Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Humor is hard work

Yesterday as I walked into the College I met an English professor, whom I hadn't seen since spring semester. This person does not look like a professor. He has long blond hair and was wearing shorts. However, he is published playwright. Last winter one of his plays was produced in a small Chicago theater. I asked him what he was working on and did he have any new plays. He answered that he was working on a novel. I said that I was writing about marketing in my blog. His advice was to write something funny. Any funny thoughts should be recorded for later use. He showed me the thoughts he recorded in his smart phone. He saved these thoughts for use in his novel or for another story.

This reminded me of some of the great comedians who kept joke files. As a librarian I can't help but wonder how one keeps track of jokes. They all have the same author, no? Would the meta-data take more storage space than the joke? How does the English professor catalog or organize the funny thoughts?

In an attempt to follow the professor's advice I office this story from last night. It's not a joke, but perhaps it can be woven into a joke sometime in some other venue.

Students are required to use their college IDs to check out books. The ID has a unique bar code so that circulation is easy and we can be sure of the person's identity. We have a lot of people with similar names or common names. We get all sorts of excuses as to why they can't show use the ID such as "I never got one;" "I left in my other purse;" "Lost it and didn't get around to replacing it." We remind them to get an ID and have it with them at all times when in the College.

There is an expression "XX is our middle name." Replace "XX" with "service" "professional," "performance" or any word that the one wants to emphasize as important to their business. This is supposed to give the customer a feeling that the concept word is part of the business.

After reminding five or ten library users yesterday about the importance of remembering their IDs a student with the last name, "Zachor" comes to the desk without an ID. ("Zachor" is the Hebrew word for "remember.") I told him, "How can you forget? Your last name means remember!"

While this is not a side splitting story, it does show a bit how humor works. Some humor is based on making connections and then something totally unexpected happens. Unfortunately this story was funny only to me, as the person himself did not know the meaning of his name.

Comment received

Humor is timing, timing and timing.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Marketing and Public Relations -- 6

New Rules for Communications Chapter 4

Tell a Compelling Story

Story time in the library for pre-preschoolers is a way of introducing children to the library. Story time has both educational and marketing goals. Examine what the children are doing there and what at the goals.


1. Introduce children to books, reading, and the library --> education
2. Encourage parents to come to the library --> education
3. Encourage parents and children to check out books and other library materials. --> marketing
4. Audience development -- i.e. Give a freebie in hopes to win a library user and stakeholder for life. --> marketing.

Actions in the library

1. Children sit down and listen to stories
2. Children learn to listen
3. Parents are interacting with their children
4. Library staff are meeting children and their parents
5. Children or parents check out books

Librarians excel in presenting stories and talking about books. While the head librarian or marketing department may be thinking about marketing goals on a strategic level, the other librarians have educational and marketing goals in mind when running a program. This kind of personal contact is the way people have been interacting from the beginning of language. Let’s interpret this from a marketing point of view. The library is offering a free program to get what they want – more users and the spread of literacy. How can the library use electronic options to accomplish some of these goals?

Story times can produce content that can be posted as MP3 files or as podcasts, allowing those who couldn’t be in the library at the scheduled time and opportunity to listen to a librarian telling a story. This would accomplish the goal of introducing children to books and reading, but fail to accomplish the other three goals unless you modify the approach. If you use recorded stories as an enticement for attending programs, you will accomplish the other goals when people come to the library in person or electronically. If “education” in the broadest sense is a goal of all library programs, then any in-person or electronic content sharing can accomplish that goal. If reaching customers is a goal of business marketing, then reaching readers with useful information is a goal of library marketing. The library web site could have content in addition to information about library hours and contacts, increasing the library’s role within the community.

Let’s step away from the pre-school age and go to college students or adults. What do they need or want from the library? The library’s web site may have finding tools, bibliographies, digital content, and instructions for students and faculty. The library could mount an online exhibit to show off the library resources and educate the visitors. The library tries to reach a specific audience and the unserved public within the community rather than a mass audience such as found via TV or metropolitan newspapers. With content online the library tries to hit the potential readers with a message just when they need it.


