Posts filed under ‘Marketing’

A quote by Alfred Mercier

Mercier on Learning

Mercier on Learning

Author:  John LeMasney. As a supporter and fan of libraries and librarians, I find it a privilege and honor to be able to post on Library Garden. I also sometimes find it just the slightest bit intimidating. I’m always just a little bit reluctant to post something that I think might be too far outside of the librarian’s perspective. At the same time, I’ve been  working closely with libraries in New Jersey and elsewhere for the last 3 or 4 years as a presenter, trainer  and consultant, and I love the topics that I’ve been able to put into my personal Venn diagram with Libland.

Topics such as technology, design, blogging, open source, outreach, and learning all have been focus points for my work with libraries, but my favorite by far has been design. As a result, for the posts I’ve created here at LG, I’ve made them about design. In order to increase and maintain my posting numbers here, I’ve decided that I’m going to not only write about design, but to actually do relevant designs for this blog. As inspiration, I’ve discovered many pages of quotes about libraries, learning, media, and librarians that I thought would be the perfect muse for illustration.

This is the first of what I hope will be well received posts in this vein. Mercier’s quote here about indelibly learning that which is pleasurable rings very true in my experience, and I thought you, dear reader, might agree, so I’m sharing the thought with you.

This was made in the open source illustration package called Inkscape. I typed out the quote in several single word blocks in order to have the most flexibility with their placement and manipulation. I kerned each word very tightly, as to add some speed to the reading. The font, one of my all time favorites, is Gill Sans. I added several rectangles overlapping in the background, in various woodland hues and tints, and then converted them to paths, so that I could add curves to them. Finally, I added translucent gradients to each of the blocks to create a misty effect.

You might wonder (or at least that’s my nagging suspicion) how this relates, exactly, to libraries. I’d say that if you do design in your work of attracting patrons to programs, and maintaining posters or fliers, that it very directly relates to you. I’d go further to say that if you’re using Word or Publisher to do that work, you’d have a rather difficult time of doing this particular design there, despite the fairly simple design. Even if you don’t recognize doing (or feel that you) design directly in your work, I’d argue that everyone who faces a blank page on a screen makes design decisions. That’s probably you.

Part of the message I’m trying to send is that some of the best tools in life are free (as in cost, and in freedom) and that with just a few key skills, you can greatly improve your designs. Another part is that what we learn with pleasure, we never forget.  Another part is that I firmly believe that design can change your life, bring you pleasure, and alter how you see the world forever.

February 27, 2010 at 9:00 am 2 comments

Using Inkscape to make a text based portrait

Hi, all. I got an email recently from an attendee of my GIMP and Inkscape workshop (which I’ve had the pleasure to give on behalf of a few of New Jersey’s finest Library Consortiums). This attendee  asked how I had performed a particular effect in Inkscape during the workshop in which I use a bit of text as a brush in order to render a portrait. An example follows:

text based portrait

Text based portrait

Instead of writing out the answer in text (I myself am a visio-audio/experiential learner, and tend towards those kinds of solutions), I decided to use the question as a starting point for an entry in a daily project I’ve been working on at http://365sketches.wordpress.com, in which I’m trying to make a quick sketch a day in 2010 using free software to demonstrate the power of those tools.

You may want to check it out from time to time (or subscribe to the feed, if you’re into that kind of thing) to get ideas for how you can use free software like Inkscape to create interesting designs for your library’s fliers, posters, and other advertising materials and platforms.

If you’ve seen me talk on the topic of Best Practices in Design, you also know that I feel strongly that design, and tools like Inkscape, can change your life, your attitude, and your view of the world.

At any rate, I made the following screencast to demonstrate how I make images like the one above. Enjoy, and if you have questions, I’m happy to answer them in the comments!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]Author: John LeMasney

February 4, 2010 at 10:15 am 4 comments

Put Your Words in a Book!

YOUR WORDS IN A BOOK!

by Peter Bromberg (via: http://themwordblog.blogspot.com/2009/11/help-us-write-book-this-month-only.html)

This is National November Write Your Own Book Month and the New Jersey State Library is taking the challenge to write a book with 50,000 words in one month. They need your help to both write and to spread the word to EVERYONE you know – friends, family, customers, co-workers, hairdressers, teachers, students. Everyone has the potential to write something that might positively impact the life of a stranger with this book!

