Archive for the ‘Library Marketing’ Category

Libraries, Beacons, and the Internet of Things

27 Feb

A while ago I tweeted this helpful graphic:

I know what you're thinking - it will be climate change that renders the debate on the future of libraries moot, not the singularity! And you're quite right, of course.

I know what you’re thinking – it will be climate change that renders the debate on the future of libraries moot, not the singularity! And you’re quite right, of course.


The Internet of Things will, hopefully, be a big deal in libraries. Some of the technology associated with it feels very far-away in terms of the resources it would take to implement it, but we’ve seen how these things work – what starts off as unattainable fantasy becomes cheaply available reality soon enough.

But what does it mean, though? I mean really mean, for libraries? I found this UX article on beacons very helpful in giving me an overview of the technology, and this post is an extrapolation of the ideas it presents, into a library context.

What is The Internet of Things?

In short, the Internet of Things refers to when objects are able to connect with each other online, because they can be uniquely identified.

We’re actually very familiar with this in Libraries, because we use RFID. You put the book in the cradle, and that book (due to its RFID tag) speaks to the issue-machine, which then informs the library management system that the book has been issued to your account. It’s the internet, but interacting with a Thing! Brilliant.

What are beacons?

Beacons are wireless devices which use Bluetooth (but an especially low-energy version which doesn’t drain battery) to broadcast to other Bluetooth objects around them. You may have seen wearable technology like Jawbone or Fitbit, which monitor your physical activity – these use beacons to ‘talk’ to your phone, allowing you to get information via your phone’s screen.

In physical terms, you can already get commercially available beacons – for example from Estimote – which are discreet physical objects (as opposed to something integrated into a Fitbit wrist-band) to put in physical locations, allowing smartphones to interact with them according to parameters you define.

Give me some examples of what Libraries could do

Here are some ideas to enhance the library user experience:

  1. Locate items from my books list. Most library catalogues have a ‘favourite’ function, where you can add items to a list. Imagine you make your list of books at home using this feature, then come into a library fully hooked up to the Internet of Things – as you walk in, you’re presented with a map and directions to each of the available items. You’d know before you got past the foyer if any books had already been borrowed, and you’d even be able to find them if they were misshelved.
    Wait, come back! I’ve got better ones, look…
  2. A self-guided virtual tour. Set up beacons at key points around the Library, and send users off on a tour. When they get to each location their phone plays them videos, or audio, and gives them more information on how to get the most from that area. Combine this with augmented reality to really knock people’s socks off.
  3. An enriched Special Collections experience. When you’re near the glass case displaying the rare and precious illuminated manuscript that you can’t touch, your phone or tablet can show you the whole document in digital format. It could even play you audio of expert analysis by the Special Collections librarian.
  4. Contactless fine payment. The Internet of Things knows how much you owe, and has the capability to let you pay it without you having to queue for a till or a card-reader.
  5. Availability of machines. Some library apps already show you which PCs are in use and which are actually free within the Library building, which users find invaluable. Beacons could easily extend this to printers (and 3D printers), scanners, study rooms, blu-ray players etc etc – all quick to check from your phone as you enter the Library.
  6. More details on items. In the same way you can put a QR Code on a DVD box which takes the user to the imdb entry on the film in question, or on a music score to take the user to an MP3 of the piece, you could give any manner of contextual information on items in your collection via the Internet of Things. If a user is in the vicinity of an item, she or he will be able to get information on it online via their phone.

My brain is not particularly wired to invention. When someone else lays out ideas I can spark off them, but I can very rarely think up anything from scratch – so with that in mind, the list above is quite small, and I’d be VERY interested to hear what you think we could do with this technology, via a comment…


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The key to good marketing is to promote one thing at a time

05 Dec

If you’ve got a great idea, don’t dilute it. Simplicity results in better traction for your idea. You need to give people one idea at a time, so they can grab onto it, digest it, and see how it relates to them. Not only that, but the simpler the idea, the more likely it is for people to share and pass it on.

Think about the really successful online writers, like Seth Godin. He’s made a career out of taking single concepts, focusing on them one at a time, and getting a bajillion hits to his blog as a result. Once people buy into his one-key-thing-at-a-time approach to ideas, they’re then more likely to buy into him as a concept, and push his (more complex) books up the best-seller charts.

So, keeping things simple isn’t dumbing down. It’s providing people with an easy way-in. That’s just good marketing. Much of marketing is to simply get people in the door – THEN you can give them a whole variety of reasons to say inside.

Most of the readers of this blog work in the information profession, like I do. This means we have a complex sell. Library services are myriad, but your promotion must be in bite-sized chunks. Libraries are complicated, but your marketing must not be. The secret to good communication is to market one thing at a time.

Here’s an example of a poster promoting a library. In theory, it ought to be good. It looks okay, uses a nice font. But more importantly, it tells you about all sorts of amazing library services! What’s not to like? How you can resist this?

On all of these, click the pics to view them on Flickr

But actually, this poster doesn’t work. There’s too much going on, it does not provide an easy way in. You’re relying on people grabbing on to the part that relates to them, and then taking an action (coming to the Library) because of it – in most cases, that’s too big a leap of faith. You’re much better off dividing that list up into individual posters, and putting them in the most relevant areas for their specific target groups. So for example this message, even though it’s only one useful thing instead of many useful things, is a much more powerful piece of marketing:

Then you make ANOTHER poster to cover another aspect of the original:

Or you can take multiple concepts but tie them together into one easily-digestible, relate-able, shareable package:

Finally, if you really want to put several library services into the same piece of promotion, you can do this and STILL have the one simple message for people to take away. In the example below, you’re saying to people that the library is a welcoming place, that they can come in and use the wifi and enjoy the cafe, without being judged for not using the books and journals. But you’re also listing all the other things they MIGHT do if they so desire. As I said above, much of marketing is to simply get people in the door – then you can give them a whole variety of reasons to say inside.

