STEVE THOMAS: This is Circulating Ideas, I’m Steve Thomas. My guest today is Ned Potter. He’s the author of the Library Marketing Toolkit and he’s a librarian from the UK, continuing our international streak of guests.
Ned Potter, welcome to the show, thanks for coming on.
Thank you very much. As you know I’ve been listening to it since the, since episode one, so long time listener, first time appear-er and it’s very nice to be on.
Well I can say that I remember, that I was thinking back to, because you’ve been on that list that I’ve got of librarians that I want to have on the show for a really long time. So, number one I’m really glad that I was able to get you on and number two I realized that a lot of the conversations that I was reading before I started this show on Twitter and blogs and stuff about the librarians, I mean the echo chamber and all that, you were a big part of that and that is actually one of the big reasons that I started doing this show. So, it’s partially your fault that I’m doing this show in the first place. [laughs]
[laughs] Oh that’s a fantastic, that’s great. I’m very glad.
So, that, that was part of the whole idea of wanting to this show was to get the idea of what librarians actually do out to people, so, and what it is we do and that’s what I’m trying to do with the show, so, and I think, it also helps I think to tell other librarians what you’re doing cause you can get ideas from other people and…
Ah, absolutely. That’s why I like listening to the show, because every time pretty much there’s some idea or some concept that someone talks about where I think, “Yeah, I could apply that to do what I do in some way.” I, and I just, I do like podcasts and I like the fact you can take information in on the go and all that kind of stuff, yeah it’s good.
Yeah, I like, I like that a lot too. I listen in the car a lot. I don’t have a really long commute any more, but I used to have a 45 minute commute to work every day so I had, I had a lot more time. Now, I’m about 5 minutes away so I don’t have quite as much time to listen.
I have a half an hour walk into work and my iPhone which I listen to podcasts to on the whole journey has started dying at 30% battery now which is so infuriating,
so I settle in for a nice entertaining walk home and then 3 minutes in it just dies and it’s, “Ohhhhh no!”
So the first thing I wanted to ask related to the book is why did you want to write this book? Why do you think, let’s take a step back and say what is marketing? And why do you think libraries need to have marketing?
Well, marketing is, I mean in its most basic form it’s just telling people why you might be useful to them. So, I mean that, I mean, if you get into the proper definitions you start to talk about how it’s, good marketing is a dialogue between someone who’s got something and other people who might want to use that something and I think it’s fairly obvious that libraries need to communicate their value to people more so now than ever before. So it’s just, it’s just, I mean yeah, the whole book is about practical ways to highlight what you do to people who might be able to use your services really.
And I, and I did like that you made the distinction that librarians a lot of times think marketing, they’re thinking of a different thing, they’re thinking of advertising or promotions or things like that when that’s not actually what you’re talking about.
Yeah, exactly, I mean it’s, it’s a slightly dirty word, I think, marketing and it, it conjures up horrible images, marketing, it’s like, it’s, I have this idea of false or deceit or slick manipulation and it’s not really what it’s for in the library sense. It’s just, it’s just communication, it’s just saying this is what we can do for you and try to make sure that, you know not everybody needs to use libraries, the important thing is that all of those that do, we can actually let them know that we’re here and how it is that we can make their lives a little easier. So, it’s not just a question of saying libraries exist and this is what we do. It’s very much about saying this is how it fits in to what you as the user or the potential user are doing in your life and how it might be, it might be useful intersection there between our services and your, your lifestyle as it were, you know.
Right, and a lot of times when we read those “Are Libraries Dead” kind of articles that come out every six months or so and get everybody up in a tizzy on Twitter, it’s usually, it’s all about usually the, “Oh well libraries are just about big stacks of books and they’re going away” and so, so I mean a lot of times they just don’t, they don’t understand number one what we do and, or, like you said, how what we offer, cause I mean the books and the e-books and databases and all that stuff, they’re just tools to help us…
…help people achieve certain things and they don’t understand the end point, much less even the current tools that we have.
