Libraries & Stealth Advocising!

09 Nov

I’m afraid this post has a bit of a ‘here’s what I did, how cool is that’ feel to it, but it’s sort of unavoidable if I’m to share what I learned…

Stealth Advocising: creating material for library advocacy, but packaging it in something of intrinsic awesomeness so that non-librarians will be interested in it anyway – thereby extending its reach and escaping the echo chamber. Stealth advocising is the Trojan Horse of library advocacy.

The Background

Recently I’ve been thinking about the ‘libraries and the echo chamber‘ problem a lot. (What a surprise!) Coincidentally, I also read that Lorcan Dempsey thinks the ‘found flickr’ style of slide-deck (which is what I normally do – I know it as ‘zen-style slide-decks’: full-slide images, one point per slide, the image being a visual metaphor of some kind for that point) is dead or dying. Then I saw NoteandPoint, a site devoted entirely to showcasing lovely presentations. The slide decks on there were sooo far ahead of what I normally do, it really made me think.

The Concept

All of this came together with me thinking a: I need to experiment with a different style of slides, to keep ahead of, or at least up with, the game, b: I’ve been meaning to contextualise my ‘essential advice for new professionals blog post‘ into a slide deck for ages because it would be easier to digest and disseminate that way and c: wouldn’t it be cool to make a deck so attractive it gets onto NoteandPoint because of its aesthetics, and then surreptitiously rights public misconceptions about librarianship at the same time! It’s stealth advo-cising! Subliminal advocising, even! Because people will be viewing the presentation as a sort of cool object of PowerPoint beauty, without realising they’re actually absorbing library advocacy! W00t!

This idea could apply to a lot of things. Make something which is cool enough of itself for people to want to share it, and it just happens to be about libraries too. What would result, if it worked, would be huge reach beyond your normal sphere, and people beyond the echo chamber learning about libraries. A good example of this in the past was when LibraryMan and David Lee King‘s Library 101 video got onto BoingBoing – that took more resources to create than most of us could realistically aspire to, but ANYONE can make a slide-deck.

The execution

Last week I created my slides, entitled If you want to work in libraries, here are ten things you need to know. I prioritised form just as much as function – this meant compromise, such as not saying as much as I wanted to in some slides, and dividing one slide up into 2 different ones because I only had 9 main slides. I wanted 10 because ‘here’s 10 things you need to know’ is snappier than 9 – titles are really important. I made it short and easily digestible. I found a nice texture from Flickr (CC, of course), cropped it and re-coloured it to work as the background. And I used icons from the newly discovered icon-finder site (thanks Phil!)  to be graphics in roughly the same place each slide. The end result was a deck built for echo escapism – it is pretty, and although there are compromises on content they are necessary to help it achieve wider dissemination – less stuff, but seen by many more people, = #win. It’s concise, honest, makes important points I’m always making, and will hopefully put off as many people as it entices into librarianship. No point in people entering this profession labouring under misapprehensions.

The deck

Here it is:

What happened next

All I can say is, this went waaay better than I expected! I wrote a blog post yesterday asking people, how do I get this slide-deck beyond the echo chamber? Almost exactly 24hrs later, thanks to a mixture of the suggestions people gave me on Twitter and on the blog, and just trying stuff at random, here’s some of what has happened:

Screen-grab of three Prospects Tweets

All three tweeting arms of the Prospects Careers Service tweeted a link

Pic of a tweet

The careers service Graduate Futures tweeted a link

Pic of a tweet

GuardianCareers tweeted a link to it

Pic of Slideshare

It showed up on Slideshare's homepage as being Hot on Facebook (and Hot on Twitter, although you can't see that above) due to all the links / likes it was getting

Pic of an email

I got an email from Slideshare saying it had been chosen to be a Featured Presentation on the homepage

Pic of Slideshare

And there it is, featured. You know you can pay to have your presentation featured like this? Guess how much it costs: $399 DOLLARS A DAY!

Pic of slideshare

And just for good measure, this morning Slideshare decided to feature it on their Spotlight on Careers page, too...