The plan:

The NJ State Library will compile a book with the collective wisdom of people sharing advice with another human being. Words of wisdom for a child, friend, politician, parent, teenager, adult, parent … The catch is, you have to text your advice and it can only be 140 characters or less. The text messages will be collected until there are 50,000 words of wisdom. The name of the book will be, H2H (Human to Human) wisdom in 140 characters- unless someone texts us a better title! NJSL will even publish it online so you can share it with your friends and families.

Three ways to submit your H2H words of wisdom:

  1. Text “H2H” to 51684, hit “space” and type your advice. Standard message charges apply. You’ll receive a message to let you know your submission has been accepted. NJSL will keep you updated about the book but we won’t send more than 1 message per week and you can stop the messages anytime you want by replying “Stop”.
  2. Tweet to: @h2hbook
  3. Write online: Follow this link

Your initials or first name will be attributed to your quote if you include them.  All entries must be submitted no later than November 30.

Guidelines:

  • No profanity
  • No personal references

While we would love to use all quotes that are submitted, we will be editing the final product and reserve the right to reject submissions.

Questions?

Send to Nancy Dowd: ndowd[at]njstatelib.org.

————————————————————————–

BTW, here’s my submission: “People are people. Everyone. Everywhere. Always. Remember this idea. Share it, spread it, grow it. In this way the world will be saved.”

Library Garden Post by Peter Bromberg

November 25, 2009 at 3:15 am 1 comment

How to solidify your visual brand and identity

Hello, friends.

My name is John LeMasney, and I love libraries. I’m the newest blogger on Library Garden, and I’m thrilled and honored to be here.

John LeMasney, Janie Hermann, Amy Kearns, Pete...
Image by nancydowd via Flickr

I’m a technologist,  father,  open source advocate, artist and designer, and I’ve been known to wax poetic about beer from time to time. I’ve been told by Ed Corrado, one of my favorite librarians, that I should start looking at an MLS. I told him I’d maybe think about it after I finish my Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership later this year.

I was invited to join Library Garden despite the fact that I have no MLS, I think, because I have a regular beat in the New Jersey library consortia, have many good friends who do have their MLS (many of them co-bloggers here) and I also tend to spend a lot of time in libraries.

As the newest blogger for Library Garden, I wanted to give a kind of gift to my fellow bloggers in the form of a new header for the blog. Peter Bromberg’s original header was simple, elegant, and straightforward, but he asked me if I wanted to take a shot at making a new one. I have given workshops on design for Peter, and others here, so I figured that it would be a good way to show some of what I know about design, as well as present a thank you gift to the group.

My process for design usually follows the procedure I’m about to record here, and it is how we came to our new header you see in our blog. You can click on any of the images in this post to see a full sized version of the image. I encourage it for the alternative headers, since it’s difficult to see the detail in the thumbnail.

Using the open source illustration application named Inkscape, I show the name of the organization in a list of fonts for the stakeholders that I think speak to the feel of their brand. I usually present a list of at least 5-10, but it’s not a set number. In this case, I shared the following image, which went a little further than simply listing fonts and had progressed to forming word-form relationships, which is typically a secondary process. Since I had access to the original header, I included it for comparison. No kerning or other fine tuning is done at this stage:

Possibilities

Possibilities

I got the feedback pretty quickly that people preferred the second and fourth design. They liked the boldness of Library in #2 and the finesse and softness of #4. People were positive, respectful, and kind and that always makes for a better design project. They said they liked the font used for garden in the 4th option, and might like to see it paired with other fonts.

I wanted to respect Peter’s previous work, celebrate the brand that is Library Garden, and above all respect the opinions and feelings of the stakeholders. I hope that I did that, and I am very happy with the work that we did to come up with this solution together.

