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LibTalk Blog

Inspiration for library communicators: thoughts on public relations, communications, and marketing.

Updated: 2016-07-28T06:58:58.889-04:00


Share Your Library Hacks via the Library Success Wiki


After reading the last post, Andrew kindly sent me a suggestion to have a library hacks wiki. I like the idea of sharing information via a wiki that anyone can edit, but am not so keen on idea of creating a brand new wiki that people will most likely ignore. I instantly thought of the Library Success Wiki as a better way to do this.

So I added a section on Library Hacks to the promotions page and it is now ready and waiting for your hacks. This may or may not be the best place on the wiki to place this, if it's not I figure someone will move it, but to me this is classic promotion.

If you have a tip or hack that helps get end users excited and shows the value of library resources please head over to the Library Success Wiki and add it!

Where Are All the Library Hacks?


(just when you thought this blog was officially dead, I’m baaaaaack. Can’t say for how long, I just happen to have a bee in my bonnet again).

After being inspired by meeting conversation, I was on the hunt again today for fun, quick and easy, tips and tricks to share with our end users about OhioLINK resources. Preferably something that tells users how to find cool things in our databases that they don't know about. Things like this Trouble picking the perfect present? blog post which shows how to find consumer reports in EBSCOhost. This should be easy to find at library and vendor Web sites everywhere right? Wrong. Well, maybe I’m not looking in the right place, but they’re not, and not being a librarian, I don’t always know the resources well enough to come up with them. In fact, I’m feeling stumped right now.


I did however find one inspirational blog, Library Hacks, by Duke University Libraries. Inspired by LifeHacker, Library Hacks:

“Library Hacks is a place to find out about tools, resources, services, and ideas that can help make the library more efficient for you. It’s written mostly by librarians, but we’ll also have occasional student and faculty guest bloggers.”

The Cell Phones for Citation post has already given me some ideas. Maybe if I take pictures of my mileage I won't forget it!

It’s good stuff, but shouldn’t there be more tips floating around out there. Help me out, what are your favorite library and library database hacks?

Quality Artwork That Won't Bust Your Budget


Using great images can take your publications (and blogs!) to the next level, but finding affordable images used to be a real challenge. Luckily, today there are many sources you can turn to for free or cheap high-resolution images.

The free stuff
If you do a Web search you'll find list after list of free image resources. I've explored these lists with little success, but here are two sources I actually use:
Now you do need to be proactive and download and build a library of any images that might be of interest, but at this price, it's worth the bit of extra effort.

The cheap stuff
I've used several subscription image services and while they worked well for me and my place of work at the time, I now have access to many more images and spend much less on them thanks to iStockphoto. In addition to photos, iStockphoto has vector images and videos too. It's the best place I've found to find super high-resolution images for $20 or less. Plus, iStockphoto provides some helpful resources for designers including an article library, forums and examples of real designs created with their images. And you definitely don't want to miss the dollar bin.

One to Watch: Mark Lives in IKEA


As a major IKEA fan (try the Daim chocolate. Go on. It's impossible not to love it.), I have to say that Mark Malkoff is living my dream. This is just brilliant publicity for IKEA, but how many other stores would have said yes to this? (though I can't help wondering if it was really completely Malkoff's idea in the first place. It's just such great publicity!)

I'm not sure spending the night in the library would have the same appeal, but would you say yes if someone wanted to pull a similar stunt in your library? Before you say no to a wild idea, spend some time thinking about why you should say yes. As Seth Godin reminds us, you can't be remarkable without taking risks and trying something new.

Are You Raking In the Compliments?


Since many librarians prefer not to toot their own horns, why not let your customers sing your praises for you? Last week’s Get to the Po!nt e-newsletter was a great reminder that we need to make it easy for happy customers to compliment us. The newsletter referenced a post at Andy Sernovitz’s interesting Damn! I Wish I’d Thought of That! blog (subscribed!) and included Sernvitz’s tips for opening the door to positive feedback:

  • Let customers leave compliments on an "Employee Thank You" wall stocked with paper, pencils and thumbtacks.
  • Ask your customers to vote in the Employee of the Month contest.
  • Put your Web site's feedback form in a prominent location.
  • Invite free-form comments on post-purchase surveys. "You're not going to get praise from a multiple-choice question," writes Sernovitz.

Not only does this let customers easily give you kudos, the testimonials you receive may provide great tools to help you tell your story in newsletters, annual reports, board reports and more. Testimonials also show staff that their good work and service is noticed and appreciated, so be sure to share them.

At OhioLINK, we post stories from our users on our news site as well as our testimonials page. This idea was highly inspired by Google's Press Center. There is also a form to submit stories online and once a year we encourage our member libraries to help us find great testimonials for our annual report. Having these testimonials easily accessible and available to all makes them much more useful for us and our members.

