That library smell – it’s the smell of death

Stephen Abram recently posted Are Books Smelly? Fun read – learn all about why old books smell!

And I have to admit – I’ve been thinking about “that old book smell” that some libraries have for awhile now. Here’s why – it seems to me that the smell some of us relish in a library is:

  • the smell of books that haven’t moved off the shelves in a very long time
  • which equals =
  • the smell of a library NOT BEING USED
  • which equals =
  • the smell of death

Have that lovely smell of rotting glue and mold in your library? It means that your stuff isn’t relevant, and it’s been sitting for too long. You have two choices:

  1. pay people to move your stuff around
  2. get better stuff

OK – probably more than two choices – you could also learn to market and promote better, actually weed your collections more often (ie, we still have Windows 98 for Dummies – both copies are available!), etc.

Yep – another way to look at change, with a sorta-kinda-measurable tool (ie, the smell-o-meter). Get people using your stuff, get rid of the stuff that’s no longer moving. Left with nothing? Maybe you’re buying the wrong stuff.

Quoting Seth Godin – “change is a bear, but it’s better than death.”

pic by antmoose

What’s a Real Book?

While I was at Computers in Libraries 2010, I listened to David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States (he gave one of the keynotes at the conference). During his interview (Paul Holdengraber from New York Public Library interviewed him), he was talking about books and what he likes to read … and mentioned that he prefers print books over ebooks (he likes the aesthetics of paper books).

That’s fine – I get that.

But then, the audience … at Computers in Libraries … applauded! Like he’d just won an award or something. And soon after, someone tweeted “Yeah! David Ferriero still reads REAL books!”


Help me out here – what’s the most important part of a book – the paper? Or the stuff on the paper? Anyone?

Do authors really think about paper when writing books (I know I didn’t when I wrote my book)? Most likely not. Instead, they’re thinking about the next twist in the story, or how to adequately describe that next thought.

Does anyone applaud when someone says “I still watch Super 8 movies?” How about if someone said “I still love reading print journals?” Nope. No applause there. No one would tweet “Yay! He still reads REAL journals!”

When I read something, here’s what I care about:

  • getting sucked into the story (with fiction)
  • learning something new or interesting (with non fiction)
  • being entertained and engaged (with both)

For me, this happens via paper, my iPhone, my computer, an audio book, an ebook reader, or online. I’m guessing you’re reading just fine right now.

So my point? I think it’s time for us librarians to get over our paper fetish.

Content and container – the two are really, truly, different. Books are stories or a largish chunk of non-fiction text – novels, biographies, histories, etc. The format or container? This tends to change (though it hasn’t in a long time).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying books are bad. I’m also not saying print is bad. But I am saying that when lots of people applaud someone … at a conference dedicated to computers and the web … for favoring one container over another, it shows our bias, it shows our professional bent … and that bent needs to be adapting and growing and watching the horizon.

pic by Adrian

The Accidental Library Marketer – a Book Review

Enjoying the accidental library marketer by Kathy DempseyInformation Today sent me a copy of Kathy Dempsey‘s new book, The Accidental Library Marketer (Amazon Associate link). I read it and loved it! Let me tell you a bit about the book.

As Kathy says right in the introduction, on pg. xv – “The Accidental Library Marketer fills a need for library professionals and paraprofessionals who find themselves in an awkward position: they need to promote their libraries and services in the age of the internet, but they’ve never been taught how to do so effectively.”

There’s a lot that’s good in the book (check out my post-it notes in the pic!). Why am I interested in marketing? Well … by being a Digital Branch Manager, I AM part marketer/promoter. Part of my job is sharing the library’s digital branch with Topeka. And that takes … well, marketing and promotion.

Kathy starts with the basics – what IS marketing, anyway? The rest of the book is full of “how to’s” – including creating a marketing plan, basic rules for producing good promotional materials, different ways to get your promotional materials out, and using demographic data as a great starting point. Good stuff indeed – I learned things.

Anything bad about the book? … … well, not the book itself. I was more bummed out that my grad school’s library science program (University of Tennessee) didn’t teach me squat about marketing. Zilch. Seems to be a pretty important topic to me (and it is completely plausible that at the time they DID have classes on marketing, but I wasn’t interested – best-laid plans always seem to change)!

So… go read, go learn. Go market – but not accidentally!