In order to clarify what I was hearing, I sent out a revised picture of three options in which the less popular options were removed and a new option was generated making use of what was learned in the first round. That looked like this:

Possibilities refined

Possibilities refined

This set brought the garden font into focus as a definite, while showing that the great Gill Sans, one of my favorite fonts and shown in the first two options, as well as in the final result, had the versatility to provide the boldness that people were looking for in the third option.

Once we had our wordmark it was time to begin developing a background for the header on the blog. I decided to emphasize the garden aspect of Library Garden, relying on luscious foliage, summery greens, and deep layering.

I wanted to try to evoke the depth of information and directions and ideas available at your library. I wanted to show people the complexity and richness of their options when they walk in and sit down and talk with a reference librarian, for instance. I also wanted to try to celebrate the work, history, and richness of my fellow bloggers on this site.

So, if you feel that the work I’m about to show you is kind of busy, keep in mind that complexity, richness, layering, and depth were my goals. I didn’t want you to look at the header so much as dive into it.

With that said, let’s look at how the first header option came about. Note that at this point, I didn’t intend any longer to edit the text based information, and so I converted the text to paths in Inkscape. This makes it easier to nudge and relate letterforms and other elements. I tweaked the wordmark we collectively chose by fixing the kerning (space between letterforms) and exported it as a PNG in the exact size of Peter’s original header.

Wordmark Final

Wordmark Final

I opened up the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) and imported the wordmark, and then I added 3 transparent layers, named close, middle, and distant, so that I could add my visual elements in a layered way so as to build depth. I also duplicated the wordmark layer so that I could create a blur based glow effect to make the workmark pop up from the busy backgrounds. I saved it as a native GIMP XCF file to preserve the layer work and named it header template.xcf. Then I saved it as header option 1.xcf and began working on the first header possibility. I started with the template each time so I wouldn’t have to start from scratch each time. Templates are great, but I encourage you to roll your own, rather than relying on someone else’s.

Header Option 1

Header Option 1

In retrospect,  Option 1 is seen as the most tame, minimalist, straightforward, and quiet. None of these are bad things. It was early, easy play with greens and foliage brushes, and was intended really just to get my ideas out of my head and onto the screen. I worked back and forth between the layers, adding blocks of color in the deep layer, and thinner, more crisp elements in the foreground. Most of my objects and shapes are available to me as brushes I used from online brush sites such as those I bookmarked here. I thought of the process as though I was building a garden landscape scene, starting first with broad deep dark strokes, then building on top of that with thinner, more careful, contrasting details. My palette for this option was deep grass green, grayish midnight fields, moonlit patches, and a bright orange for contrast. People thought it was okay, but they liked the second option much more. So much more in fact, it almost got the nod.

Header Option 2

Header Option 2

This one brought in much more of a Chinese influence — It was very much like option 1 in that it was mostly greens and greys, but it allows the eye to focus on the bright beautiful sunny flower peeking out, and is balanced nicely with the red signature stamp, both of which are parts of free brush sets, as well as most of the tree and foliage shapes you see. I would say that this option was a favorite for many.  As I finished each option, I’d send out an email to the group asking for guidance and feedback, and they didn’t disappoint.

Header Option 3

Header Option 3

Options 3 and 4 were simultaneously my favorites and the group’s least favorites. They consistently ended up at the end of the list of one’s preferences. They are both quite busy, very technology imagery driven, go deeper into what I think is an modernist color theorist’s palette that’s I’d call sporty, and are energetic to the point of dizziness.

Header Option 4

Header Option 4

I love them both, but they were obviously (now)  not the best choice for representing this group. I think I like their painterly style, deep layering, and rich color, but they’re not especially garden-y.

Perhaps the most important thing in design is knowing how to listen to your stakeholders, and being receptive to the survey even when it forks with your own feelings. I’m glad I made these options in order to provide contrast, offer other options, expand expectations, and most of all, in order to go a little too far. It’s hard to know when something’s right unless you’ve seen it go wrong, or at least wrong in the eyes of your stakeholders.

After hearing feedback at each new option, I learned that these people wanted clarity, simplicity, legibility, some energy, some calm, garden-ness, lush vegetation, and that no matter what, these were all okay — they’d all do the job. That’s reassuring when your client says no matter what, they’ll be happy. With that, I tried to pull all of this together in a final option, which ended up being the one that took the prize.