The library should report on activities, services, and plans in a newsletter or some kind of publication. They format should be both imprint and electronic. This is another venue for telling a compelling story. The articles should be aimed at both heavy and the casual library users. The library could also have a section on their web site for news releases. This is information about an event, timely announcement, or a special milestone. The new releases are both for the general public and the news media who may want background information. If the library wants to show it can be a leader in the community, it must prove it with a constant stream of news. Something that may be routine to some, may be news to others. For example practices change – in 2008 the library had no text books for students. The routine answer was, “Sorry we don’t collect current text books.” In 2009 the practice changed because the college made an agreement to have two copies of every required text book placed on reserve.

If this would have been an action with a clear goal, the college and the library would have exploited the story to show how they were filling a need for the students and the library would use this as a way of showing increased usage of the library. This however, was an example of unclear messages. Since the library was not a party to negotiating the agreement, there was no clear message they could write. The books showed up without any clear plans on how to catalog and circulate them.

In the business world, companies want to create original content to educate the marketplace and eventually use the company’s products. An educated consumer will be a better customer because he will be better at choosing the right products and will come back for more. In the library and education world we also want to educate the user so that we can be more efficient in helping them and the reader can learn to do more of their own searching. Newsletters, blogs, and other online content help in the educational process. They communicate directly with the audience without the outside media filter.

Libraries need to create content that is accurate and authentic and not fluff or time wasting. Readers want to feel they are part of the information flow process. They communication lines must go both directions. Great content is the way of distinguishing your library from other information sources. Great content drives the kind of readers you want to your doors or electronic portals. The goals of any library program include – introduce, encourage, educate and develop content and new audiences. Everything and every program within the library has a marketing and educational component.

Tell compelling stories about what you did, are doing and will do tomorrow.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Marketing and Public Relations -- 5

New Rules for Communications Chapter 3

Integrated Marketing

Recently I attended an on line conference on marketing and public relations. The presenters, from the marketing department of University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, have ideas that complement Scott’s new rules. The presenters talked about how one develops content that delivers a consistent institutional picture. The process to obtain by in is a test of institutional cooperation. When building a system, one needs buy-in from many departments who do not even recognize the need to co-operate. The need to share information and produce the procedures to keep that information current is part of the process of creating a public image. You don’t want the public to perceive your organization as sloppy. David Scott does not mention this human process. The human side is media and content blind.

Since there are parallel directions to start, I can’t say to do one step first. One needs to define both the publics and define the goals of marketing in the same time frame. For the institution and the individual library there are multiple publics – 1) Employees; 2) Students; 3) Parents; 4) Businesses; 5) Community; 6) Non-readers; 7) Readers; 8) Holders of the purse strings; and others. One needs to market to your employees as well as those outside the organization. This period of goal definition will form the basis for the content development and is not an advertising campaign.

Convincing stakeholders to buy into integrated marketing is not easy. Everyone will want to voice their opinion and promote their own agenda. However, not everyone will tell you their opinion in a timely manner. You have to convince them, agreeing on goals and managing change, will help their departments and the institution as a whole. When employees are kept informed and empowered they are more likely to do a better job and feel good about their work. The goal of integrated marketing is to build positive relationship with all customers and stakeholders. It stresses the understanding of individual and group needs motivators, attitudes and behaviors.

Branding is the making a common face to the public. Branding may include such things as logos, colors, headers, and shapes on all materials published on paper and web pages. For example University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh uses a yellow line with a wave as part of their logo. They also have a consistent logo with their institution name. Below is the logo they put on all of their web pages.

Some of the goals of a library marketing program include: 1) Increasing awareness of the library’s resources and services; 2) Creating instructional materials to help people use the library and information sources; 3) Acquire new readers and library users; 4) Enhance customer service; and 5) Improving the public image of literacy, the library and librarians. When you establish the exact goals, everything you produce should address one or more of the goals. If not, the goals are not written well enough or the “thing” is not worth doing. If your employees are confused as to the goals, the outside audience will be even more confused. Preparing goals is about thinking and applying communications rules and procedures. Goals need a measurement benchmark to know if you are on the right path toward success. Success may mean modest increases, but these should be significant. The goals must be based on a vision or mission.

