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Who doesn’t like to get something for free? Whether we are talking about giveaways at a restaurant opening or free information on the Internet, everyone loves the idea of getting something for free. A marketing strategy and business model that relates to this idea is the concept of “freemium.”
Freemium is a way businesses get users or consumers in the door with free products or services, as a way to market their enhanced, premium-priced services. Free + Premium = Freemium. Just recently in Publishers Weekly (May 18, 2009), Chris Anderson, author of Free: The Future of a Radical Price was interviewed about newspapers (specifically News Corp) charging for online content. In July, his book will be offered for free online from Hyperion. In the book, Anderson looks at how so much of what is already online is available for free. In the interview, he discusses how companies use free content to market their paid content. Other supporters of this business model view it as a way to attract customers and generate buzz. An example from the business world is Adobe launching a free, web-based version of its popular Photoshop software. Adobe then hopes that the free version will entice consumers to purchase the full software package.
How does the freemium model apply to libraries? I’m not entirely certain of the long-term implications but it does seem to me that libraries that are implementing additional fees for services that go beyond the normal scope are taking advantage of this freemium business model (free for some services, pay for value-added services). Libraries are facing tightening budgets and I understand the need to generate revenue other than fines and regular fees. People talk about the public library as being “free” and in a way, it is free because library users pay for those services through their tax dollars.But as Nancy Dowd of The ‘M’ Word – Marketing for Libraries blog stated back in February, why not create a line of premium services for which to charge? The basic services that people have come to expect from the library would remain “free.” But individual libraries could choose to offer services above and beyond, like research services and books by mail, and charge a fee for those premium services.
Lately I’ve been hearing about libraries who are already starting to charge for some of their services, due to budget shortfalls and other funding constraints. But it makes me wonder about what criteria libraries are using to decide which services are the ones that should be paid for by the patrons.
For instance, look at the Dallas Public Library’s Street Smart Express service. Dallas PL is charging for high-demand items, like best-sellers, hot DVDs and audiobooks. The Assistant Director cited 2 main reasons for the fees: To limit wait times and to limit the number of holds on an item. Not all items are part of this special collection and a patron could choose to wait to borrow the item once it is out of the collection. Read more about it here.
Another library charging for services is the East Brunswick Public Library. My sister, who is a frequent library user and avid reader, was dismayed to read in her local paper that the library planned to start charging for every reserve placed. She did the math and realized that the average cost for the reserves she places per year would total over $100.
These are just 2 examples of providing fee services above the regular “free” services or starting to charge for once free services, but I am sure there are more.
So where and how do libraries decide which services warrant a fee? In the examples listed above, Dallas selected a new service that has the potential to speed up the usual library experience. Give the patron what they want NOW. On the other hand, East Brunswick started charging for a service that in most libraries is free. What message are we sending to our patrons if we start charging them for something that they never had to pay for before? And how much damage are we doing to our user base to start charging for these services that have traditionally been free? If my sister is any indication, the potential damage is significant. She even considered getting a card in another library, farther away from her house, less because of the money and more because of how upset it made her. Other patrons may just choose to not use a library at all.
Charging for services that have long been free, especially now as the general public is feeling the economic crunch, could ruin a library’s good will and support base. If your library must start charging, find a way to add some value to that service to make it “premium.” Or follow Dallas Public Library’s example and offer the paid service as an option, not a mandatory fee. It is never easy for librarians to decide to start charging for services. However, I think that its not a bad idea to charge for services that are “premium” to YOUR library users. Which services those are will depend on what services your patrons use and which ones your patrons would like to have that you aren’t already offering. But make sure they are value-added services.
Over the course of about two weeks, I was asked these questions several times. Fellow librarians from all over the country called or contacted me over IM wanting to know what I thought about the name change at Rutgers University SCILS. By the time news of the faculty vote to change the name of the school from School of Communication, Information and Library Studies (SCILS) to School of Communication and Information (SCI) reached the national media in February, I had already known about the change a short while and I had an answer ready for my colleagues. It had taken me awhile to put into words what I was feeling. I wasn’t upset or angry-just sad.