The combined reach of those Twitter feeds alone is over 6000 followers, NONE of whom follow me and so were inaccessible to me otherwise. And all I did was just ASK them to tweet it – that’s all there was to it! Why have I never done this before? The Prospects Twitter person in particular was really helpful and engaging, and got my feedback on other stuff they were doing online at Prospects, and tweeted links to my Essential Careers Advice post and my Prezi on libraries and technology.

The Slideshare featuring thing is amazing, because every time anyone goes to the homepage they can see an attractive presentation, check it out, and are fed pro-library propaganda through a straw while they do so… As they said in the email screen-grabbed above, they receive thousands of uploads each day – the only way they even know my presentation existed in order to put it as a Feature on the homepage was because it got into the Hot on Twitter section as one of the most tweeted about Slideshare decks in the world for that morning so,thank you to everyone who tweeted and re-tweeted the links! The pictures above show just the #echolib busting stuff – it was also picked up on by loads of library people too and I’m really grateful.

Another thing worth noting is that, at the moment, if I type ‘I want to work in libraries’ into Google, the first four entries I get are this presentation. (Same with typing in ‘if you want to work in libraries’.) I know Google personalises results but even so, that’s pretty good – I’d rather people got my opinions on the truth of working in libraries than some out-of-date stuff that perpetuates the misconceptions, stereotypes and so on.

The numbers

At the time of writing, just 24rs since being uploaded to Slideshare, the presentation has been viewed 2611 times, linked to via 345 times, embedded in 18 people’s sites and blogs, tweeted 69 times, downloaded 13 times, shared on Facebook 48 times, liked on Facebook 66 times,  favourited 10 times on SlideShare and even received 7 votes for Slideshare’s World’s Best Presentation Contest 2010!


To put that in context, the next most viewed presentation I’ve ever submitted to Slideshare has less than 1000 views, and that’s EVER – let alone in 24hrs. So stealth advocising undoubtedly increased my reach exponentially, and hopefully it enlightened many of those new viewers as to what libraries are all about.

Your turn?

So, how else can we apply the stealth-advocising principle and help libraries escape the echo chamber? Suggestions in a comment please, or better still, make it happen and post a link to it here! :)

- thewikiman

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  • Ned Potter November 9, 2010 at 1:03 PM

    [W00ty new post!] Libraries & Stealth Advocising! – via #twitoaster

  • walkyouhome November 9, 2010 at 1:04 PM

    @theREALwikiman Any reason you chose ‘advocising’ over ‘advocating’?

  • theREALwikiman November 9, 2010 at 1:07 PM

    @walkyouhome Cos it evokes stealth advertising. Sort of half-rhymes with it.. :-)

  • Simon Barron November 9, 2010 at 1:07 PM

    Holy Jebus! This is some amazing #echolib work right here – RT @therealwikiman: Libraries & Stealth Advocising! –

  • PriestLib November 9, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    @theREALwikiman You couldn’t stealth advocise my Deputy Librarian post WITHIN the profession could you? Zero applications!

  • theREALwikiman November 9, 2010 at 1:38 PM

    @PriestLib Can I do it but work from home and still live in York? I’d love to work for you. :-)

  • theREALwikiman November 9, 2010 at 1:48 PM

    @PriestLib Lots of Deputy Librarians work from home, right? Allows them to be ‘hands-off’ and ‘unaware of what’s going on’ – v. valuable.

  • Lisa Jeskins November 9, 2010 at 1:56 PM

    RT @theREALwikiman: [W00ty new post!] Libraries & Stealth Advocising! – via #twitoaster

  • Andy Priestner November 9, 2010 at 2:34 PM

    Great work Ned. Hugely impressive breaking out of the echo chamber stuff.

  • PriestLib November 9, 2010 at 1:44 PM

    @theREALwikiman I’d employ you in a minute if it weren’t for the geography (er provided we followed offiicial recruitment procedure – natch)

  • PriestLib November 9, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    @theREALwikiman You’re almost beginning to convince me (not really)

  • Emma Davidson November 9, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    Just awesome!

