Changing the way librarians think about the future

Thomas Frey spoke at LIANZA14 recently,  I didn’t attend but if the tweets were anything to go by, the audience was distinctly underwhelmed. As one of them said, yes in the future things will be different.

I’ve just revisited an article by Brian Mathews called The librarian as futurist: changing the way libraries think about the future.  In it Brian doesn’t speculate on what is going to happen in the future but suggests that librarians should focus on how things could change by using scenario planning, being change literate and being comfortable with ambiguity.

Perhaps one of the most interesting ideas in his essay is around change literacy. For students change literacy is an advantage as they enter the workforce – being able to monitor information, identify strategic insights, apply and adapt ideas. For librarians it is an opportunity for us to move beyond keepers of information and even collaborators in knowledge production, to facilitators of change. Brian acknowledges this may seem out of place for us but he points out libraries have been role models for organisational change through what we have done with learning spaces, collection migrations and new literacies. Furthermore we would continue what we have always done, help simplify complexity, enrich information and generate ideas through conversation within our communities:

successfully embracing and enacting a future-orientated program will position librarians not only to demonstrate a capacity and comfort with change, but the ability and expertise to help others shape their futures as well

There is a  well what does it all really mean aspect to this term change literacy, and if you have other insights it would be great to hear about them. For Brian, libraries could fill a niche around gathering and synthesising information into insights, and devising future road maps:

In short, librarians could serve as futurists by providing strategic foresight support to aid success for our parent institutions.

Or as he also puts in librarians becoming practitioners of futurist knowledge creation.

In many ways this is not too far from some of the work that librarians do, particularly in special libraries, around monitoring future trends, and reporting on these. Or in this example where QUT Library looked at a trend report and created a new tool for customers.

I found some other gems in the article.

This point seemed particularly pertinent when we are thinking about our how we develop our services around research, teaching and learning. Do we really do enough of this?:

We should not concern ourselves with the future of libraries. Instead we should focus on the factors driving change within the communities we serve and partner with

And what would this look like, as we work towards ways to measure our impact and demonstrate how we deliver value?:

We are witnessing an interesting shift in the library profession toward more anthropological assessment measures – perhaps this will help us inject new thinking beyond the dominant quantitative mindset. When libraries served more as warehouse utilities, data-driven decision-making was crucial, but now as more of our work increasingly revolves around forming complex relationships and ongoing interactions, a more humanistic approach is required for growth and improvement

BrandLibraries update for LIANZA 2013

Last week the BrandLibraries Working Party that I am part of presented an update to the LIANZA 2013 conference on the project.

The slides for our short presentation can be viewed below. The slides are pretty self-explanatory but if you have any questions do feel free to post them in the comments. The project is at an exciting time, with BRR Ltd currently in their Discovery phase, interviewing stakeholders and visiting libraries. Branding the libraries of an entire country, and taking into account all of the library sectors, is a pretty ambitious undertaking, and it will be interesting to see what BRR comes back to us with! One of the people I connected with at conference was Sarah Fry, from Nelson City Libraries. Sarah has a background in communication and journalism, and her comment  was that we should make sure we don’t send out too complicated a brand message. I think if it was left to librarians that is exactly what could happen – by engaging with BRR we stand a much better chance of getting it right!

 

You can also check out our January 2013 update to LIANZA Council on the LIANZA website.

 

Ned Potter’s new library marketing blog!

Ned Potter has a fabulous new marketing blog – The Library Marketing Toolkit. It is designed to be a website to support Ned’s upcoming book of the same name, as well as being a standalone resource for all things to do with library marketing. You can check out more about the blog here – and there is a link on that page to download a free chapter of Ned’s upcoming book 🙂

Ned’s book includes a small case study from yours truly – my involvement was very much a tribute to the power of networking on Twitter! Basically Ned called for volunteers to write case studies for the book, and eventually contacted me about writing one on email marketing. I’m absolutely thrilled he has included a link to this blog on his new website!

 

How do we reward our loyal customers?

A few days ago I got a very welcome email from Ezibuy telling me that one of their very best customers they would reward me with some extra bonuses like priority delivery for the price of standard delivery and a $20 voucher for my birthday. I do spend a lot with Ezibuy so it’s great to be rewarded for my loyalty 🙂

One of the things we touched on very briefly in our recent Marketing for Libraries workshops was the question of loyalty. I refered (again) to the excellent article by Julie Badger, Turning cold sellers into must haves: marketing unsought library products.

