Should you Focus on People without Library Cards?

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:

  1. asking their community what they want, and what’s missing.
  2. 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:

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!)

Social Media Skills for Librarians

Last week, I gave a presentation at McGill’s Web2PointU Symposium – a cool conference run by students of the School of Information Studies at McGill University.

During that presentation (you can find my slides here), I mentioned new skills that information professionals need to successfully run social media for their organization. That list included these things:

  • The normal mad librarian skills (fill in the blank here). Searching, reader’s advisory, research, etc. These “traditional” skills can easily be used in a modern online setting.
  • Web and social media skills. As in, being an expert end user. It’s hard to be an expert in Google searching if you don’t really know all the bells and whistles of Google searching, for example (and yes, I’ve known librarians who really couldn’t use basic online search engines well, let alone a web browser). The same thing goes for social media tools – you won’t be very successful at running the library’s Twitter account if you don’t really “get” Twitter.
  • Writing skills. Most of us learned how to write in school. Unfortunately, we learned how to write business letters and academic papers. Guess what? That’s not how we should write on the web. If you want to start a conversation, you need to use a conversational writing style. If you want readers to quickly grasp your content, use some of those writing tips I mentioned in my article Writing for the Mobile Web.
  • Photo and video skills. Social media is very visual. Take a peek at Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Slideshare, Vine, Flickr, Youtube, Vimeo, etc. All include photos and videos. That means YOU need to be able to create photos and videos that quickly communicate to your organization’s social media crowd.
  • Networking. Social media IS networking. Today’s librarian needs to be good at talking to a crowd – online and in-person.
  • Marketing & promotion. Part of your social media duties include sharing the cool stuff your library is doing.

What would you add? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Tour of Kansas City Makerspaces & Co-working Spaces

I recently went on a whirlwind tour of Kansas City area makerspaces and co-working spaces, as part of a group of local community leaders interested in creating a really cool co-working/maker/hacker/media space in the Topeka area.

My library’s definitely interested – we are creating a digital media lab this year. So touring these spaces was pretty useful!

Here’s where I visited – read the post, and follow along in the video!

  1. Johnson County Library’s Makerspace – this small makerspace has two iMac computers, a 3D printer, a sewing machine, and a scanner, among other things. The space is set up for a variety of creative pursuits.
  2. Homes for Hackers – Not much about this place in my video, but it’s a pretty cool idea. If you have a start-up business, you can move to Kansas City, stay at Homes for Hackers for three months for free, and focus full-time on your idea. And use Google Fiber, too.
  3. Think Big Partners – A co-working space that also offers 6-9 month mentoring programs for early-stage technology-focused startups. All of the co-working spaces offered some form of a desk and chair, a mailing address, wifi, coffee, event space, meeting rooms, and flexible, month-to-month payment plans.
  4. OfficePort KC – A co-working space about 2-3 blocks away from Think Big Partners. They also offer a nice-looking sound stage for video work.
  5. Innovation Cafe – Another co-working space. This space was the most affordable for people just needing a place to sit – $39 a month. And it’s across the street from Kansas City Public Library’s main building – can’t beat that!
  6. Union Station’s Maker Studio – a nice makerspace focused on kids and teens. It’s in Science City, a hands-on children’s science museum. They aren’t open yet – I think their plan is to open sometime in January (so really soon). They have 3D printers, Arduino kits, soldering irons, a HUGE CNC router, etc. Lots to learn and experience here.
  7. Hammerspace – A really cool makerspace with a lot to offer. Check out the video – when I was there, there were a LOT of grown dudes making things. Thinks involving Arduinos, 3D printers, soldering irons, coding, etc. There was also an artist working on some sort of screenprint thing. And lots of visiting and sharing, too!

There’s a LOT happening in Kansas City right now, which is pretty neat! Hopefully I can help stretch that an hour west to Topeka :-)

What are your plans for a makerspace in 2014? Have you started thinking about it? I’d love to hear more!

