Seth Godin’s recent comments on libraries and librarians has prompted a number of interesting responses. Bobbi Newman has done another great job of unpacking Seth’s ideas and providing really well-considered responses. One other one that resonated with me is PC Sweeney’s post saying that basically Seth has got it right:
The problem is that the real root of this article, and the aspects these good folks are arguing against, are problems of perception. Of course, we all know that the library isn’t just a “warehouse of books” and we know some folks use our databases, and we all know that kids shouldn’t use Wikipedia. But unfortunately Seth’s statements are exactly what a HUGE percentage of the population believes. This is our fault. This is the brand that generations of librarians have been reinforcing for years. In fact, some of my favorite library marketing has been about the book brand of libraries. Seth is merely calling us out for not doing our jobs to ensure that we are adequately re-branding libraries.
Again, I couldn’t agree more. I tried to have a bash at this myself in my post about the demise of Library week. LIANZA responded to me (thank you!) but, again, what they are offering are materials to promote libraries. This is not quite what I was on about. I was on about a collective conversation that would seek answers to some fundamental questions such as those raised by marketers like Brian Meredith:
What business are we in?
What are we selling (or in our case what services are we providing)?
Who are we providing these to?
Why would anyone want them?
Once we have a handle on these things we are in a much better position to think about 1) how we should market brand Library and 2) achieve our goals by identifying and/or creating needs and/or wants for our chosen target audiences and fulfilling them cost effectively.
One of the comments to PC Sweeney’s post was that “this BS is decades old”.
So can we get on with talking about what business we really are in and how we might do better at rebranding and broadening perceptions of what we are all about?