Communications & Marketing, In the Workplace, User Experience, Weekly Links

Lonely, Lonely Links

Long time, no links (on the blog). These guys would really like to be shared.

I keep watching this video. It’s worth the three minutes.

(Side note: Even my empathy comes with sandwiches. Jimmy John’s cures all.)

What should you stop doing? I bet it’s one of these things.

In not-shocking news for most librarians: Bosses say they want outside of the box thinking until it happens

How To Tell The Story Of Your Idea Using The ‘Value Proposition Hack.’ Does your idea add value? Should it matter? Who cares? This trick will make deep thinking much simpler.

Stop Thinking So Much Like a Damn Librarian. You are not your user. Learn to see through their eyes.

Eight Ways to Stay Calm in the Middle of Chaos. Don’t let a busy period at work destroy you. Librarianship is (almost never) not life or death. Step back from the panic button.

Communications & Marketing

The only two things librarians need to read about QR codes, and one experiment that might prove me wrong


QR codes. Are we really still talking about this? Yes? OK, fine.

My thoughts can be summed up in two ways.

  1. Should I Use A QR Code?
  2. Implementing QR Codes in Libraries


I finally had the opportunity to see the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Virtual Free Library at Suburban Station. As both a Regional Rail rider and avid FLP user, I had been really interested in this project, even though it wasn’t at my primary station. And then I saw the QR codes. I’ve had my iPhone for more than a year and a half, and I still don’t have a code reader. I understand the appeal here — people need quick and easy access to the information so they can get the materials before their train arrives — but I’ll still be curious to see just how much use the codes get versus the simple (yet harder to find) URL.

I keep waiting for someone to prove me wrong on the usefulness of QR codes. Maybe FLP will be the one.

Communications & Marketing

“Lousy marketing?” We can fix that!

The latest Pew study, Library Services in the Digital Age, is fantastic news for libraries. People like us, people use our services, and people want to know how we can help them next. And because the study came from Pew, it’s has already begun to get extended press coverage further sharing the results.

But not all the news was positive. Reading down to the what users would like to see from libraries reveals a number of services many libraries already offer but were unknown by the public. Publishers Weekly summed it up best: “Libraries: Good Value, Lousy Marketing.”

Marketing is making people realize that an action is in their best interest, not ours. This often brings about a clash of values — ours (as librarians) versus those of our users. Our focus needs to be what’s in it for our users, not why we love a service. David Lee King put a library spin on Seth Godin’s post from last weekend by asking whether what we do in libraries is interesting to us or interesting to our users. While those items may sometimes overlap, it’s likely there is a gap in our perception versus how interesting something really is to non-librarians.

In academic libraries, this often plays out in how we market our research assistance services. Making these services appeal to users requires strong communication and messaging strategies that too often are overlooked in favor of library jargon and hints of ALA standards that show all too well how we as librarians can view ourselves in the research process. Marketing is making people realize that an action is in their best interest, not ours. Our services, such as research assistance, can benefit from a closer look at our audience and their values.

This is ultimately about the students and what they need and believe. Sure, librarians can help you learn a lot about different resources, but is that what students are looking for? Do these messages appeal to what students value during finals time, for example, when the goal is get it done, and get it done fast?

Finals time is a natural communications point for academic libraries, and we need to take advantage of that. What the end of the semester gives us is an opportunity as reference librarians to show off our competitive edge. I will help you find your mandated five scholarly articles for your final paper in half the time. Less time searching online means more time for other activities.

Our marketing needs to address the primary concern of being able to get everything done. Librarians’ ability to meet its goal of enriching learning is dependent on making its services fit students’ needs and expectations, and helping students complete their work better and faster will make them more likely to take advantage of the library’s expertise.

Communications & Marketing

Stress is normal, or, deep breaths everyone

Librarians, we have a problem. The reaction to the CNBC article, particularly the martyr-themed #librarianstress commentary, is a public relations disaster. We suck at this folks. And we really cannot afford to do this to ourselves.

Yes, frustrating and difficult situations happen in libraries, but just because your job includes stress does not make it stressful. It makes it normal.

Librarianship is not the only profession to face challenges, changes, and misconceptions. (The article’s author, who also said being a jeweler isn’t stressful, has obviously never met a bride.) I came to librarianship from newspaper journalism, another radically changing profession, and while the sense of worry is still present, the outer focus is on the new things different newspapers are trying to evolve. The constant threat of digital is always present, but it’s reality — nothing more, nothing less. This constant state of crisis in librarianship has to end, and the negative energy needs to be weeded from our emotions. It’s not fair to our colleagues, it’s not fair to our communities, and it’s certainly not fair to ourselves.

I easily have the least stressful job in my family. My younger brother recently passed his air traffic control performance verification, and when I was talking to him earlier today, he made the most perfect comment about the overwhelming stress of this test (the final training exam, essentially): “That’s your life. If you don’t like it, find something different.”

The stresses of librarianship are what they are. Our patrons, our funding struggles, and our reality will not go away just because we don’t like them or because someone sees them differently. Freaking out gets us nowhere. It’s up to us whether we can stop taking the little things seriously and focus on staying positive instead.

(All that said, keep the sarcasm coming. It’s good for us. And if someone can tell me where I’m supposed to shelve Alexander McCall Smith, please help!)

Communications & Marketing

The power of positive messaging

Libraries! Take this message from The Nonprofit Marketing Guide by Kivi Leroux Miller to heart in your messaging:

“Even when your organization is struggling, you should always keep your communications focused on your cause and the people you serve, not on your organization per se. Don’t make it about you and how your agency is hurting. Make it about the good work you are trying to do, the people you are trying to serve, and how much your supporters are needed.

People want to feel like they are giving to an organization that’s healthy and that makes a difference. They want to be part of your success, not your failure. If all of your messaging is about how you’re having trouble paying your utility bills and how you may close your doors any minute, you’ll breed more skepticism about your management abilities than confidence in your ability to make a difference. Focus on the impact your supporters can have on the people you’re helping and on your cause, not on the plight of your organization.” (emphasis added)

It’s always frustrated me how libraries have been “in crisis” for 20+ years. The struggles we are facing are not unique. The amazing outcomes of our services are.  Let’s try a more positive, less apocalyptic message. We do great things — it’s time to focus on them.