To establish the mission and its goals for the institution several forces must be aligned including the lines of communication, content, education for continuous change, shifting of culture to facilitate working toward the goals, and establishing an integrated, consistent brand. The goals must be creditable, reasonable, and establishable. Infrastructure that includes the technologies, training, and procedures must work to make sure the right resources are in place. This may mean realignment of the tasks of people and departments. Monitoring and assessment need to be part of the creative and daily working processes.

Senior leadership support is essential to success of a project. The senior leadership must see a return on the investment. They will help establish the unity and credibility throughout the organization. Transparency of actions means each party keeps the other informed. There are no deals made “behind closed doors.” To win people over, develop a few goals the can be meet so that to everyone it looks like you are on the road to success. Focus on the long term, but make sure early “wins” are well publicized.

Not everyone will participate, but at least they should not oppose your long term goals. Balance communication and participation as well as active and passive help. After thinking of the goals, figure out the deliverables. For a return on the investment, one needs to give something back. The deliverables may be measured in numbers or the images created. For example deliverables may include: a consistent web site, self service for renewing books, self service for library orientation materials, and new ways to communicate such as Facebook and. Twitter.

Change is slow because the inertia to keep the status quo is strong. Some people are skeptical of changes because they don’t image the changes will help them. Some people are skeptical because change is too hard to master. Some people are so willing to change; they ignore the goals and waste time getting something new only for the sake of something new. Manage change with a phased adoption. That means try ideas before making mandatory changes. Ask for feedback from your staff and your publics. Be proactive – don’t wait until something is broken before fixing it. Anticipate challenges and create solutions before they have a negative effect. Build a team with the skills to succeed. Promote the idea of shared success – when one person succeeds, the intuition succeeds.

Get many kinds of feedback such as informal comments, focused questions, and surveys. Listening and analyzing the feedback is important for continuous improvement. Great ideas are discovered after lots of hard work. The goal is to improve the library so that the way people who work there and the publics perceive the improvement.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Marketing and Public Relations -- 4

Chapter 2

Old Rules for Information Transfer are Ineffective

If you wanted to buy a car how would you start the process? Would you turn on the TV and wait for a flashy ad from a car company? Would you ask your friends? Would you search for the manufacturer’s web sites? If you went to http://ford.com, the site of the Ford Motor Company you would be assaulted with flashy car pictures, press releases in the guise of news, and links for more information about selected models. There are links for car specifications, technology, and financing. Someone at Ford must have read David Scott’s book and made changes because this is not the type of web site described in his book. When one is ready to buy, Ford has web based tools to select your features, build a price quote, get financing information, check inventory and find a dealer. This is pretty much what one needs to purchase a car. There were no “72 hour sales” or other gimmicks to get you to buy now. This site is operating under the “new rules” of marketing i.e. teach the potential buyer about your product and services, point them to a dealer, tell them about financing, and then let them decide.

The Ford site does not assume the buyer will purchase today. The first time visitor is like the tire kicker who is wondering in the show room. The old rule of marketing said to capture the customer, make him say yes, take the money.

The car browser who does not know what he wants is like the searcher for library information who does not know what they want. However in the library we need to serve readers who have known item searches and unknown item searches. The library search would like to search in once place for all their information needs. The visitor to Ford’s site would only learn about Ford cars. If he wanted to decide among several brands, he would need some kind of federated search.

The car companies want consumers to make an informed purchase decision. Before the World Wide Web companies had limited opportunities for attaching attention. They had to make a hard sell to get people into their showrooms. In the old days, non-targeted ads via high circulation publications, broadcast and direct mail were the main choices for broad interest of mass marketing. Today big media advertising may drive you to a web site for more exacting information. Broadcast ads are not affordable for small companies.

The library needs a web site that is a one stop information source and portal to all of the library resources. If a library ran a broadcast ad it would be as public service announcement to get people interested in reading or visiting the library. The American Library Association (ALA) or the state library associations many produce sample public service announcements for public libraries. Rarely will school, academic or public libraries use radio or broadcast announcements.

Broadcast ads are interruptive, while web sites are visited to find information about the products and services. Web sites, paper directories, and catalogs are done using the reader's time. The reader wants to visit the web site rather than not wanting the ads to cut into the program or music. Libraries want to reach their constituents. For a school or academic library constituents are their students and faculty. Libraries do not need dumbed-down product focused messages.