Header Option 5 with Chinese character

Header Option 5 with Chinese character

The only concern was that no one, including me, knew what the block and character in the lower left translated to. As a result, I decided to remove and replace them instead of potentially upsetting someone with the interpretation of the character. I replaced it with a postmark from a set of very cool stamp related brushes, and soon after, the header was in place.

Header Option 5 with Postmark.

Header Option 5 with Postmark.

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to my fellow bloggers for their patience in the process, for the opportunity to collaborate and create together, and for the opportunity to have another great place such as Library Garden to share ideas. I feel very welcome here, and I’m looking forward to my our next post.

Submitted by: John LeMasney.

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October 2, 2009 at 10:00 am 12 comments

How to Reach Gen M(illennials) in the Library and Classroom–A Panel Discussion

Co-editors (Vibiana Bowman Cvetkovic & Robert J. Lackie) of the book Teaching Generation M: A Handbook for Librarians and Educators (Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc., 2009) and three of the chapter authors (Katie Elson Anderson, Patricia H. Dawson, and Diane K. Campbell) participated in a panel discussion last night. The event, sponsored by the Rutgers University–Camden’s Cappuccino Academy (a series of free public lectures delivered by Rutgers–Camden faculty members) was held at the Barnes & Noble in Marlton, NJ. All five panelists–library faculty members at Rutgers University and Rider University–briefly discussed their findings on this new generational cohort and how technology can and has been enriching the library and classroom experience for them.

Lead editor and chapter author Vibiana Bowman Cvetkovic (Rutgers University) began the discussion by welcoming the audience, introducing the panelists, and talking about why she was so interested in co-editing and writing sections of the book, not to mention having her own personal cohort of Gen M students at home. Vibiana also provided some background on the book, which offers advice on everything from teachers joining Facebook to the pitfalls of Google searches. She mentioned that one of the most significant aspects about Gen M is that they are the first generation raised in an era of personal and real-time information sharing and provided some examples. Last but not least, she made available a discount order form for those who might be interested in purchasing a personal copy, or one for their library or school.

Co-editor and chapter author Robert J. Lackie (Rider University) spoke next, emphasizing that we need to remember, as library faculty members, to strive to satisfy all of our “customers,” and that includes Gen M students, faculty, and staff–those born in the early 1980′s to the mid-to-late 1990′s. He shared research from the book and on the Web about Millennials (aka Gen M), including a few points via presentations by Richard Sweeney, University Librarian at NJIT, to help us all better understand this unique cohort. Richard has stated that Gen M:

  • Expect/demand more choices
  • Want more personalization/customization
  • Want instant gratification
  • Like multitasking, IMing, text messaging, and collaborating online
  • Are experiential learners
  • Are open to change

Note: Library Garden bloggers interviewed Richard Sweeney, who is a recognized expert on understanding and engaging the Millennial Generation, almost three years ago and this post is still available.

Robert finished by sharing some of the witty “cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college” found again in this year’s Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2013, such as, “Text has always been hyper” and “Everyone has always known what the evening news was before the Evening News came on,” two of the 75 comments on this year’s list.

Patricia H. Dawson and Diane K. Campbell (Rider University), who co-authored Chapter 2 in the book, entitled, “Driving Fast to Nowhere on the Information Highway: A Look at Shifting Paradigms of Literacy in the Twenty-First Century,” spoke about emergent issues and challenges we face as librarians and educators while working with Gen M. They provided information comparing different types of literacy (i.e., literacy, computer literacy, and information literacy) and provided a handout/table to the audience members explaining this. They discussed how Gen M struggles with judging information for reliability, validity, accuracy, authority, timeliness, and point of view or bias because so much of the information that Gen M students find online, especially the validity of that information, is much more difficult to assess than within most print sources. They noted that there, unfortunately, are fewer “quality cues” with a lot of online information on the free Web.