Yeah and I, the whole echo chamber thing that you mentioned came about because it’s our responsibility to make them understand that. You know, it’s easy for a lazy, well not even lazy journalism. If you’re writing about something you’re not an expert in, then of course you’re going to skim the surface of it and so what, our, our responsibility as information professionals is to put the reality right at the surface so when it’s skimmed by people who don’t know a whole lot about what we do, they do actually get good things to report in their articles. And the whole business with books, I, I have no wish to burn any bridges with our relationship with books, I just think that if there’s one message that’s loud and clear got through to the rest of the world is that libraries have books in. So when it comes to marketing, I think we can afford to focus on the other things and take it as a given that people are going to realize that we’ve got the books so let’s. When it comes to actually promoting the libraries let’s talk more about the services that we offer rather than just the content that we have so that those messages, so that when people write those articles about the future of libraries they’ve got more frame of reference that we’ve given them than just the whole warehouse full of books things. It’s up to us to, to have a louder voice and a narrative and that’s how the echo chamber thing developed really.
Right and it, it’s a more powerful message to say a library can help you find a job, than for us to say, “Hey, we have books about resumes.”
Exactly right, exactly right. It’s a, it’s what, it’s the whole market, the benefits not the features thing. It’s talking about what the impact is going to be on the person you want to use the library, rather than just what the library does. I think that’s such an important thing and that, as it says in the book, if there’s only one thing that you, that you do to change the way you’re, you’re promoting your library, if you can just think of, talk about the benefits all the time rather than just the features of what you do, then that’s a huge step forward. So, the obvious example that I always use in workshops and stuff is, is I first heard Marianne Bates use it, is saying that the library subscribes to 20 databases sounds like it’s a good thing. “Hey we’ve got all these databases, you should come and use them, they’re great.” But actually that’s just the feature and that takes a bit of a leap of faith to know that our users are going to know why that’s any good. So, the benefit, the benefit is we’ve got access to good quality information that Google can’t find, that’s why it’s worth coming to us and using our electronic resources that we’ve invested this money in on your behalf and too often we talk about the feature which is “we’ve got the databases” and that’s, that’s not enough. We have to make the leap for the user as to how it’s going to actually positively impact on their existence in some way.
Right, cause we, I mean we need to make that distinction that yes you can use Google to find out what the dates of the Industrial Revolution were, but perhaps there are some more in depth scholarly articles that you cannot get through Google and that’s, that’s the kind of thing we need to be pushing into schools is that there are things that the library can offer you can’t get on Google. Cause yes, 75 or 90% of the old ready reference questions are very easily found on the internet now.
Yeah, I mean, I use, the Google example is a very easy way to illustrate the benefits versus features thing, but actually it’s slightly dodgy ground because I certainly don’t think we should say… I don’t like using Google as an example of what is bad and saying that libraries are great by comparison because it’s a war that we’re never going to win. [laughs] I think Google is, you can’t argue with Google, you can’t tell people that Google isn’t useful to them because it clearly is. I use it every day, I think it’s extremely useful for all its flaws. So I don’t like it when we make explicit comparisons and say Google can do X but we can do so much more. I’d rather just talk about what we can do and perhaps even how we can help people use Google more effectively than actually try to promote ourselves by belittling something else, or, if you know what I mean.
Right, yeah, I was going to say, cause a lot of times, I mean, using that same example of the Industrial Revolution, they can just Google the words “Industrial Revolution”, but if they don’t understand how it’s ranking and what sites that they’re seeing are and they don’t understand when it’s highlighted in yellow that’s a sponsored link and all these other things that we, we understand a little more even about how to use Google as, I mean Google is just another tool for us to use, just like the books are.
Yeah, exactly, exactly right.
And another thing I, I thought was important from the book is that you talk about it’s important, not only it’s almost more important for you to be marketing to the people who are not currently using your library than it is to current, the preaching to the choir kind of thing, that if people are already using the library, yes you still need to then make aware of all the services that you have to offer but maybe you should be pushing out to people who aren’t using the library.