Public relations used to be about how to get newspapers and broadcast media to pay attention to you. Marketing was the same as advertising. Advertising needs to appeal to the dumb masses. Advertising was one way: company to the consumer. Creativity such as themes, songs, and gimmicks were the component of advertising. Advertising and public relations were separate disciplines with separate goals, strategies and measurements of success. None of this is true for companies or the non-profits.

Libraries can market themselves to the reading public and no assume the lowest common denominators. Creativity takes a back seat to content and a message of how the library can help the reader, faculty member and community. Advertisements, marketing and public relations are in the same person or department and have a common goals. Readers use the Web, licensed data bases, and the library catalogs to find information. Companies are communicating directly with consumers and so are libraries. Libraries are using online news releases, informational articles, bibliographies, blogs, podcasts, e-mail and other forms of electronic communications to bypass paper and the media. Public relations is about communicating with the public when they want to tune in. Marketing is not just company to consumer but also consumer to company. We want to create the best vehicle to distribute our message. How and what do you want people to know about your services, events, and resources?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Marketing and Public Relations -- 3

New Rules for Communications Chapter 1 part 2

What is new?

Critics may tell you that there are no really new ideas today – everything is derivative and hasn’t changed in thousands of years. If you are talking about human psyche, some ways of thinking have not changed. You can read the Bible and find narratives that describe human wants, desires, and actions that have not changed. We still have the need to acquire the information to do our job. We still have a need to share with the community and teach the next generation. If you get stuck in old modes of delivery, your message will be lost. If you build on the fundamentals and try to use new tools to reach people, your audience will grow as you reach more potential users.

When I talk about users I’m including people of all ages and adults in many roles. Some of these roles may be overlapping. Roles include, children, students, parents, teachers, young adults, adults reading for recreation, searchers for information, tax payers, managers, government officials, community members who never visit the library, and anyone else who is directly or indirectly affected by the library, librarians, or information activities.

While we live in an era with some people demanding immediate gratification, do not expect every public relations activity to have immediate results. However, some activities will be a failure without instant results. For example if the signage is not clear someone may have an accident or be mislead. Learn when immediate results are needed and when careful, repeated actions are the best.


The daily job of public relations is to showcase the best, the new, or the ordinary people, places and services of the library. Everything is an opportunity for making a good impression. I was once invited to visit a library. I knew I was close, but I didn’t see an address or sign from the road. The building looked like every other commercial building. Thus the first impression of them was diminished. Were they trying to hide? Why didn’t they want to make an impression on all who passed, not just the ones looking for the library? They had a sign that was only visible once you turned into the parking lot. Make the signs in your library helpful and add value to your building and services. If you don’t pay attention to the little things, how are you going to work on the difficult and strategic plans?

Learn from both the praises and complaints. Learn from the success of businesses. Emulate their successful ideas as you apply them to your organization. Learn the new rules better and faster than your competition.


I did say ‘competition.” We are all in competition for time, scarce resources, and people’s minds. Books and periodicals are but two sources of information and recreation. We compete with other institutional departments for resources. Master the new communication rules faster and better than the others yet at the same time realize you are also cooperating. For example work with the faculty so that they become partners, not competitors.

Note these entries are based on the ideas from The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott. I hope that I am complimenting his work and not stealing his ideas. I am coming to the discipline of marketing from an academic point of view and experience. I did not have any courses in the field except for the one taught. I have never worked in a corporate PR department. Since I have worked in sales, teaching, librarianship, and I have seen how people act and react to stimuli. I have seen how the little things count. I am not influenced by any corporate PR guru or frame of thought. My mind is open to new ways of attracting attention for the library as well as building on the fundamentals of serving what the public needs.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Marketing and Public Relations -- 2

New Rules for Communications Chapter 1

The Internet, desire for instant gratification, and the economy have created new rules for libraries and librarians. Major public library systems, such as Chicago, have reduced hours so that they can save money. School systems have fired their librarians because of lack of funds. Like a business, librarians have to justify their existence and show stakeholders a return on their investment. Don’t believe for one moment that non-profits don’t have to show a return. The return may be harder to measure because it is not always dollars and cents, but there is a need for a positive return.

