narrow that down further to our most engaged customers (those Library Lovers that Bobbie mentions)?
Focus on that top 1% of your most engaged customers, and they will do quite a bit of word-of-mouth marketing for you. Other businesses and brands do this pretty successfully all the time. For example:
- Lady Gaga focuses on her Little Monsters – her most engaged fans (the top 1% of her audience)
- Maker’s Mark does a similar thing with their Ambassadors program, focused on their top fans
Here are a couple more articles on that concept:
- 5 Marketing Lessons from Lady Gaga
- Who Are your Superfans? Five WOM Tips PR Can Learn from Lady Gaga, Shaun White and Justin Timberlake
So … what do you think? What’s your response to Bobbi’s article, and to the Pew Report she mentions?
Photo by Bobbi Newman (perfect for this post!)