Katie Elson Anderson (Rutgers University), who authored “Chapter 8: YouTube and YouTube-iness: Educating Gen M Through the Use of Online Video,” may have spoken last, but she definitely caught the attention of the audience as she discussed the extreme popularity and the educational uses of YouTube (including YouTube EDU) and several other video sites for teaching and working with Gen M. Video sites she highlighted during her talk at Barnes & Noble were the following:

As I have recently mentioned to many others, I was especially happy to announce the publication of our book on a Library Garden blog post back in July when it first became available in bookstores online (e.g., Amazon and B&N) because several Library Garden (LG) bloggers wrote chapters for the book, including a very recent new team member of LG, John LeMasney of Rider University, who co-wrote our book’s “Introduction: The Myths, Realities, and Practicalities of Working with Gen M.” OK, I know…, this is such shameless self-promotion, but I really am so proud of the LG contributors, in addition to other experts from around North America, whose hard work and diligence shine throughout our book.

By the way, here is a free PDF of the table of contents now available, listing all contributors and their chapters. We hope you enjoy reading about the above panel discussion/book talk, as well as the book itself, and we welcome your comments.

Sincerely,

-Robert

September 11, 2009 at 8:15 am 5 comments

Run Brett, Run

This is awesome on so many levels that I just had to share:

I found out about this video from Sophie Brookover via Facebook. Sophie reports that she is planning to run the race — and perhaps even throw the race all for the cause.

I love it when a clever fundraising idea is promoted so brilliantly and I hope that this will be a huge success for Brett Bonfield and the teens who need a space to hang out at the Collingswood Library.

Click here for more info on the 5K Race and Collingswood Book Festival.

July 28, 2009 at 11:15 pm 8 comments

5 Surprises from first year as an MLIS

One year ago next week, I received my MLIS from Rutgers University. Over the past year, I have learned a great deal, found I need to learn much more, and am truly thankful to those who have helped bring me to where I am today. As many of you may know, I am a career changer who had not worked in libraries until library school, so many of the things I learned have been quite unexpected.

On the eve of this anniversary, I thought I would share the top five most surprising things I have learned and comment on each. Keep in mind, all of these pertain to Public Libraries because that is where I work and public librarians are who I tend to socialize with. Also, these observations are not all about MPOW—they come from discussion with many different librarians from many different libraries…

Top Five Library Surprises.
#1) Meetings: Corporations have long since abandoned the long meeting with many people—they are generally expensive and non-productive. Librarians love long meetings with many people in attendance. Each week there is at least one meeting to attend—usually far more than one. They tend to run long and much of what is covered could be communicated via e-mail or memos.
My reaction: Wow, this is insane, please stop!

Next time you are at a meeting and are bored (and you know you will be), look around the room. Calculate an average hourly salary (oh come on, we all know you look at the Asbury Park Press database: http://php.app.com/NJpublicemployees/search.php ). It doesn’t have to be exact, in fact low-ball it at $20/hour and plug it into this formula:
(hourly rate)*(# of people at meeting)*(number of hours for meeting) = real $ cost of meeting.
Pretty staggering isn’t it (now consider how many times these meetings happen in one year!).
Do you really think this is the best use of our resources? And this does not even count the opportunity cost—think of all the stuff you could get done if not at the meeting, now think of all the stuff everyone could! Meetings—which generally produce nothing but to-do lists—are really just a practical alternative to actual work.

Now before you all write in to say we have to have meetings – yes I know that. Short, focused meetings are critical to working efficiently. Likewise, employees should have a chance to speak to management in an open forum. I am not advocating for no meetings. I simply would like to see some business-like principals applied to library meetings and fewer meetings in general:

  • Have an agenda with approximate times for each topic.
  • Stick to the agenda: if time runs over too far, perhaps a sub-set should meet for further discussion instead of the entire staff being held hostage to one topic; when topic drift begins, return the discussion to the topic at hand and consider the drift items as topics for another time; if one person is dominating and dragging things out—offer to speak to them later one-on-one.
  • Be sure the agenda items need face to face discussion—if it can be done via e-mail, do it. Again, I totally agree with having meetings—simply not as often and never as long as the typical staff or department meetings in libraries.
#2) Customer Service: Every meeting, every conference, many training sessions, and loads of articles, blog posts, tweets, and chats focus on Customer Service. We love to talk about customer service.