I am using these blog entries for testing my ideas and I hope that you will comment. They may be the basis for a book on the concept of library marketing. There are new rules for libraries. Libraries can not sit back and serve those who come in the door, but must attract new users and new images. The tax payers, school administrators, and corporate managers, must begin to realize that the investment return is communal and not just for the people who step in the door. With data bases and online content the library is now open 24/7. One can not access millions of books and articles online, but that does not preclude the need for buildings and experts to staff those institutions.

The web is a tool for telling your story and the story of the organization directly to the end users. No longer are you dependent on the news media, direct mail, printed advertisements or other middlemen. You and your organization can communicate with your readers and your community. This direct access is defining the new rules of communication.

The primary goals of public relations include
1) Getting noticed by those who never paid attention
2) Continuing your relationship with current users
3) Making people feel good about your services
4) Establishing lines of communication for constant improvements
5) Delivering content in a way that is attractive, useful and helpful to your public

A secondary goal is to increase the organization’s financial and psychological support of the library’s resources and personnel. Stop the idea that a library is a cost center and turn it into a profit center. Make the library a center that produces more community rewards then the money invested.

Trying to organize

As in many academic disciplines, there is no a linear progression of ideas. The ideas and concepts are intertwined. Creating a blog does not preclude social networking, podcasts, online discussions, printed materials, and personal contact. However, one must organize the materials so that a reader can read and comprehend them. Keep in mind that human beings try organize the world so that they can feel in control. Alphabetical or numerical orders are two of the ways were organize entries. All the tools, media, and techniques at your disposal complement one another. Your targeted audience needs to be hit with multiple messages to multiple senses. People learn in different ways – some are pictorial and graphically oriented, some word oriented, some need their tactile senses stimulated, but most need a little of each.

Online media and options are evolving. What was once difficult is routine today. Keep the goals and fundamentals in mind so that when you need to change the way they are expressed, you are still on track to accomplishing your goals. Once you start to develop your total marketing plan, common sense and experience will prevail. You do not need a full written plan to begin to experiment with Web 2.0 options. Try some ideas and see how they work before you commit to a full written plan. Gain experience before committing the big bucks and time for your full plan.

I am not going to tell you the step by step “how-to” because there are other books that can do it better and because these steps can change quickly. If I teach you what answers are possible and point you in the right directions you can figure out a route for the answers today and in the future. If you want to find the best route, then you can hire an expert.

Since libraries may be to part of private, public, school, and academic institutions I use the terms “organizations” and “institutions” as very general terms. Feel free to substitute a word that better fits you or your organization.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Marketing and Public Relations -- 1

For more than thirteen years I have been writing a semi-scholarly columns, Librarian's Lobby. It started as a current awareness and PR piece for the library I worked for. Over the years I tried to show my expertise at researching and the use of libraries. In some ways I wanted to show that librarians are not check out clerks. For that goal it worked. I wrote on topics that interested me and were supplied by my readers and friends. It did not succeed in raising awareness of libraries. While many people read the articles even years after they were written, my goals of promoting knowledge about the work and expertise of the librarian have not been met.

This school year I am the marketing and public relations vice president of librarians' group, Judaica Library Network. The whole idea of library marketing was opened to me when I published an article on marketing and later taught a course in library marketing and public relations. The past few weeks have been reading books on the topic and trying new marketing and promotion ideas. One book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott (John Wiley, 2007), has raises some additional ideas and thoughts on the topic. I am going to be writing blog articles based on the chapters in his books. The articles will be my impressions and ideas for libraries based on what he says for businesses.

I hope this will be a two way street and you will share some of your thoughts and ideas.

Critical Thinking

One of the jobs of a teacher of the youngest children to the graduate students is to teach critical thinking skills. This is the skill needed to evaluate the world. As part of the development of this skill students need a certain body of knowledge as basis for the next step in knowledge. A second part is the search for recorded knowledge that is search skills. The third part is evaluating, assimilating and synthesizing new knowledge. For example very young children need to learn about the dangers of a hot stove. The child needs the basic knowledge of hot and danger and then how to synthesize the kinds of devices that can be hot enough to cause pain and burn. The child does not need to be taught every style and make of stove to learn they are a source of danger.