New OCLC Report: Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World


OCLC just published another must-read report, Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World. This report summarizes the findings from an international study on online social spaces, including social networking attitudes and habits of both end users and librarians. It explores social participation and cooperation on the Internet and how it may impact the library’s role, including:
  • The use of social networking, social media, commercial and library services on the Web
  • How and what users and librarians share on the Web and their attitudes toward related privacy issues
  • Opinions on privacy online
  • Libraries’ current and future roles in social networking

One interesting tidbit from the report: Internet activity keeps going up. Search engine use increased from 71% to 90%. E-mail use grew from 73% to 97%. And the use of blogs, went from 16% to 46% in 18 months. While all those activities keep going up, up up, use of library Web sites dropped from 30% in 2005 to 20% in 2007. Sure different populations and even a few different nationalities were surveyed in the two reports, but still that stat is worth some thought.

Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World follows on the heels of another must-read OCLC report, College Students’ Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources.

New Use for the Trusty Lemonade Stand


I love this idea. Denison University Library hosts a lemonade stand at their welcome back reception for students and staff. Peggy Rector, from the Denison University Library, was kind enough to share all the details.

This past fall, the event was held on the third day of classes and “went over much better than when it was held on the first day of classes.” Thirty-seven gallons of lemonade and almost 20 dozen cookies were served during the three hour event. Librarians and staff from throughout the library were invited to volunteer to staff the event for 30 minute shifts.

Giveaways included magnets with library hours, ID wallets, water bottles, library newsletters, and the Library 101 information booklet. They also had 300 glow ice cubes which were a BIG hit and there was a drawing at the end of the day for an iPod Shuffle.

To get the word out, a flyer (PDF) was posted around the academic quad and on the campus calendar. They also use a big sidewalk sign out in front of the building to invite students inside.

*photo courtesy of Denison University Library

Good Stuff Worth Sharing


Marketing-ish Think piece: Harry Beckwith's 40 tidbits on what motivates people. Beckwith is the author of the great Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing (a must-read) and other marketing books.

Inspiration: Randy Pausch's Lecture of a Lifetime and Jeff Zaslow's article and video about it.

Media relations tip: Publicity Hound Joan Stewart says you should pitch your Halloween stories now. Did you give local reporters your list of library activities?

Creative library opening idea: Taking pictures of patrons and their favorite books is a fabulous way to celebrate a library grand opening. Especially if the photos look as fantastic as the black and white photos taken by photojournalist Todd Mizener at the Moline (Illinois) Public Library's opening

SPARC's Mind Mashup Video Contest


Speaking of videos, during some video contest research (cough *stay tuned* cough) I stumbled upon the SPARC Discovery Awards Competition. Videos should "demonstrate or illustrate what you see as the value of sharing information, ideas and knowledge." The winner will receive $1,000 and a "fabulous Sparky Award statuette." Two runners up will each get $500.

Videos must be two minutes or shorter and are due by December 2, 2007. The contest is open to anyone not working SPARC or ARL (or living with someone who works at either organization).

The winning videos will be publicly screened at the ALA Midwinter. That just clinched it right? I see you running off to start filming.

Another Interesting Library Video



I just stumbled upon this intro to the library video on the Ohio University Libraries news blog. Good stuff.

Related posts: UD's Funny Library Video

Do You Make Reporters Jump Through Hoops?


Publicity Hound Joan Stewart's latest tips of the week include some good advice on what not to do if you hope to ever get publicity and how to keep your message clear when talking to reporters.

Check out the first story for some great tips on how not to treat reporters or anyone looking for information about your library or organization. Joan's tips include (go read her article for complete details):

  1. Make sure your front-line employees understand the importance of media inquiries.

  2. When you get a fabulous media hit, include it at your website.

  3. Put contact information--including a shipping address, phone number and email address--in an easy-to-find place on your homepage.
As well as making sure front-line employees understand the importance of media inquiries, make sure everyone has a list of the events and programs going on in the library that day easily accessible. It's frustrating for patron, the media or anyone to ask about an event they saw listed in the newspaper, or your newsletter, only to be greeted with a blank stare from someone who hasn't been informed of the day's events.

Joan's tips bring up another point. Do you have an online newsroom? Most of the library Web sites I visit don't, but probably should. Online newsrooms aren't just for big corporations, they're something most libraries will probably benefit from as well. Online newsrooms should contain quick and easy access to your news releases, fast facts, statistics, testimonials, historical and contact information, and anything else the media might need or want to know when doing a story on you. And online newsrooms aren't just for the media. Library staff and customers will visit them for facts and stats as well. If you do have an online newsroom, make sure it's up-to-date and is easy to find from your home page.

