Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

Libraries! Let’s stop underestimating simplicity. (Simplicity is user-friendly)

07 Nov
Simple image of a display on a bare wall

Simplicity can be delightful. (Flickr CC image from MarcelGermain)

I think one excellent way forward for most libraries would be to adopt an aggressively pro-simplicity stance. We often make decisions about services or models based on the need to accommodate everyone - the need not to put anyone out, rather than the need to really inspire people to use what we have. It’s very difficult, perhaps impossible, to be both inspirational and compromising at the same time. Look at loan periods as a really basic example. Most libraries have a lot of them – this is an attempt to make sure everyone is catered for. But sometimes it’s so complicated as to be detrimental to the users.

Simplicity is great for many reasons.  It allows focus. It allows us to market with clear messages about what we do. It helps the user feel like they know where they are. It stops the model being too diluted by attempts not to offend. And – and this is the key point I want to make in this post – people can often prefer simplicity even to desirable options.

Think about your own experiences. Let’s take a mundane example – sometimes it’s nice to go to a coffee shop and have a choice between an Americano, an Espresso and a Latte, in two sizes. Even if you really like cinnamon lattes or whatever, you might prefer the simplicity of options to 7 different types of coffee, in three different sizes, with syrup options ago-go.

There’s all sorts of retail experiences like that – booking hotel rooms or flights, for instance, or choosing a sandwich in Subway… – where options that are designed to personalise the experience to suit you actually just get in the way of some sort of essential process.

So I think (and I’m thinking about all this because I suggested it at a work meeting the other day) that all new processes and models and services should be designed to be simple and to make an impact, rather than to cover all the bases. (I realise librarians often feel a sort of moral obligation to make sure we’re not disadvantaging anyone, and I’m definitely in favour of that as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of our actual future.) And I think any services we re-design should be re-designed at least partly with the question ‘What would users who’d NEVER EXPERIENCED THE OLD SYSTEM really want her?e’ uppermost in our minds, as well as the need not to offend existing users. Chances are, they’d want something efficient, non-complicated, and easy to understand.

- thewikiman

p.s some of the themes in this post are also covered in my previous one



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How do you get feedback from library users? (Or, Beating Survey Fatigue…)

12 Aug


StockXChange pic of a survey entry

Are you overwhelmed with ennui when asked to fill in yet another feedback survey?

John Kennerly just drew my attention on twitter, to an article about how students are getting survey fatigue. (The article is in The Chronicle of Higher Education, you can read it here.)

I’m really interested in how to get feedback – not just from students in academic libraries, but from all patrons for all types of libraries. My interest has been piqued recently because of:

  • Terry Kendrick pointing out in a marketing workshop that “…it’s no good asking people what their needs are; they’ll just come up with some guff to help you with your survey!”
    Think about when you were last asked about your needs. What was your main driver in answering – expressing those needs, or just making the question go away? Even those with the best of intentions may come with answers just to try and help the surveyor, rather than truly delving into themselves to try and think about what they need. Plus, needs are based partly on what you know is possible – people might not mention stuff because they don’t even know it’s something the library has any ability to fulfil.
  • Stephen Abram mentioning at SLA2011 how much better the focus groups he ran went when he gave everyone a $5 Starbucks card and told them to spend it and bring a coffee and muffin to the meeting
    I can imagine a million and one purse-string holders saying “We can’t afford to spend $50 on a focus group!” But actually that’s a pretty good use of $50…
  • The quote from Henry Ford that resurfaces fairly often
    On the Model T Ford: “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they’d've said a faster horse…”
  • A recent revelation at work that a survey we hadn’t had time to publicise got more respondents than the previous year when we’d gone all out
    Could be a coincidence, of course. But maybe there’s something in there about the psychology of trying to elicit feedback?

These are all interesting points, I think. So what are you doing to ascertain what your patrons are thinking? Is there something more reliable than surveys? And if you’re asking them via social media, how did you find out what social media platforms they used in the first place…?

All comments gratefully received! :)

- thewikiman

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Why I’d quite happily never read another comparison between Google and Libraries ever again

01 Jul
Image of a girl kicking one of the 'o's in Google

This = futile. (Flickr CC image by Cayusa)

I’m a huge fan of Phil Bradley, and a recent very eloquently written post of his added to the canon of information professionals who have compared Google unfavourably with What We Do. However, I’d really be very happy not to read any more such comparisons hereafter. Here’s five reasons off the top of my head

  1. It’s not a fight we will ever win. Ever. Unwinnable fight = this.
  2. However valid our arguments are for libraries or librarians being ‘better’ than Google, we are not powerful or loud enough for them to stick. It’d be like a minor royal saying he’d be better on the throne than the Queen – that may well be, but no one is listening and in any case, it’s the frigging Queen. She is literally bolted down onto the throne.
  3. It’s really hard to become popular by slagging something else off. You have to be really likeable to make this approach work; it reminds people too much of politicians who only ever talk about how bad the opposition party is. From a marketing point of view, librarians saying Google is bad is a disaster, because everyone loves Google – it’d be like goldfish trying to make a comeback as a popular pet with a ‘Kittens are bastards’ campaign.
  4. It’s hypocritical. Lots of librarians love Google. I love it – I use it every single day almost a bajillion times. I use it for work, in my library. I know some people don’t love it and use Bing etc, but really there isn’t a web user in the world who doesn’t get some kind of good use out of search engines.
  5. See number 1, again.

All we can do is help people to use it better, and emphasise that we provide access to information which Google cannot find. To step up to Google and try and compete for the same market is a waste of energy.

-   thewikiman

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I’m writing a book on marketing libraries and I’d like your input

17 Dec

Image of a notepad

I’ve been approached by Facet Publishing to write a book on marketing modern libraries. It’s intimidating (the previous Facet book on libraries was written by Terry Kendrick, who is a marketing legend and a member of the Marketing Guild and all that stuff) but a really exciting thing to be a part of. The idea is for it to cover all aspects of the nuts and bolts of marketing libraries – the grass roots – and to cover a wide spectrum of sectors, too.

Although the echo chamber theme will pop up here and there, this isn’t a book about marketing the profession (or the industry) – it’s about marketing your specific library. So, I would absolutely love to hear what you think you’d like to see in such a book. Each chapter will be on a different theme, and they’ll all feature a case-study. I’m yet to finalise the proposal with Facet, so if you can give me your ideas quick I’ll try and make sure they’re addressed!

Stuff I’m currently intending to cover includes:

  • Grass roots essentials
  • Going to where your users are / user studies
  • Marketing with social media + web2
  • Marketing on no budget
  • Marketing to internal stakeholders
  • Language, style + materials
  • Special collections, Archives and Library Branding
  • Understanding the media and using them to market your library
  • Rebranding, reinvention, and the Unlibrary concept
  • Quick wins (a brief overview of a bunch of other people’s success stories)


What else would you like to see in there? Would you want more than one chapter on web stuff as it is so important these days? Do you think there should be a chapter about advocacy because without it we won’t have any libraries left to market, or will the kind of people who’ll buy this book not have time for all that? Do you know of a library with a story that would fit any of those themes as a case study?

I would absolutely love it if you can leave me some comments, or email me your thoughts if you’d rather it be private, and tweet a link to this post to encourage others to do the same (or share it on Facebook). I want to make the most relevant and useful tool possible. Thank you! :)

- thewikiman

P.S There will be a separate marketing blog and twitter account coming soon, once we’ve made the final decision on the name of the book. It’ll cover all the stuff the book will cover, and also report on any other great marketing schemes happening out there in libraryland.

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