Two Writers and their thoughts about the Future of Libraries

People love to talk about the future of libraries. Here are two pretty different viewpoints:

1. MG Siegler and TechCrunch:

A couple days ago, TechCrunch published The End of the Library, written by MG Siegler. In it, Mr. Siegler says this:

  • “it’s hard not to imagine a future where the majority of libraries cease to exist — at least as we currently know them. Not only are they being rendered obsolete in a digital world, the economics make even less sense. One can easily envision libraries making their way to the forefront of any budget cut discussions.” – Sorta his main point.
  • But he also admits to this: “It’s hard for me to even remember the last time I was in a library. I was definitely in one this past summer in Europe — on a historical tour. Before that, I think it was when I was in college.”

Um. Dude. That’s like saying “I hate Macs! And I’ve never even used one!” At least go visit one before writing about them (I hear there’s a pretty fine library in San Francisco).

Unfortunately, articles like this make me wonder about the editorial integrity of TechCrunch. They apparently allow writers to publish opinion pieces with absolutely no experience about the topic, (which Mr. Siegler admits to). What about all those other articles on TechCrunch? Hmm…

2. Neil Gaiman, well-known writer:

Around the same time, Neil Gaiman wrote Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming in the Guardian. In his article, Neil says this about libraries:

“But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.

I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally.

I think it has to do with nature of information. Information has value, and the right information has enormous value. For all of human history, we have lived in a time of information scarcity, and having the needed information was always important, and always worth something: when to plant crops, where to find things, maps and histories and stories – they were always good for a meal and company. Information was a valuable thing, and those who had it or could obtain it could charge for that service.”

So. Neil Gaiman speaks from experience. He’s been in and around libraries his whole life. MG Seigler admits to not remembering the last time he was in a library.

Who ya gonna believe?

photo of MG Siegler by TechCrunch

 

Which Side of the Bus are You On?

Just a thought from Jim Collins‘ book Good to Great. In that book, Jim writes this: “to build a successful organization and team you must get the right people on the bus.”

The “bus” is the company, the mission, the strategic plan. The “right people” are the ones that can do the work of the organization. The “wrong people” are the ones that don’t fit, that always cause problems, etc. Jim suggests “removing” those people from the bus, because they’re hindering the organization.

I was thinking about that bus metaphor awhile back. Besides managers, who are thinking about how to get the right people on the bus, who else should be thinking about that bus? Everyone should be.

There are at least five places you can be in relation to that ever-moving bus:

  • In front of the bus. Standing in front of a moving bus is generally NOT a good place to be. You’re going to get hurt. Get run over. There will be damage – to you, and maybe to the bus. These people didn’t plan, didn’t look at the roadmap of the organization, and now they’re standing in the way.
  • On the bus. This is the best place to be. That is, if you are a good fit for the organization, support where the organization is going, and can help get it there.
  • Behind the bus. Better than in front of the bus, but still not a good place to be. These people didn’t leave the organization, but also don’t like where it’s going. So they are being dragged along behind the bus. Maybe slowing the bus down, but not stopping it (because you can’t stop a moving bus).
  • Kicked off the bus. This is what Jim Collins talked about. These people didn’t fit in, and were asked to leave. Probably better to have not gotten on the bus in the first place, or maybe gotten off the bus when you noticed it was going somewhere you didn’t want to go.
  • Pushing the bus. OK. Sometimes, most staff realize the bus should be going somewhere, but the “driver” is snoozing at the wheel. Or driving the wrong way. Or driving too slow (that can be dangerous, right?). So these people are helping the bus along the best they can. There are probably better ways to get the bus moving (Get a new driver? Find a new bus? Wake the driver up? Call the dispatcher? Hmm…).

Where are you? On the bus? Behind the bus? Pushing the bus? Not interested in busses?

Bus photo by Gerard Stolk