Exactly, oh it’s really hard to do and also from the kind of traditional marketing of non-library stuff you, there’s all, there’s this thing that you hear about how it’s ten times harder to, what was it, you get ten times, in terms of retaining customers as opposed to getting new ones, it’s ten times harder to get a new customer than it is to retain an old one, so there’s always emphasis on retaining existing customers. Whereas with libraries, it’s so difficult to get new people that it’s very easy to become focused on essentially delivering messages which are aimed at the people who already use the library, or who already understand the value of the library. And that’s a really hard mindset to get out of. But if you want to be really ambitious with the marketing, then you do have to think about what are the demographics that don’t currently use us, what would if they knew what we did? And that’s hard to do, it’s easy to preach to the converted and it’s enjoyable to preach to the converted [laughs] cause you get good feedback and it’s a nice, it’s a pleasant loop. But actually to make gains, if you, if you want to, there are various things you can do with marketing and an obvious one is to try and get more people in through the door. And to do that you do have to partially target the people who aren’t currently coming in through the door at all, as well as trying to get the people who are already using the libraries to come through the door more often. I don’t, it’s hard to do because it’s, and it’s a comfortable thing just to, to market to people who already like you, but if you think about a lot of the rhetoric around saving libraries and so on, it’s in terms of what we value and the people making the decisions about whether or not to close the library value completely different things and I think it’s, it’s important to use the language and the, what do people care about and package up this essentially, this central message that we have about why libraries are good, package it up in different ways for those different audiences including the audiences that don’t currently use this tool.
Yeah and that, and I think it’s really important, especially, especially in terms of public libraries, but even academic libraries to a degree and special libraries and, that we need to get out to those non-users because they still, they’re still aware, in the public libraries especially, my tax dollars are paying for those libraries. But if they don’t see any kind of benefit from it then they feel like that’s a waste of my tax payer dollars and they are not going to be happy with the library because they see it as just this black hole of money.
Yes, exactly, I mean I think it’s important to understand whatever the local community is of users and potential users, what they value and to look at what you currently offer and say, “Well this part of our offer matches up with this particular user group.” and if there aren’t, if there’s nothing in your offer, if there’s nothing in what you currently do that really appeals to the people of your town, then that in itself is instructive because you can think about what you could start to do which would be appealing to them so that they do get this sense of value from what their tax dollars are going into.
And another group that I know you talk about marketing to, is doing internal marketing as well of, of, explaining to the people who maybe, they might be external users as well but they’re people who maybe control your purse-strings, those are the people you really need to market to as well and to the people who work for your organization. They need, everybody needs to understand the importance of the organization.
Yeah and it’s, it’s, again it’s easy to not do that because everybody’s time is extremely pressed, we’ve only got limited resources, but actually the kind of internal marketing, the marketing upwards essentially to people who are in the organizational, the parent organization, the library, is really important because as much as, if you have a, if you’ve got a chance to make an impact on one group, to get 100 new users through the door is a fantastic achievement and if you can that, that’s brilliant, but if you get that and don’t spend any time marketing to people who actually control the purse-strings and they don’t care about the 100 new users and then they slash the budget and they cut staff, whatever, it’s almost for nothing that you got the new people in. So there’s a sense where you’ve really got to concentrate on targeting what resources in time and money and staff that you’ve got to put into the whole area of communicating the value of the library towards the people that are, are actually going to have a massive say in the future of the library. And honestly, there are a lot of libraries which aren’t under any kind of threat at all and in that situation you adapt and you can focus much more on just the external users. But it’s important in, in most cases I would say, to highlight the value to people who you might assume know the value but actually they don’t. And again to use the kind of criteria that they find important rather than just the kind of stuff that we actually see day-to-day.
Right, I mean if you’re, like if you’re a university you want to make sure the faculty understands the importance of the library, that the president of the university, the deans, they need, they’re the ones that need to understand the importance of the library. The students do as well, obviously, but.
But it feeds down to them as well. If you can convince the faculty the value of the library then that, that whole, the whole attitude in the department towards the library will be positive and the students will be more predisposed towards thinking that it’s something worthwhile in the first place, so. But if, but equally, if you can convince the students that the library’s fantastic but you don’t have any influence on the, on the Vice-Chancellor or the Principal of the higher education institution itself, then you could find yourself in a situation where the feedback from the students is great but gradually you become marginalized in the actual, the organization that you are in, because the people at the top don’t realize how the library’s important to them. It might just be something as, as basic as saying this is going to make you look good.