  • meimaimaggio November 9, 2010 at 3:35 PM

    It’s true: make something beautiful, clever and worth sharing and people will share it despite the library propaganda!

    Last year I posted up this photo and quote to my Tumblr and it got an immense response: All it took was one or two influential people reposting it and it spread across the community. Sure, 219 people liking or reposting it isn’t a lot compared with what you’ve achieved but I think Tumblr is a great platform for this sort of thing. And I reckon 99.9% of those who reposted or liked that photo weren’t librarians!

    Plan of action: Collect and create beautiful, evocative images paired with pro-library quotes. Release into the wild. Repeat.

  • thewikiman November 9, 2010 at 3:43 PM

    I love that tumblr! Really nice, not surprised it got so much good response.

    I think your ‘…and repeat’ quote should be the stealth advocisers mantra…

  • CILIPGazette November 9, 2010 at 4:36 PM

    Fantastic Ned. I’m glad I’ve featured you in the last but one Gazette… I realised a while ago you were going to go far !!!

  • thewikiman November 9, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    Heh, that’s very kind of you Debbie! I really will miss Gazette, though.

  • Library Web November 9, 2010 at 6:18 PM

    This is a long comment, so an exec summary: you’re saying (mostly) the right things, but could be saying it even better :) Can you perhaps in the next few weeks study further and expand into a full strategy for HR!

    I have to confess LW (aka myself ;) glanced at this (about 4 pm), and stepped over it! It wasn’t until Stephen’s Lighthouse in the States 6 hours later reposted that I must admit I raised an eyebrow (although I’d noticed the snowball getting bigger prior to that). OK, it wasn’t the conventional library canon. It was also stating the obvious a bit (to a techie like me anyway). I wasn’t all together sure it was something I should be recommending to new LIS pros as good advice (‘knife edge’). So I skipped over it. A mistake evidentally ;) Anyway I think we can possibly say at this point ‘seminal’? Having said that you don’t get off the hook that quick :) Taking each slide in turn:

    1) The libraries _are_ about books and the literary arts. You are wrong here. If a librarian is a complete book geek then that’s OK with me, we need more of them. And I expect to see more geekier book librarians in the future because the web enables a much richer culture (in this case book culture). (I’d like one day to see a ‘Book Web’ alongside ‘Libary Web’ :) The problem though with the libraries in the past is it’s been rare to see anyone outside of this book knowledge while the technological context (electronics, butr also Library Science) has now changed. We have a new ‘layer’ of literature on top of the codex, and additionally our understanding and concept of libraries is evolving (in a Libary Science sense), and so libraries are very much about other things as well now (see my comment on slide 4) below).

    2) It sure is about people, there is an archiving and retrieval role for the libraries, but it has been recognised for a number of years now (e.g., Reader Development) that libraries need to move on from the traditional Victorian/Edwardian library to focusing on the reading experience of the reader. And that is very different in this day and age to that of the Victorians and Edwardians.

    3) You can’t talk about literature and not talk about communications technologies, but also on top of the literary culture of the codex, we have a new literary culture forming on top of the communications technologies we now have. So double the job for the modern librarian. Books, and the literary culture resulting from modern technologies.

    4) I would actually like to see librarians take a multidisciplinary approach (so not just one qualification, two or more). Community library managers will go on to postgrad education in management, other librarians might like to specialise in the role of libraries in society – health, education, etc. (studying sociology perhaps?), reading and literacy in society similarly, and so on. So take a specialist interest in libraries. We live in a more educated society. This is how libraries use this.

    5) I would hope talent will be capitalised on appropriately. Though there aren’t always the opportunities, and it isn’t a fair world. So flexibility and cunning also :)

    6) Social media in itself I would argue should be of interest to LIS pros as a new form of literature, additionally a new media, so yes, I think a LIS pro nowadays should use social networking.

