When your Library Building Closes, your Library doesn’t Close

Library Closed signSo my library is closed today. We’re closed from May 1-5 to do a couple of tiny little projects, like:

  • 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.

 

Make your Stuff Obvious

This sign was at our local shopping mall. Like any good blogging geek, I stopped and took a picture of it – to the chagrin of my kids, I’m sure (“Mom – Dad’s taking pictures of signs again!” – eye roll!)

But the sign made me think of a few things that I thought I’d share:

  1. The sign is nicely done – large, easy-to-read words.
  2. Just an interesting side-note – the sign’s in the shape of a smartphone. A few very short years ago, a phone that did wifi wouldn’t have made any sense. But we all easily get it now, don’t we?
  3. The message is clear, the service is obvious, the sign is hard to miss. You know exactly what they’re advertising.

Contrast that with the average wifi sign in a library. In most of our libraries, we make little, tiny, dinky-winky signs that say “wifi.” Usually provided to us by our wifi vendor. If we have signs at all [hmm… I wonder what our wifi signs look like? I’ll need to check].

But at the mall … where they really want you to stay awhile … the wifi sign is HUGE. This sign was almost as tall as me, folks! And right out in the walkway, standing close to the food courts (one place people would possibly use wifi for an extended period of time).

What do they want you to do at the mall? Stay awhile. Eat some food. Use their free wifi. And buy more stuff!

Now translate that to a library. What do we want our customers to do? Stay awhile? Eat more food (if you have a cafe)? Read/watch/listen to/download more content? Ask us questions? Attend our events? Probably all of those things (though I’ll bet most of us don’t spell those goals out quite like that).

Define what it is you want your customers to do, then make your branding, your promotion, your signage – what you want people to do while engaging with you – make it obvious.

Skimp on the Details

Crosswalk signThe photo in this post is a crosswalk sign in Topeka. Take a good look at all those instructions …

Also note that the crosswalk sign talks to you, too. When the light is red, you are told every few seconds “Do Not Cross the Road” or something like that.

And then when the light turns green, and you get that little “walking dude” icon that means you can cross the street, there’s another voice that starts talking. This voice sounds … um … let’s just say he has a bit of a rural accent, and he tells people wanting to cross the street something to the effect of “it’s now ok to cross the road, and to look both ways” … or something like that (I have yet to actually understand what the guy says).

My favorite part of the crosswalk sign is the arrow with the “To Cross Push Button” instructions. The arrow makes it look like you actually need to cross the street to push the button … in order to cross the street. Hee.

So … doesn’t everyone know how to cross the road when there’s a crosswalk sign? I mean really – you push the button and wait for the signal to walk … right? This is pretty simple stuff, and it really doesn’t need four lines of text and two different voice recordings to help you successfully get across the road.

Guess what? Sometimes, we do the same thing to our customers. Too many instructions. Signage with detailed explanations. Websites that provide way too many details about a library service.

How about our library catalogs? There might be too many details there, too. For example, I just looked up “The Hobbit,” and found this line of text:

Description: 271, [4] p. : ill., maps ; 21 cm.

I can hear our customers now – “Oh great! This book is 21 cm tall  – just what I was looking for!” Not to mention the full MARC record that’s attached. Our customers are just clamoring for that.

What do our customers want? Well – the book. Probably with a simple button that says “check out now” or something similar. At this point, many of our customers are pretty familiar with the “add to cart” idea of a shopping website, and checking out something on a library catalog website is pretty similar.

Here’s your assignment – take a look at a set of instructions for something your library does, and see how much detail you can remove while still making those instructions useful. I’ll bet you will be surprised!

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!

Promoting your Social Media Presence – Signage

Social Media icons
Social Media signage at TopekaLibrary

You’ve seen those “follow us on Facebook” signs at stores and restaurants, right? Or heard a radio dj mention following their radio station’s Twitter account on-air?

Guess what? Libraries can do the same thing!

As a first experiment, my library recently placed two “follow us” signs in our building – one at the main entrance to the library, and one on our administrative office doors (shown in the photo).

Why do this? Easy – it’s a relatively unobtrusive way to tell our customers that we have a social media presence, and that we want them to follow us. It’s also a way to link the physical to the digital – by promoting our digital presence (i.e., our Facebook Page) in our physical presence (i.e., our building).

Where else could we put these signs?

  • Our meeting rooms (maybe a stand-up card on a table)
  • Our cafe (stand-up card there, too)
  • In the stacks, with our books
  • As a background on our public PC monitors (we might do this)

One thing we can improve onKathryn Greenhill mentioned this to me recently – when you make a sign advertising your social media presence, make sure to include a URL or at least your social media name. Otherwise, people might not be able to find you (we were talking about this particular sign)! For example, my library’s full name is Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library … but we’re simply topekalibrary on social media sites. We’ll add that on the next version of the signs.

And a funny – watch the arrangement of your icons! We almost put the Facebook icon first … until someone in our Creative Group mentioned that we were spelling “F You[tube].” Certainly not our intent to tell customers to “F You!”

Like these ideas? Come hear more on November 2 at my ALA Techsource webinar on Facebook Pages! Make sure to register!