But it’s still about getting through to them why they need you, as opposed to just why the students need you, for example.
Right, I mean a lot of times, I mean appealing to someone’s self-interest a lot of times is a good way to market, so.
It’s a very good way to market. In fact, it’s a, it’s a kind of a nice golden rule really, as sad as it is to say. But yeah, if you can, you need to find out what makes someone tick in relation to what you do and then talk about that. It’s about, it’s just about packaging up the message that you have in a, in a way that appeals to this particular audience and that’s what, that’s one of the big differences between actually doing marketing as opposed to just doing one-off bits of promotion here and there when you get a bit of time, or an idea. It’s about working out what it is you want to say about the organization that you, that you are a part of and then how that message can be tailored to suit different audiences. That’s a big part of proper marketing which yields more tangible results than the odd big splash that then doesn’t get followed up by any other marketing.
Right, it’s, it’s like the example, one of the examples, you use in the book is that putting a sign on a yellow piece of paper written in Comic Sans, “We have this new database…”
…that’s not marketing.
Yeah, I got in trouble for that. I had to take out references to Comic Sans. My publisher’s extremely good at just letting me get on with it and not interfering but I had so many references to my hatred of Comic Sans, I think they thought I came across as psychopathic and they made me strip it down to just one or two.
But I do have a problem with Comic Sans and I do have problem with just, yeah, the one-off post to the, that promotes the thing that just happened and then that just gets lost in this time. I mean, I think that, this is something that Terry Kendrick, who’s a really great marketing guru guy from the UK, who used to work in libraries and now lectures and does a lot of work with libraries, he’ll talk about this, the fact that you have to, you have to make people understand how the library is going to actually help them get somewhere that they’re already going and you have to make, you have to make your, the people who are doing the marketing understand how if you just do a one-off piece of marketing, it’s not going to have the great impact that you hope it’s going to. People get discouraged because they try marketing the library by doing X and then it doesn’t really have as much of an impact as they think it’s going to, so they think maybe it’s not worth it at all. Whereas if they did X, Y and Z and linked them together, it would have a much more tangible effect. And if you think about what it takes to make you as a, as a consumer do anything, it’s certainly not one isolated incident, you know?
So, what I’m doing, marketing workshops, I often use the example of Hellman’s mayonnaise where there are adverts for Hellman’s mayonnaise on front of Nascar, for example, it’s in magazines, it’s on TV and no-one ever ran out of a Nascar race to go and buy mayonnaise because they saw the Hellman’s ad on the bonnet, but they do have the Hellman’s mayonnaise in their fridge because it’s the brand that they know most about and it’s because when they think about mayonnaise when they’re in the supermarket, that’s when they think to themselves, “Oh right, well I’ll get Hellman’s because that’s the one that I just know because I’ve just seen it everywhere.” And there’s a sense that a lot of library marketing tries to make people rush out and buy the mayonnaise during the race and that’s never going to happen. We need to be what people think of when the need for authoritative information or whatever it might be that we offer actually comes up, rather than hoping to inspire mass hysteria library devotion. So it’s, if you join things up, you gradually impact on people’s consciousness about what it is that we do and how we can help people and if you just do the one-off thing, it tends to disappoint. So Terry Kendrick will say if you market strategically then it won’t be disappointing because it will build up over time and it will, all the things work together to generally build up a perception so that people know what the library is, they know what we can do and they know how it applies to them.
Well that sort of brings up something else that you have in the book because we’re talking about branding. What, what is important about branding for libraries?
Well, the, there’s, I mean, the thing about branding is, and again it’s straying into this slightly dirty word marketing territory, it’s about making someone feel like they know where they are in a landscape. So, on a literal level it’s like having a color scheme or a logo or whatever where if someone’s not actually in the library but they see something connected with the library, they have that familiarity that shows them, right you’re here, you’re dealing with this library sphere even though you’re not inside the building. And it, there is a, there’s a lot of good things that become about from branding well, but also you see the opposite where the tail is wagging the dog and that, it becomes all about the brand, even at the expense of the brand. So that the obvious thing that, the bit that I get wound up about is Powerpoint presentation templates where it’s considered a good idea to have the logo and the color scheme on every single one and that makes for really bad Powerpoint presentation. There’s no point in reinforcing the brand if you’re doing so in a way that makes you think “I’m really bored at this Powerpoint presentation.” So I do think that we have to be a little bit cautious with branding exercise which end up enslaving us, so that we become at the whim of the brand, whereas the brand should be working for us to make our users feel like they know where they are and, and how these services that we offer connect and all come from the same source.