Problems with the “L”
The “L” has apparently been an issue around Rutgers School for Communication, Information and Library Studies for quite some time. During the orientation to the Ph.D. program last fall, there were a few references to a previous debate concerning the title of the Ph.D. program. There are three departments in the school (Communication, Library and Information Science, and Journalism and Media Studies) and the doctorate in Communication, Information and Library Studies does not acknowledge the department of Journalism and Media Studies (JMS). Students in the JMS area receive a degree that does not mention their course of study but does mention LIS-an area of study with which most of the students are not even remotely associated.
It was also clear that some students in the PhD. program simply do not like graduating with a degree that includes the word “library.” Information” is okay, but “library” is not.
Even though the name of the Ph.D. program is not changing, the name change is not good news for librarians. Why don’t people outside of our profession want to be associated with us? What is wrong with “library”?
Librarians have not effectively proved the worth of our profession, our workplaces, or our schools. Librarians are underpaid, library budgets are highly contested, and library schools often close. We start major marketing pushes such as I Love Libraries and endlessly discuss the “future of librarianship.” Still, there is little change. Salaries are middling. Budgets are cut all over the country. Clark-Atlanta closed its library school in 2005. And Rutgers SCILS drops the L.
The responses posted to Library Journal’s articles on the name change clearly show that people are passionate about this issue. However, the posters also point to the “problem” with the term library. It is clear that many people, including librarians, simply associate libraries with books. One poster states: “School of Communications and Infomation [sic] Googlers! SCIG. No wonder book stores are closing down and Amazon is selling more non-book media.” Another writes: “My fear in dropping the word “library” is that increasingly the emphasis will be on technology and not on books and reading. As a middle school librarian…I believe my most important task is to market the books!”
These comments point to one of profession’s problems: a tenacious dedication to a particular format. I love books, but I do not believe it is my job as a librarian to market them. I want people to read but I have no problem with them reading on their Kindle. Our reluctance to let go of the book as an ideal format for information keeps us tied to a technology that is time- and place-bound. This is not surprising; people often become librarians because we love books and the place where we could get them for free. Other people do not share our affinity for books and libraries. And it is often these people that have control over our salaries, budgets, and schools.
Whither the L?
The truth is that by the time the issue of dropping the L came before the SCILS faculty it was already too late. We had failed in our quest to bring people’s perceptions of libraries and librarians up to date. The academy has decided that library science is important but not prestigious. Neither its research nor its alumni bring in significant amounts of money and the term sounds passé. Note that all of the remaining library schools have “information” in their titles. All are either schools of information or schools of library and information science.
Rutgers is not the first to drop the L and I suspect it will not be the last.
In response to presentation at Computers in Libraries where a NEW RULE was handed down from on high: “NO MORE THAN 10 WORDS ON A SLIDE”
Orig photo from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hurleygurley/4338767/
You never know what Google Street View will find — some of it is pretty funny and some of it is downright embarrassing. Some random surfing today brought me to this article posted by the Telegraph in the U.K which also includes a slide show of more than a dozen street view images that have been pulled from the service following complaints or requests since the service went live recently in the U.K. and other European cities.
Not sure if the image with Paddington Bear in Trafalgar Square was pulled — I found it cute and appropriate. But then again, there is some question about whether Paddington was actually stalking the Google cam team.
How fun that they built in a Where’s Waldo game to the Street View as well — and even cooler that Waldo was found!
Of course, many questions could be (and have been) raised about privacy and the “Big Brother” aspect of street views… but that is a whole other post for a different day.
I read a number of blogs that are not library related and sometimes I see things that I think other librarians and the general public might be interested in. Case in point, I read a great blog from Photojojo, which gives tips on things to do with your photographs, DIY projects. I’m a real photography person . . . I love taking pictures and getting the right shot, the right light, the right everything. (Have I ever mentioned that I am also a perfectionist?) And this Photojojo newsletter is right up my alley. It provides great, easy and cheap ideas for craft projects. Are you like me in that you have TONS of photos but no way to really display them or to have people see them?
Now think about your Library. Does your library have a photo club? Or teach classes on using digital cameras and need a project for the class to work on? Does your library have photos that you’d like to use but haven’t figured out the best way?
This site is a gold mine of ideas . . . think about using photos of teens from your latest teen program and creating something, like letting them create these glass jar frames OR letting the teens take pictures and use them to make these cool photocuffs. Immediately I think of teen programs but, of course, you could also do these projects in some of your children’s or adult programs, especially if craft events are as popular in your library as they are in mine. With Mother’s Day and Father’s Day just around the corner, think of all the possibilities of gift making programs using personal photographs!