With electronic information sources students today have access to more information at a faster pace than at any time in the past. I remember in the 1970's I was teaching a class of 7th graders. It was a time before the personal computer. I asked the student to write a paper. Since I didn't expect them all to know how to type I gave them the option to record on tape their words. I was too trusting as I didn't warn them about plagiarism or how to properly use an encyclopedia. One student took me up on my offer and handed in a tape. The student's words did not seem like what a 7th grader could write. It was not even read dramatically. The student did not even practice the hard to pronounce words. It took me about 5 minutes to find that the student plagiarized the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Today copying and plagiarizing is as easy as copy and paste.

Critical thinking is required to find, evaluate and use the information. As librarians we can help researchers learn about and search sources. Educators teach students how to use multiple sources to pin down and triangulate the facts. Encyclopedias, blogs, academic journals, newspapers, web sites are all possible sources. Each type of source has it strengths and weaknesses. The job of the teacher is to show students how to use the sources. General encyclopedias have a place in understanding topics.

Wikipedia, which started in 2001, has more than 3,371,937 articles in the English version compared to about 120,000 in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

An article in the prestigious journal Nature ("Wiki's wild world." Nature 438.7070 (2005): 890) stated that in an examination of forty-two science articles Wikipedia contained about four errors per entry, compared to Britannica's three. Wikiepedia's articles were longer and more recently updated to the comparable Britannica's articles. Since 2005 Wikipedia has raised its writing standards and security levels. Stub and incomplete articles are clearly marked as are articles that have incomplete or unbalanced content. Articles have sources and can be corrected or enhanced immediately. In the subject of an article dies, the article will be corrected within hours of the announcement.

Goldsborough says that the on line version of Encyclopedia Britannica accepts edits as does Wikipedia. (Goldsborough, Reid. September 2009. Internet Encyclopedias in Flux. Tech Directions. 69 (2):12-13.)

Teachers can demand that students not use an encyclopedia as a quoted source in a class or research paper, but should teach the use of encyclopedias. They have a role in fact checking and gathering general knowledge for critical thinking skills.

Critical thinking involves recognizing and trying to solve problems, gathering sources and materials, comprehending and interpreting the sources, analysis and interpretation of data, examining evidence, making logical connections between sources, making conclusions, generalizing the knowledge learned, and testing the conclusions.

Be alert to deception and find the truth in all that you read. We are all beginners standing on the shoulders of giants. (For the source of this statement see "Standing on the shoulders of giants" in Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standing_on_the_shoulders_of_giants)

Note: Plagiarism is a difficult problem with student papers. They don't always see that copying without attribution is wrong. See a recent article in the New York Times, "Plagiarism Lines Blur for Students in Digital Age," By Trip Gabriel. Aug. 1, 2010 (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/education/02cheat.html) The author says that students who have not been taught critical thinking and proper research or study skills are not prepared for the rigors of college and scholarly writing.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dumb Blond or Clueless Librarian?

A Facebook friend posted a link to a 37 second 2007 video "America Still Appreciates A Good Dumb Blond Joke." (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xYkiN4-gl8) On one level it is hilarious. A female patron goes to the reference desk and asks for, "Burger and fries with a milkshake to go." The person at the desk who may or may not be a librarian says that this is a library. She makes no attempt to understand the question. Frequently reference librarians get questions that are incorrectly formed. Readers do not always know what they want. The librarian needs to engage and encourage the reader to explain the query. The "librarian" in the video should have checked WorldCat. There are two books and several articles with "burger and fries" in the title. For example, Burger, fries and a friend to go by Fran Sciacca and Jill Sciacca; A Burger and Fries: The Dilemma of Childhood Obesity by MaryJane Blasi; and "Burger, fries and prescription please..."

If one expands the search to materials on preparing burgers or fast food restaurants there are more books. The "librarian" should have asked for clarification. Did the patron want information on nutrition, food preparation, the business of fast food restaurants, or entertainment?

On analysis this video is not funny. It shows a total lack of understanding and curiosity. This library's staff needs some on-the-job continuing education in dealing with patron queries.