    7) Probably one reason public libraries are beaten up so badly at the moment is because most of the staff do not routinely make a point of working on library advocacy assuming those higher up have this organised. I must admit I’d like to see some research on this subject myself, both historical and the philosophy (e.g., I’ve just taken part in some research on public service ethos in public libraries, and apart from the personal beliefs of staff and which they mostly keep to themselves and which often results very good customer service, and the occasional wise literary quote engraved on a library building, there is virtually no espoused public service culture otherwise to be found in libraries — why is this? — we surely need some research here).

    8) If the theory is that we apply new technologies till all the possibilities have been exhausted, and given the new technologies we have in information and communications, then it is time for the libraries to take the stage and do the job for society of applying that new technology towards society’s ends. So librarians today are not reactive, but proactive, they will darn well be _creating_ change! (def. “While the proactive approach talks about creating and starting a trend or idea, the reactive approach believes in following a new trend”, it’s not a time for librarians to follow.)

    9) Re. personal passions, see slide 4) above.

    10) Whatever role, I think a librarian is a professional and society person, look after our culture, our society, and take our civilisation to the next level :)

  • thewikiman November 10, 2010 at 9:46 AM

    Blimey Mr Library Web, thank you for your mega comment!

    (Getting onto Stephen’s Lighthouse was definitely a highlight of this whole thing…)

    I think your brain works on a different level to mine cos I tend to only properly grasp around four fifths of what you say, but I agree with most of what you say above. With the book thing, however, I’m completely happy with how I pitched it. I didn’t say there weren’t important – I’m not one of these people who want to burn bridges with print – just that it is not all about books. We in the industry know that already: it gets bandied about so much it’s almost hackneyed. But people outside the industry, at whom the slide-deck was in part stealthily aimed, do not.

    I know for a fact that people applying for library jobs are still saying ‘I like books’ as a primary motivation for working in libraries. I don’t think this bodes well for their library career – I don’t think it bodes well for their employers either. It shows a lack of understanding of what the job will entail. So I’m happy to bust that myth, that’s it’s all about books, and try and reduce the amount of times it gets mentioned at interview. Of course, I could have gone into more detail and qualified my statement, and stressed that books are still very important – but like I said in the main body of the post, I had to make compromises. I needed the first proper slide to be concise becuase it’s a make or break slide – people won’t click onto the next one if the first one looks long or hard to digest. So I went with form over content in order to maximise reach (Jesus Christ, I sound like a management consultant! Sorry Dad… :) ) and it worked so I’m comfortable with it. Can you see what I mean?

    Regarding points 2 and 3, I think we’re more or less in agreement?

    Point 4 – yes, I’d like to see a more multidisciplinery approach too. But it’s not a realistic expectation – people in the UK doing a second post-grad qualification now have to pay overseas fees, which run as high as 9K a year. So I don’t think that’ll happen too much, and it’s certainly not something to worry the demographic of this slide-deck with! One of the most common and experating misperceptions about libraries is the whole “What? You need a qualfication to work there?!” thing which we’ve all experienced – so that slide was to a: try and right that wrong and b: genuinely make potential library professionals think about how they really will have to factor in time and money for the qualfication at some point. I had no idea I’d need to do that, when I joined the library.

    Point 5, yes I agree flexibility is a must, cunning probably also! There’s been a lot of grumbling about the ‘greying of the profession’ thing turning out to be a myth, recently – people are really angry with the ALA for not making it plain that really, no one is retiring and lots of people are entering. So I wanted to flag that up. People deserve to know the truth about the profession they wish to enter.

    Completely agree with everying in point 7 – especially the point about assuming the high-ups will take care of the advocacy. I really think it’s all of our jobs, whenever we get the chance. There’s no such thing as abstaining from library advocacy – you’re either doing it, or ur doin it wrong. :) Also, that’s the first ever use of the sunglasses smiley on my blog – RESPECT!

    Re point 10 – yes. :)

  • Ned Potter November 10, 2010 at 4:14 PM

    Libraries and Stealth Advo-cising #echolin: Or subliminal advocising?

  • CILIP November 10, 2010 at 4:29 PM

    RT @therealwikiman Libraries and Stealth Advo-cising #echolib Or subliminal advocising?