Another recent idea is to use your photos for business cards. I did this a number of years ago using photos of the Bradley Beach Library (where I work) and they were always a big hit when I gave them out. What else makes your card stand apart from every one else’s? It also gives you a story to tell when you are handing your card over, the story of that particular photograph. You can customize your own cards at Moo, where they used to only have small calling card size but now have full sized business cards. I can’t wait to order new ones as soon as I figure out which of my photos to use!
What else can you do with photographs that your patrons have taken? Think about amateur photography exhibits or a photo contest, with a cool donated or purchased prize from a local camera shop or a web based photo site, like Kodak Gallery, Shutterfly, or Photojojo, just to name a few!
This is just a reminder that we need to be looking outside the library profession to get new and innovative ideas. The most successful and well-attended programs often come from ideas that no one ever expected to find in their Library!
OPPORTUNITY TO PRESENT AT ALA at the CLENE Training Showcase!
Do you have a staff training or staff development program you’re proud of? Would you like to present at ALA this summer?
If so, you’re invited to participate in the CLENE Training Showcase where you can share information about your program AND learn about the best practices of other libraries and organizations. The program is poster session style, and electricity and Internet can be provided if needed. Applications are due on April 1.
The Showcase will be on Sunday, July 12 from 1:30-3:30 pm. The planning committee looking for libraries, library organizations, presenters, speakers, and vendors to participate – anyone who has a great training or staff development program they’d like to share.
The Showcase normally attracts between 200-300 attendees over a period of 2 hours and there will be 20-30 presenters. It’s a really fun event with refreshments and lots of door prizes. Each participant has a 6’ draped table on which to put a portable table-top display unit, handouts or other related materials.
Please see CLENE Round Table Training Showcase website for more information. There’s a link on the main page for the Training Showcase Page with even more info about the Showcase, along with two online application forms – one for those wishing to participate and one for those want to be a sponsor or a donor.
There are a few photos from last year’s Training Showcase in Anaheim in the Dec. 2008 CLENExchange Newsletter as well as photos from previous years on CLENE’s Flickr page. If it looks like everyone is having way too much fun, it’s because we were!
For more information, contact either Pat Carterette, pcarterette[at]georgialibraries.org or404-235-7124 OR Melissa Lattanzi at lattanzm[at]neo-rls.org or 330.847.7744, extension 12
Hope to see you there!!
One in every 11 minutes online globally is accounted for by social network and blogging sites, the group found, or 45 billion minutes in total.
Blogs and social networking are consuming more online time than checking and writing personal email.
A search engine was used by 85.9 percent of the world’s population, followed by what the firm called “general interest portals and communities,” such as Yahoo, with an 85.2 percent reach. Software ranked third at 73.4 percent, with the member communities of blogs and email fourth, at 66.8 percent. Email came in fifth, at 65.1 percent. All categories showed gains from the year before.
Facebook remained the most popular social-networking destination around the world, and user attention rocketed by 566 percent from a year ago.
As well, this article provides some interesting and quantifiable data about a trend that we have all been observing — the movement of “old fogies” to Facebook (see my previous post) is driving the original demographic to leave:
Growth in social networking is being driven not by the young, but by the middle-aged. The category of men and women aged 65 and above moving to social networking grew by 7 percent, Nielsen found, while the 2-17-year-old category dropped by 9 percent. The most popular age group with Facebook in terms of growth is the 35-49 category, which increased by 24.1 million people.
This article gives terrific insight in to the shift that occurring online and gives some great data to justify the addition of digital branches and social networking features to a library system. The reach of social networking is extending and, like email before it, is something that library patrons of all ages are becoming comfortable using.
Source: More Time Spent Social Networking Than On Email (PC Magazine Online, 3/10/09)
By Peter Bromberg
Get thee over to “In the Library with the Lead Pipe“, a new team blog that promises to bring some serious game to the biblioblogosphere.
INLWTL offers a superb and accomplished roster of authors, a truly engaging design (courtesy of Derik Badman), and a quality of writing that’s going to knock our socks off (judging, as I am, from Brett Bonfield’s first post, “What Happens in the Library“, a review of PGTL: The Book. Now that’s good writing!)
Kudos to the whole Leadpipe team, and congrats on your launch.