So remember, keep it simple. Market one thing at a time. It WILL yield tangible results.

(All of these posters are available on my Flickr account via an Attribution Creative Commons licence. Note that it’s NOT a ‘no-derivs’ or ‘non-commercial’ license – in other words if you can find a use for these ideas, but want to change and adapt them to your own purposes, feel free to do so.)



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Making your message stick – presentation skills for information professionals

01 Oct

On Tuesday the 12th of November I’m running a workshop on presentation skills in London. So many of us have to do presentations now, and it makes a big difference if you feel confident about it, and know some tips and tricks to make presenting easier and more effective. I’m really looking forward to it – it’s the first time of doing this outside the British Library, where it’s gone down really well. We’ll be covering how to make lovely PowerPoints (even if you have to use a dreaded template), how to make your audience remember the things YOU want them to, tips for presenting itself, an introduction to Prezi and a bunch of other stuff too.

You can read some of the kinds of things we’ll be talking about in this 10 non-standard tips for public speaking post  and this presentation on making presentations

It’s hands-on, at PCs. The details, including a booking form, are here.

UKeIG website picture

Click the pic to go to UKeIG’s website

One of my favourite ever pieces of feedback came for this course (it was unsolicited, too):

What I enjoyed so much about the presentation workshop:

 1.      Expertise in the subject matter

2.      Relevant and highly useful information: presented and practiced

3.      Clear and engaging presentation style

4.      Professionalism with a great sense of humour, no hidden agenda

5.      Dedication to collaborative professional development, to high standards, to excellence

… so I promise it’ll be good! :) Hope to see you there.


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Marketing Libraries: What the not-for-profits can learn from the lots-of-profits!

11 Sep

A couple of weeks ago I presented a webinar for WebJunction on marketing libraries. Part 1 of this post is all the information from the presentation, including a video archive of it, and Part 2 is about the process of presenting in a webinar, for anyone interested in that side of things.

Part 1: Marketing Libraries

The webinar covered marketing principles (several ways to start thinking like a library marketer) – and marketing actions (ways to communicate including Word of Mouth, the website, social media etc). There are various ways you can access the content.

If you want a brief overview:

Here are the slides, with a couple of bits of info added in so they make sense without me talking over the top of them.


If you want the full detail:

You can view the full Archive (combined archive of audio, chat, and slides) – this requires JAVA and is a bit more technically complicated than the options above and below, but you get the full experience of the slides, me narrating them in real time, and the chat happening in real time, where you’ll find lots of good ideas.

If you want a version you can watch on any device:

Here is the YouTube vid of the webinar – the good thing is you can watch this on a phone etc, the downside is some key points are missed where it skips or the live-streaming briefly went down, and it’s hard to read the chat that added so much to the presentation. (You can, however, download the  chat (xls) to read in Excel as you go along.)


When I get a bit of time I’m going to break this down into smaller videos on each topic.

Part 2: Presenting a Webinar

Presenting a webinar is an inherently odd experience because you can’t see the faces and responses of your audience. I rely on this a lot to know what is working and what isn’t – a presentation is all about communication, after all. Not only that but it’s a much bigger audience than for a normal talk – there was nearly 600 people watching this as it happened.

A picture of a desk with PC, iPad etc

My webinar presenting setup.

Above is what my desk looked like – iPad to monitor tweetstream (which I didn’t have the wherewithall to actually do), landline phone to speak into (I had it pressed against my ear for the first half hour before realising there was nothing to actually hear), G&T to drink (later decanted into a glass with ice, don’t worry), iPhone to live-tweet pre-written draft tweets from (it was too stressful to do this well, so I sort of tweeted them in clumsy groups), PC to present from and clock to keep to time by.

I asked for some advice on Twitter about what makes a good webinar – much of it was about good presenting generally, but the web-specific stuff centered around making it as interactive as possible (the technology limited how much I could do this, but I tried…) and giving people time to catch up (I think I pretty much failed to do this). Very useful advice from Jennifer at Web Junction included not putting any animations on the slides because these don’t render well in the webinar environment (if I wanted stuff to appear on a slide as I went along, I made two versions of the slide and moved between them). The particular platform we used meant I had to dial in with a phone – a PHONE! – and talk into that whilst manipulating the slides, that was very strange. I had a practice run the night before and I’m glad I did – in essence I found out I just cannot present sitting down, I need the energy that comes from pacing around, so I ended up using my slide-clicker so I could wonder about my house without having to be too close to the PC… The downside to this is I couldn’t monitor the chat nearly as well as I wanted to, to respond to questions, because I often wasn’t close enough to read the small text.

This was the first time I’d done one of these solo – previous webinar experience had been as part of a panel. As is often the case, as soon as I’ve done something properly and learned how it works, I want to do it again but much improved based on what I now know. So I’m hoping to work with WebJunction again next year (I find their site a really useful source of information and expert opinion). But the feedback from this one was great, some really nice comments in the chat and even a reference to my accent via private message…

I enjoyed this whole thing, and clearly live-streaming and web-based events are going to be more and more important. They’re very convenient for attendees, less so for presenters (I had to banish my family upstairs for example!) but I did get to wear shorts for a presentation for the first time, and even drink Gin & Tonic during it, and that was ace.


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