One other way you can, we can get people involved is using advocacy as marketing.
There is a lot of advocacy work going on on both sides of the Atlantic at the moment and it is possible to link that to your specific institution while you’re doing it. Obviously it’s about the library as a, as a concept and as an ongoing institution being protected and being nourished and being allowed to grow. But, but when you’re, let’s say, to take a prosaic example, if someone is on a, a website of a newspaper and has said something derogatory about libraries and dismissive and talked about how they don’t have any value. So the easy thing to do and the echo chamber thing to do is just to talk to your librarian friend about how unfair that is and how that’s bang out of order, as we would say in the UK, and that the harder thing to do is to go back and make sure that that same audience who, who read the dismissive thing about the library on the news website gets, if possible, an alternative view about how libraries do have value. So, if you’re commenting on this piece and trying to set people straight about actually how the person who wrote this, they really have missed certain areas of value that the library have, then at the same time you can talk about your specific library, about how it does do these incredible things and offers these fantastic services and is an antidote to all the negative stuff that’s been written in the piece, so you’re marketing, you’re advocating for libraries generally, but you’re also marketing your own institution at the same time, you know, why not.
A lot of the book that you, I was trying to go through and try to estimate, but I would say probably half the book is case studies from other libraries and things. How did you hook up with the people, the various contributors that gave you case studies, how did you connect?
Yeah, it’s probably about 40%, I think. It was, Phil Bradley is, he’s a kind of internet consultant, he’s the president of CILIP which is the UK equivalent of the ALA. He’s the current president and he’s an extremely helpful man and before agreeing to write this book, which is something that I did with the, with an enormous amount of trepidation, I rang him up because he’d written a bunch of books already for this publisher and just talked to him about it and got his counsel as to whether or not I should do it and how I should go about it. And one of the things he said was people will tell you editing a book is essentially as long-winded and stressful as writing it because you spend so much time chasing people up about the chapters that they’ve written and so on, so it doesn’t really save time or even responsibility to, to be the editor rather than the author. And obviously being an author and writing a whole book is an enormous responsibility and I personally think it’s a bit of a wasted opportunity just to have your voice when you could have the others. In terms of actually finding contributors, it was a huge amount to do with basically mining my own network that I’d already built up, so the various things that I’d done before on my blog and projects that I’d been involved with has put me in touch with a whole bunch of people and I think Twitter is a fantastic tool for, just literally building a network where you, you have the day-to-day exchange of useful information and you keep up to date and you, you learn things about each other. But then something big comes along, like a book, you already know these people who you never have talked to otherwise and can, can get their input. So a huge amount of the contributors that I approached were because I knew them via Twitter. There were also people who I’d worked with in the UK, who run marketing sessions which I really thought were excellent, like Rosemary Stamp and Terry Kendrick, and then Alison Circle, for example, she writes for the Library Journal, the Bubble column and I just read stuff of hers that I really, I liked and wanted the sentiments of in the book. Rebecca Jones who I’d met at the SLA conference in the US. It’s just, it’s just the classic thing of contacts that you’ve built up over a period of time.
And there was a few where people put me in touch with people that they thought would be really useful and in a couple of cases I’d written most of the book and we had most of the case studies but there was particular areas where I felt like I didn’t have enough expertise to offer and I wanted expertise in the book so I just asked on Twitter, “Can anyone put me in touch with people who are really good at X” and then people got in touch and we worked together to, to get the text ready for that. So, it was really, it’s my favorite thing about the book is the range of the case studies and, you know, what a great list of people it is.