Badger’s focus is on article databases and is highly relevant for the tertiary sector and special libraries. But read the article and think about applying the idea of brand loyalty to libraries as whole. Many of us put considerable effort into persuading people to become new members. Think about who our competitors are in this situation – bookshops, ebooks, Google etc. Some people are very loyal to these “brands” and persuading them to change will be extremely difficult. Our drivers for increasing membership are numerous – and especially for public libraries can include the expectations of our governing bodies. But I think we should at least be aware that our efforts to increase membership may require a great deal of effort for not always a great return. Would that (or some of that) effort be better rewarded by increasing usage amongst our existing members? Or should we focus membership drives on targeted groups that we know are more likely to become regular library users (that’s if we know who these groups are to start with!). Food for thought.

Another thing to think about – this really applies to public libraries – is the practice of deleting customers off your system if they have been inactive after a set period. I am pretty sure that in the public library I used to work at (some years ago now) we deleted customers who were inactive after 2 years. How does this square with our idea of libraries being part of a person’s lifelong learning? In that context two years may not seem like a long time. Sure people pass away, move away etc. But not all of them. Some of them may be customers you put in the hard yards to win. What do you do to get them back as return customers and keep them loyal?

And how do you reward the loyalty of your regular customers? When it comes to academic libraries I am not sure that we do and right now I am not aware of how we could, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t! Dunedin Public Libraries reward their loyal users of their hot picks and holds services by offering prepaid cards that give discounts.

And why would we even bother? Well as Badger says:

We also need to nurture and reward our loyal customers so that they stay with us and hopefully generate positive word of mouth publicity.

For libraries the possibility to capitalise on word-of-mouth-marketing is a seriously big opportunity. As Peggy Barber and Linda Wallace say in Building a buzz: libraries & word-of-mouth marketing:

With all the newfangled technology out there, the commercial world is turning to word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) as the most powerful form of advertising. This is great news for libraries because WOMM is truly powerful and because we can afford it. For the first time, the playing field is level. We can compete. We can win public awareness and support (p. 7)

So how do you reward your loyal customers?

How far are we prepared to go …

… to make things easier for our customers?

Awhile back I mused on the possibility that might be one public library for all New Zealand, and I have seen other references to it this year as well. 

Too big an idea to deal with?

 How about consistent signage across libraries as in this example from Mexico!

This could be implemented in any sort of library – public, academic, school.

I can hear the detractors already.

What language do you use to talk about your library?

So what is this language?

It’s branding!

My first experience of being involved with a branding strategy was when I worked at Puke Ariki (the combined library/museum/information centre in New Plymouth, New Zealand). I found the whole process quite fascinating and I credit that as one of the factors that led me to become so interested in marketing. I’m not even sure why it was so fascinating – maybe it had something to do with stepping back from how we might have thought of ourselves and envisaging everything about what we thought Puke Ariki embraced. Something in that thought process really clicked with me.

Recently I was fortunate enough to hear Steve Bailey from Rabbit Creative talk about branding. It’s common for the logo to be equated with the brand, but a brand is more than a logo. Your brand encompasses everything you represent to a customer – or as I have seen it expressed elsewhere:

 “Brand is the intangible sum of attributes, the promise, the big idea and the expectations that reside in each customer’s mind about a product, service or company.”

Here are some of the points I took away from  the talk Steve gave:

  • brand development is the idea of coming up with something you can own and be passionate about – and it gives you ways to articulate this in the marketplace
  • if you have a powerful brand then your customers will act as advocates for you – just look at Apple. (The flip side of this is that it creates great expectations from customers!)
  • branding gives you the language to talk about your business – you need to simplify what you are all about but retain an element of intelligence and intrigue
Steve described the experience of working with a company who had a definite idea of what they wanted –  including the name of the company. After working with them a new brand strategy emerged and that company is now Healium. The name is evocative of what the company is about – holistic health services to lift the body and spirit. Check out their website http://www.healium.co.nz/ to see how the brand name and values are expressed in everything to do with the company.

These ideas are also explored in Alison Circle’s post that I have previously linked to http://blog.libraryjournal.com/bubbleroom/2011/07/13/marketing-creates-real-value/  Alison talks about how Edmonton Public Library developed a language as part of their branding:

Words are the tools that create perceptions and ideas in people’s minds. EPL has excelled in writing smart and clever. That is hard to do and hard to do well consistently. As they created theirShared Values Wheel, they challenged themselves to push through jargon, including phrases that — I’m guessing — would not be seen as jargon to most libraries. Thus Customer-Centered becomes Open and Human; Intellectual Freedom becomes Ideas Champion.  Love it!

For a very thought provoking read on libraries and branding check out Dr Steve Matthews’ blog post The Physics of Your Library Brand http://21stcenturylibrary.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/the-physics-of-your-library-brand/ I’ve talked before about the need to rebrand libraries to convey that we are more than just books. I am not entirely sure this means ditching the word library altogether – attempts at this never seem particularly successful, especially when customers still see physical books in a the physical space. But I do like the range of steps Steve describes to move the position of the library in the marketplace. Check it out!