Good Stuff: Elizabeth Leonard on Libraries


I found Elizabeth's blog, Elizabeth Leonard on Libraries, yesterday. It's definitely worth a visit. She has a lot of good marketing points and tips.

I also updated the list of blogs I read to reflect my current habits (finally).

Brochure Design: Creating a Winner


I spent a lot of time thinking about what makes a good brochure while re-designing OhioLINK's brochures. Some of the tips I found really resonated with me, in fact they resonated enough that I was able to see our current brochure with fresh eyes and give it the overhaul it desperately needed.

So here's a compendium of some of the tips that helped me.

First, the ever-insightful Seth Godin reminded us that people won't read your brochure. His tips (go to the post for more):
  • Use less copy. Half as much.
  • Use testimonials. With photos. Short captions. It's hard to have too many of the good ones.
  • Make it funny enough or interesting enough or, hey, remarkable enough that people will want to show it to their friends.
  • Show, don't tell.
Another helpful article is "Effective Brochure Design":
  • Use white space
  • Stick to two typefaces, and strictly limit your use of bold, capitalization, underline, etc.
These key tips from are also good:
  • Make the cover as POWERFUL as possible.
  • Use a single quality image on the cover. Research suggests that one large image is more effective then several small ones.
  • Be easy to identify – use your logo effectively. Develop a consistent theme for your printed material.
And, because you can never have too many tips, here are a few from me:
  • Focus on the reader. It's not about what you offer. It's about what you can do for them. Which of their problems can you solve?
  • Looks matter. If you don't have the design skills to create a killer brochure, hire someone, talk to your campus marketing office, or find a design student to help you.
  • Don't use a template. You want to stand out from the crowd, using a common template does just the opposite.
  • Avoid jargon at all costs. And some of the things you think aren't jargon, are. Instead of talking about the databases you have, tell me how they can help me.
  • Just say no to clip art. I don't know about you, but clip art screams amateur to me. If you need good graphics on a budget try It's awesome.
  • Get a second opinion. Have someone outside the library look at the brochure and give you a frank opinion.
  • Include all your contact information. That means your address, e-mail, IM, phone, URL, etc. These should be on everything you produce.
So what does a good library brochure look like? Here are a few I found:
What brochures would you add to the list?

Good Resource: Get to the Po!nt


I keep meaning to post something about Get to the Po!nt, Marketing Prof's newish e-newsletter. Well, actually I keep meaning to post something period, but, I digress. Anyway, back to the Po!nt, ignore the tagline "small business secrets in 60 seconds," this e-newsletter has great tips for anyone who cares about marketing and promotion period.

Some of the particularly relevant issues include:
Get to the Po!nt is also a great example of everything library e-newsletters should be: short, interesting, useful, attractively designed and relevant. It's on my wouldn't it be great list to have an e-newsletter of short research tips with everything from ways to search Google more effectively, to quick and helpful uses of that database no one without an MLS understands how to use anyway. Wouldn't it be better to stop telling people that X database has x,000 journals and articles and start telling people what they can actually do with it? Read Time magazine online, get the reports needed to make better business decisions, keep up to date with your industry news, etc.

Good Stuff Worth Sharing


Clear and Simple Branding Basics


Are you confused about branding? Not sure branding is important for libraries? Then you definitely need to read Branding: How to Keep Your Practice from Being Plain Vanilla by Stewart Gandolf and Lonnie Hirsh. Yes, it's geared toward dentists, but the concepts are the same no matter what business you're in. This is a very clear and helpful article. They've stripped out the marketing jargon and added in a lot of good tips, such as:Everything must tie together - from how your phone is answered, how long patients wait, and your choice of uniforms ... to your technology, your manner, your location (signage, building, entrance, furniture, colors of the walls), which services you promote, and much more. If you decide you want to be the “leading-edge dentist in town,” you can’t limp along with a 1970s Brady Bunch look-alike office. All of that is so true for libraries too. If librarians and staff wish to be perceived as research and information professionals, then that image needs to be reinforced in everything, from the customer service you provide, to the publications you produce and yes, even down to the clothes you wear. When I was an intern at a credit union, the president explained that dress-down days and casual clothing weren't ever allowed because we were in the trust business. Who are you more likely to trust with your hard-earned cash, the uber-professional in a crisp suit and tie, or someone in jeans and a t-shirt? While I like to wear jeans to work as much as the next person (more probably), he was right.The article also offers are some critical brand-building points to consider: Start with the patient’s value system...Effective branding communicates to the tastes, attitudes, and sensibilities of the buyer, not the seller. This is one we often miss. Talk about the benefits patrons will receive (save time, money, hassle), do research at home in your pjs, or get a better grade on your paper. Identify a value-added edge over the competition. What is highly unique about your practice that delivers value to the patient over and above whatever else is available in the marketplace? Whatever issue you choose to compete upon, it needs to be the one thing that best characterizes the experience, and has to be the centerpiece for everything you do and say about the practice. Be willing to offend someone. By definition, your positioning must be unique; therefore, you cannot be everything to everyone. The challenge will be to appeal to many, while recognizing that your positioning cannot be universal. Being everything to everyone is not unique, and that’s the same as vanilla. Guard your brand zealously. Once you’ve created your brand, you should beware of the trap of carrying the message banner for others. Deliver a consistent experience. People prefer consistent quality to nasty surprises, and a brand isn’t really a brand if the practice doesn’t deliver a consistent, high-quality experience. That’s why it’s easy to understand why budget-minded American students traveling through Europe often pass on local fare to eat at McDonald’s. Remember, just a few negative experiences can blow your brand credibility and betray the trust you’ve worked so hard to build. Deliver consistent branded communications. In addition to delivering consistent in-office experiences, you must effectively communicate your brand message at every marketing opportunity. This means your Yellow Pages ad, Web site, brochures, etc. (Our next article will cover practice brochures, which should be the foundation of your marketing and branding communic[...]