Right and Twitter can really, be really helpful in things like that, of connecting people. [laughs]
It’s just so, it’s fantastic, it’s absolutely fantastic. I can’t, in terms of finding, it’s so worth finding the time and I, I do understand people who say “I just don’t have time for Twitter,” but in a sense it’s like saying you don’t have time to chat in the corridor, in a way, when you pass someone who you, who you know. We’ve all got time for a quick little exchange of information and that, you can just have a quick chat on Twitter and dip in and out. And when I first started on it I used to think that you had to keep up with everything. I used to go back in the evenings and try and read what I’d missed and I just couldn’t get my head round the fact that you didn’t have to do that. And people keep telling me, they were telling me for about a year you don’t have to, it’s like a party, you wouldn’t expect to go to a party and hear every single conversation that is taking place, it’s fine, just let it go. And it took me ages to believe them and now I’m fully signed up to that school of thought. But I think Twitter’s fantastic for, it’s worth putting the time into developing proper relationships and give a little of yourself in terms of not just having completely professional existence, but a slightly personal as well, without being so far. And just having these relationships with people, it’s just fantastic, I think it’s brilliant, it’s just been a, I mean every day, pretty much, I will ask Twitter for something that I then use in my job. It’s not just for the, the extracurricular activities, it’s day-to-day, there is a pool of experts. It’s like being at a conference all the time, except you can stand up with a loud speaker and shout, “Does anyone know how to?” And then 3,000 librarians go, “Yeah, I do.” It’s just brilliant, it’s fantastic.
And, and it’s nice that it’s, it’s a worldwide conference too so you can get opinions from all over the world.
Yeah, exactly, exactly, it’s just great, I love it.
And so, how, how do you see social networks like Twitter being used by organizations to help them market themselves?
Well I think it’s a great opportunity because libraries traditionally have a, a reputation in many cases, fair enough and well deserved, for being slightly austere, particularly in their communications. So that there is this level of formality to do with the, the moral responsibility of libraries and to do with the fact that we want to be taken seriously so there’s this traditional need to be, especially in the academic world, to be seen alongside faculty.
And what this had led to is a very formal method of communication and particularly as, quite honestly there’s not a lot of ways round the fact that we have to tell people not to do stuff all the time. We’re forever telling people that they can’t return that there, or that they can’t speak on their phones, or that they can’t eat in the library, or whatever and some of those are fair enough, but it does mean that a lot of our signs essentially tell people not to do things. So you’ve got all this communication which is formal and not always particularly positive and for me social media is a great opportunity to be the antidote to that and to, to be friendly and colloquial and properly communicative and it’s two-way. It’s participatory, it’s not a broadcast and you can get to develop a, there’s just no other way you can develop an understanding with your users without just constantly talking to them in real life, which is not always practical. So I think it’s a fantastic opportunity, social media in general, Twitter in particular because I think the type of people who use libraries are, are often very willing to talk to libraries on Twitter, more so than some other networks I would have said and I just think that it’s going to become more and more common. So we need to be there anyway, we need to be where our users are to give them the messages cause that’s what we’re used to now as consumers. We’re used to the stuff coming to us and we don’t have to go and seek it out and it’s, it’s also a great opportunity to be slightly different to what they normally get and to be nice and friendly and to give a better, to improve the reputation of the institutions that we work in.
Right, like you said, it, that you build up a conversation with your, your users, not just, not just, “Hey, we’re having a program about e-readers.” It’s, “Hey, let’s talk about what, what e-books you’re reading and we can talk back and forth.”
Asking questions is really important. I mean, the, I’ve noticed a lot of library Twitters accounts go on a journey from being relatively formal and slightly stiff at first because it just is so hard not to be. And then over time becoming more and more friendly and sometimes it’s difficult for the users to keep up, sometimes they’re used to us, just, just doing the tweets about how we’re having a program about X and we want to turn it into a dialogue with them so you have to ask them questions. You have to be really explicit about it, you have to, sometimes you have to actually ask for answers to your questions as well as just asking the question.