  • Library Web November 10, 2010 at 5:39 PM

    It was a critique, you have difinitely broken some new ground, and the unanimous verdict was an allround without hesitation thumbs up. If you have any questions by all means ask, my key points off the top of my head I think are:

    - Libraries since Dewey have been largely process oriented, but the rational exists to say there is potentially a great deal of benefit from next focusing on the somewhat neglected aspect of people, and the value of libraries in people’s lives (Rachel van Riel has been saying this for many years). This is all the more important given the information economy that has sprung up on the back of communications and information technologies. We need librarians now who are willing to venture forward and research the theory, both philosophy and practise, of libraries beyond classification and retrieval. We need librarians who research the role of libraries in society.

    - We are seeing a lot of new literature on the back of new communications technologies (grey literature, diaries, ephemeral, etc.), is this in fact a new age of literature? (I.e., after the printing press.) What then is the role of the library? Whatever the role it will take technology oritiented librarians and library staff carry it out.

    The above are my own personal main two arguements for saying that your slideshare presentation very much struck a chord with my own thinking, and evidently likewise from Stephen’s Lighthouse to Guardian Careers as well (reflecting perhaps the feelings of Western culture at this point in time as a whole perhaps?).

    Many years ago I read (not sure exactly what) that you can divide the jobs/work in society into three groups, those working with ideas, those working with things (material objects), and those working with people (doctors etc.). Each depends on the other, and at the end of the day it is our standard of living — the joy in our lives — that is the net result. Writers and literature I would guess form the larger part of the ideas sector. There wouldn’t be libraries without writers, but few people would read their books without libraries! Having said that I’m not a ‘booky’ library assistant, I’m a tech library assistant, and I think I can say quite confidently it is the time for tech library assistants to take the stage. Instinctively whether we know it or not given the rituals and routines and values of our society the net result I think is we are all in the library field working for the writer and the society we live in. Libraries do very much serve the writer’s work.

    Gareth Osler

  • Jonathan Boutelle November 10, 2010 at 6:13 PM

    Great account of what it takes to get on the slideshare home page!

  • Harish Shankaran November 10, 2010 at 6:32 PM

    Awesome read! RT: @jboutelle: Great account of what it takes to get on the slideshare home page!

  • Katharine November 10, 2010 at 10:41 PM

    That’s just awesome! We need more of this – time to get thinking.

  • thewikiman November 11, 2010 at 9:53 AM

    You could make a convincing argument that library jobs (and library society, or at least the community) straddle all three groups?

  • Library Web November 11, 2010 at 3:10 PM

    Having said libraries do very much serve the writer, ultimately they serve the public – by providing access to writers and their writing. Writers do not bring a library into being[1], it is readers. The public library was brought into being by and belongs to the public. The public libraries organise and make accessible our literary culture. Where possible though the libraries do support the whole of the cultural ecosystem with writing workshops, author talks, etc.

    I mentioned above that I’d like one day to have a ‘Book Web’ website alongside Library Web, so that library staff can capitalise on the the book culture and knowledge to be found on the web (my role being to provide the web 2.0 service to be able to do this). I think another way that technology can be used internally by the libraries would be to enable those library staff who are book geeks and who do have knowledge to share to network. If a library assistant is knowledgeable about say Family Sagas, then maybe a nationwide forum could be created for him/her to network with other similarly knowledgeable staff but also for remaining staff to refer to when needed. All this wasn’t possible until now. And hence the role of the techie librarian in the age we live in – but note the role of the techie librarian here is not an end in itself, it is to support the knowledgeable library assistant and librarian, providing the public with the knowledge of literature that the public created the libraries for.

    Oh and yes, librarians are a multidisciplinary lot, very much so.

    [1] Notwithstanding the tremendous work writers are putting in at the moment supporting the libraries!


  • Andy Woodworth November 11, 2010 at 11:26 PM

    Libraries & Stealth Advocising [excellent read] (via @theREALwikiman)

  • [...] sought to get this slide-deck seen outside the echo chamber as much as possible, and although that certainly happened this will really add to it – in fact Emma commented that they were going to try and link to [...]

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