My Reaction: I agree! Customer service is incredibly important. Now let’s put that into practice.

  • More weekend hours! Weekends are when the most patrons use the libraries, but it is the first place people cut when trying to slash budgets. Many libraries are not open at all on Sundays. Why?
  • More staff during the busiest hours—yes, this means working more weekends and nights and more than one librarian on a desk a peak times. Every library I have worked in or been to has a skeleton crew on weekends! Long lines & cranky burned out employees do not equal good customer service. I know this is unpopular, but it is true.
  • Sundays are a day just like any other day—why do we open so late?! We are public institutions that should NOT schedule based when church is over (the only possible reason I see for the late start). Our patrons should not have to wait half a day to get to the library.
#3) Marketing: Every time I brought up marketing while in library school, fellow students bit my head off—some wanted to boil me in oil for using the dreaded ‘M’ word. To be fair, many libraries and librarians now use and promote marketing. They deserve credit because they do still get tons of flack for being too ‘business-like’.
My Reaction: Marketing is important–Deal with It!
Don’t believe me? A recent ‘help for job seekers’ program in my library had no promotion, two people showed up (come on, in this economy!). Attendance at the same program when it was promoted? SRO. You can have the best library, best staff, best resources, and best programs–if people don’t know it, they won’t use it.

#4) Adult Service Librarians Hate Teens/Teens Hate Adult Services Librarians: I hear this everywhere—from Youth Services Librarians, from Adult Service Librarians, from teens at the library, teens in my personal life, and adults in their 20s who were treated poorly while in high school. It is astounding to me how true to the angry mean librarian stereotype this is.

My Reaction: STOP THIS NOW—JUST STOP IT! Every patron should be treated with respect and not judged because of age, gender, ethnic background, etc.

Teens are future adults. At MPOW, they ask the meatiest reference questions because they are doing research papers without the benefit of an academic library. They are generally polite, helpful, and respond well when told to keep their voices down. Adults on the other hand, yell into their cell phones (teens understand you don’t have to yell to be heard). They yell at staff when asked to stop behavior that is not allowed (there is always a reason for rules not to apply to them). Yes, there are problem teens, but there are also problem adults (see #5!).
Ever notice that after high school, people tend stop going to the Public Library and don’t return until they have kids of their own? Gee, I wonder why?

#5) Drunk People At the Library: While I openly admit much about this job is like being a bar tender–people bring you their problems and want to talk, this was simply a shock when I first became a librarian. It happens so often, now it is just a regular thing.

My Reaction: Really, drunk at the library?! Now, I will admit it—I’ve had my share of drunken times in my life. Not once—not even in college—did I ever say ‘hmmm, now that I am wasted, I should go to the library!’
  • No amount of customer service, communication training, or any other ‘technique’ works with these people. They are rude, clumsy, and smell bad.
  • Ask management for help–well, sure if they were in the library at the time. Since most drunks who are a problem show up at night, on weekends, and near Christmas, I have yet to encounter a drunk while management is on duty.
If you regularly deal with drunks (or other substance abusers) at your library, let me know what you do! At the very least, know you are not alone. I feel your pain.
I could go on and on–so many surprises, so little space. What have been your biggest surprises @yourlibrary?
To those of you who graduate from Library School this month–congratulations and good luck! It is a terrific profession, but also a really strange one. It is never dull. At the very least, working with the public means you will always have an entertaining story to tell at the bar! Just please do not go to the library after you are done drinking!

May 15, 2009 at 1:28 pm 24 comments

Nancy Promotes Public Libraries

This was just forwarded to me by Leslie Burger, the director at MPOW and a past-president of ALA, with a comment that really says it all: “Check it out – great advertising for libraries”

April 21, 2009 at 9:55 am 3 comments

Nine Predictions and 5 3/4 Questions for the New Year

A very Happy New Year to readers in the Garden!

I’ve come across two little gems that have helped get my head and my heart in the right place as I embark on another (universe willing) 365 revolutions.