To really get through to people that you do want to communicate with them as opposed to just the old style of communication which is essentially to stand and talk to a building and shout and hope that people are listening, whereas this is getting amongst people and having conversations with all of them at once. And it, over time you’ll find that people who are engaging, or just followed the library on Twitter, that didn’t necessarily intend to engage with it, will come around to the fact that the library’s being more communicative and is actually wanting to engage directly with the users and then you, something really interesting happens and it becomes, it becomes much more rewarding to do apart from anything else and you get really useful stuff out of it and you get to know. The thing is there are mechanisms for feeding back about the library but they’re fairly, they’re fairly extreme in a way. Like a comments card. I wouldn’t fill out a comments card unless I was in raptures about how wonderful something is, or furious about how terrible it was. I just wouldn’t bother.
Whereas, whereas a tweet takes me half a second and I’m on there anyway, so you get nuggets of feedback and information and evaluation that you would never otherwise have unless you were literally walking around the library and overhearing conversations. So from that point of view, it really does open up a whole new kind of avenue for knowing how you’re perceived and where you could make changes to better help people. And what they’re missing, you hear, if you run a search on your library’s name or any colloquialisms for the name on Twitter and, and you can hear the, you can read the conversations people are having about the library without addressing the library directly and you get a really good insight into whether people are actually complaining that you don’t do X when you do do X, in which case you can tell those people that you do it and you can make that a more obvious point in your promotion elsewhere. It’s a, it’s a really useful thing and there’s no, there’s no other way of doing the stuff that social media allows you to do really. It’s, it allows you to do a lot of the traditional marketing things, but it also allows you to do a lot of other stuff which you can’t do elsewhere.
Yeah, I, I like what you did with the book even of you have this site that supplements it and you have a Twitter account that supplements it and you’re, you’re still updating that and keeping current, you’re putting new case studies, things like that, so it’s keeping, you have the book which is a core of it and then you have this supplement that keeps the ideas going and updates that.
Yeah exactly, exactly. I mean it’s, it’s such a good opportunity to have content that changes and that is update-able because a book, a book takes so long to publish that it’s already signed to go out of date by the time it arrives on the shelves, and the idea of, I mean it’s not just that things go out of date, but the advice in the book about how to use social media is still true, even though it was published in July 2012, nearly 7 or 8 months ago. But it’s about how the landscape shifts and new tools come along and there’s only so much room for stuff in the book. There’s a strict word limit which I completely failed to stick as it was and so it allows you to talk about new tools and get new perspectives. My network of people that I know via Twitter changes and grows and I meet new people who I think, “Wow, I would love to have had their voice in the book.” But now I’ve got the website which allows their voices to be heard in future case studies and so on. I’ve got a case study coming out from the Unlibrary which is a, a, the more controversial end of the rebranding spectrum. It’s a library in the UK which is, which is called the Unlibrary and it’s all about, it’s a bit like what David Lankes was talking about in, the last one of these that I listened to, about how a library should be a space where people come to do what they feel passionate about and that in the Unlibrary is a space to, for ideas, to nurture ideas and to bring people together and to connect people and it’s, it’s, it’s the very modern extreme rebranding of the library as not being a library. And that’s really interesting and some people find it a bit worrying, some people find it fascinating. So there’s a really interesting case study which I’m about to put up on the, [loud crash] oh I just broke my desk a bit there.
I’m about to put up on the website and it’s great to be able to include those perspectives even after the fact of the book being set in stone and written on the paper.
Is there any big library marketing campaign that you think really worked?
Well, there’s a couple. I mean. The most recent one is the, is the, have you seen that video on YouTube from the [laughs] the anti, the library that took on the Tea Party? Have you seen that?
Mmmm-hmmm, yep, yep.
And that’s, that really got me excited because they, they had this whole thing where taxes were going to be raised, it was going to be a cut in, in the library and there was this whole rhetoric that people were, the Tea Party were putting out and it was, it was really, it was really difficult for libraries to fight back against and they did it in the most brave way possible where they had this pretend book burning campaign which was really brave and got people really fired up and saying that the library was sick because they were going to burn all the books and it, it, it swung the public opinion around and then the library revealed it was, it was, actually the whole thing was their idea and, and then they defeated the, the powers of the Tea Party in the vote and, and the library didn’t have a reduction in the budget. I mean, that was, I didn’t really explain that very well, but, [laughs] people should go and look it up because it’s amazing.