The first is Branding Guru Tom Asacker’s Nine Predictions for 2009. This isn’t your your typical “let me tell you how it’s gonna be” upchuck of New Year prognostications. I love Asacker’s wit, warmth, and wisdom. If you like his predictions, I highly recommend subscribing to his blog feed and/or his insight-packed and highly readable and entertaining books. (Note: Asacker’s predictions are posted as a PDF. If you want to read in more bookmark-cut-and-pastable html, see link at: http://www.smallbusinessadvocate.com.)

The second gem is Michael Stanier’s The 5.75 Questions You’ve Been Avoiding. It’s a very nice flash animation with a drummy-jazzy soundtrack. Have a pen handy or plan on watching it twice! If you dig it, check out Michael’s blog, The Possibility Virus.

Bon Appétit!

As for me, I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions. But one of my intentions for 2009 is to continue to ask and answer the question, “What is the need here, and how may I be of service?” AND to remember to factor my own needs into the equation.

Wishing you all good things in 2009!

January 2, 2009 at 12:27 pm 5 comments

The Truth Is Out There–We Are Not Alone!

In today’s New York Times, Michelle Slatalla writes about turning to the Internet for advice for dealing with ‘life’s little insoluble conundrums’–in her case, a smoke detector going off in the night. In the article, she talks about services like Wiki.Answers, Amazon’s Askville, Funadvice.com, Askmehelpdesk.com, Help.com, and Yahoo Answers to ease the helplessness we all feel when life throws us a bizarre curveball.

I immediately thought of the new NJLA and New Jersey State Library new marketing campaign called Solving Life’s Little Problems. This is exactly what Ms. Slatalla was talking about–I have tried everything I know, now what? Hers was not a huge problem, but it was annoying and a big deal to her. Yet despite noting that at times the answers on these sites is often wrong and noting ‘the answers don’t go through fact checkers’, the article never mentions professional library services such as QandANJ.org.

I wanted to scream! Why are we being ignored? Why aren’t you writing about us? How can you know the information can be bad, but still extol the virtues of such services? People have questions. Libraries have answers–even 24 hour Internet Access to answers!

We need a new marketing campaign. These services are getting the word out better. The article states that Help.com has had a 73% year-over-year increase in traffic to 316,000 visitors per month! That is huge. Compare it to the very successful QandANJ.org service that gets around 4,500 users a month (keeping in mind it is live and it is branded in one state vs. Help.com being a worldwide post and wait service so it is not an apples to apples comparison, but still…). I am in the process of writing Ms. Slatalla (slatalla@nytimes.com) to let her know The Truth Is Out There! We are ready and able to ‘Solve Life’s Little Problems’, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Still, the article serves as a wake-up call for me–We Are Not Alone! I think we need to understand what these competing services offer users and learn from them. For example, lurking–you can sit and read volumes of previous posts on a topic without the need to ‘come out’ to a live librarian. I know of no similar service offered by Libraries. We provide pathfinders to resources, but what about answers FAQs?

Likewise, some of the questions asked are real stumpers that I am not sure how well they would be answered by librarians. For example, in the article, one question listed is ‘When you make out with a boy or girl, what do you do with your tongue?’ Honestly, I have no idea how I would answer that (but you can bet I will go out and look at what was posted and hope to learn something new in the process!). How would you answer this?

This isn’t the first time library services have been ignored by Ms. Slatalla. In January she wrote about Tutor.com (here is the article). Again, she never mentions that this service and many other homework help services are available, for free, from many public libraries. In fact, there are many times when her Cyberfamilias column talks up services we provide without mentioning us as a reliable on-line service provider. She is not alone. There are many other examples of the media reporting about on-line information sources that never mention libraries.

This needs to change. I call on Librarians and Information Professionals to write to Ms. Slatalla (slatalla@nytimes.com) as I am. Let her know about what your library can do for her and her readers. Then don’t stop there–tell everyone you know about on-line services that are available 24/7 and then tell everyone you do not know. Tell every in library patron what they can use when the library is closed. Let people know–The Truth Is Out There! It can be found at your library!

August 28, 2008 at 9:02 am 3 comments

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