I’ll post a link to it in the show notes so people can go see it.
Okay, fantastic, yeah. That really got me excited, because it was so brave and, and almost counter-intuitive for what we’d expect from a library. But just in terms of more traditional marketing campaigns, a Calgary public library in Canada used the kind of tools that a, that a for-profit organization would use where they, they advertised, they did things like pressure washing their logo into the, into the pavements, they advertised in grocery stores and they linked their advertising to the groceries so they’d have their logo next to some bananas and then they’d, they’d have some relevant piece of text on the, on the marketing. I think they put their logo and slogan on, on trucks. They did proper, traditional advertising and it worked really well. I mean, it, it actually changed local perception of the library and made, not just more people aware of it, because most people know there is a library, but changed the way people thought about it and, it wasn’t just a basic marketing, see the, see the logo on the pavement and then go to the library. It was more about making people more aware that the library was interesting and dynamic and human and making them think about it and then those potentially useful things the library could do to them suddenly come to the forefront of their mind and they think, “Right, the library is the place that I want to go,” and, and try and achieve whatever it is that they want to achieve. So I was really impressed with that because it was, it was a traditional marketing campaign with advertising, with slogans and it worked really well, it worked really well.
That’s great. I, you’ve got a, a new column for Library Journal that you’re involved with. Can you talk about what that is and how you got involved with that?
Yeah, I mean, I was really excited about this. The, there is four of us, I think, and we’re kind of on rotation writing about marketing and advocacy over the course of the year. So we each write, I think, three columns a year and we were just approached by the editor and he was looking for more voices to write about marketing and advocacy because it’s such an important area and, so that’s started. I think in November was the first one, then then mine was in December, there’s another one in January and so on and it’s just a, it’s a really good opportunity to write in a publication that lots of people read.
But you are not the Annoyed Librarian right?
Oh no, I am not the Annoyed Librarian. I don’t know how I feel about the Annoyed Librarian. I miss the, because I think people think there’s been more than one, is that right? So there’s the persona has been taken on by more than one individual?
Right, right, there’s a group.
And I think that I missed the first one that everyone thought was really good [laughs] and I came along too late when people were a little bit jaded. I just, I, I’m really, I get wary of, of people who, I think there is a very important role to criticize constructively what we’re doing in libraries and make sure we don’t fall into the trap of just being so nice that we say everything’s good and so in the mold of we must defend libraries that we never flag up anything for being bad. But at the same time, there is a, a certain part of the library community that seem to take delight in, “Look at these bunch of losers doing X,” as opposed to, “We as a community need to focus on Y.” It just becomes, it ceases to be a constructive dialogue. It’s a waste of opportunity. If you, if you are the Annoyed Librarian and you’ve got the chance to say something really great [laughs] it’s a shame when it is just slagging someone off.
I think it comes across as, at this point it’s relentless, relentless pessimism, it’s just.
Yeah, exactly, exactly and there’s, there’s a fine, we have enough of that, we also have enough of relentless blind optimism as well. I think as with so many things it’s somewhere in the middle that we think that we need to be. It’s, it’s horrible to be surrounded by the pessimism all the time, but at the same time it would be naive just to, just to, to not be pessimistic about anything. I mean, assume that everything’s going to be absolutely fine cause then we wouldn’t take any actions to try and make things better. So there’s, there’s a middle ground as with all things.
Well Ned, how can people find out more about you and the book online?
Basically, Librarymarketingtoolkit.com is, is the, is the site for the book, so, it has information about the book and the contributors at British Library and New York Public Library and David Lee King and all that stuff and then it has new case studies as we add them and there’s just, there’s a blog there to, just to take on things that happening recently in the world of marketing libraries. And then my own kind of personal website is thewikiman.org which is where I tend to write about the non-marketing stuff, although occasionally some marketing things slip in there, just about librarianship in general.
Alright, well Ned, thank you so much for talking to me and I hope people run out and grab the book and check out your site and learn more about it and apply it to their own libraries.
Oh, thank you for having me, it’s been a great pleasure.
All right, talk to you later.