‘I Love My Library’ Video Contest Offers $10,000 Prize


I just read about Gale's 'I Love My Library' video contest in the Library Hotline. The contest is open to both librarians and library users. This seems like a good thing to tell library users about. I wish I had seen it earlier (you'd think $10 grand would generate some buzz) but there's still two weeks left to enter.

Here's the scoop:

Post a video that describes what you love about your library and how it serves your community and you could win the $10,000.00 grand prize in Thompson Gale’s ‘I Love My Library” video contest to split with the library you designate.

Load your video on librareo, Thomson Gale's YouTube channel, before midnight on Friday, May 25, 2007 to enter. By June 1, 2007, Thompson Gale judges will determine the top five finalists based on creativity, unique portrayal of love of libraries and the services they provide, and overall appeal. The top five videos will be featured on for a nationwide vote that will be held June 1-11. The video with the most votes wins the grand prize.

Find the complete contest rules, downloadable video releases and sample videos on Gale’s Web site.

Any Luck with GoodSearch?


Have any libraries or library organizations been successful in raising funds via GoodSearch?

GoodSearch, which is powered by Yahoo!, is a search engine which donates approximately $0.01 per search to the charity of the searcher’s choice. Get more info here. Charities and non-profits will receive an annual check from GoodSearch providing they earn more than $20/year.

There are quite a few libraries on the list of participants, but so far I’ve only seen a few that have generated the minimum $20/year. The Friends of the New Orleans Public Library has raised $34.44 so far this year. I wonder if most organizations signed up, but aren’t promoting it much. Other total donations raised so far in 2007: ALA - $1.55; Ohioana Library Association - $21.61; and Rawson Memorial Library - $15.10.

Good Stuff: Customer Service Tips


My customer service kick continues. Here are some links to other good stuff worth sharing:

1. We Don’t Like You Go Away - Seth Godin’s Blog:
“Hey, I know that your last customer was a jerk. I know that you get asked the same stupid questions over and over. I know that people don't appreciate you, they're boors, they're selfish, they're in a hurry.

But, here's the thing: I'm not those people. I've never been here before. I didn't do anything wrong! Don't blame me for them.”

2. Business Week’s “Rules for Making a Good First Impression (via Library Voice):
Rule #1: Respond within 24 Hours
Rule #2: Greet People with Enthusiasm
Rule #3: Make Eye Contact

Rule #4: Leave Smart Voice Messages

Rule #5: Respect Contacts

Rule #6: Mind Your E-Mail

Rule #7: Remember Small Touches

3. Guy Kawaski's The Art of Customer Service
& Doug Hanna's The Art of Customer Service II

I just loooove Seth's post. Get your fix of more customer service articles here.

Turning to the Hospitality Industry for Customer Service Tips


After reading my Determinants of Delight post, Patrick Graham, director of the Pitts Theology Library at Emory University, wrote to share his positive experience of turning to the hospitality industry for customer service advice. Graham invited Stuart Newmark, Sr. VP of Operations for the Kessler Collection (a group of about 10 boutique hotels), to come talk to his librarians and staff about what they refer to as “customer care.”Mr. Newmark, did a four hour workshop for all of our staff--catalogers to IT to reference staff. It was a big hit and we continue to work through what we learned that day and look for appropriate application/translation from the hospitality industry to that of academic libraries. He left us a copy of a book that had been critical for the culture that they aim for in their hotels, Positively Outrageous Service, and I've found it both inspirational and helpful.I asked Pat if he would share the memorable points from that talk and he graciously did.It's important to make an emotional connection with customersNeed to be passionate about customer serviceService culture is not just a technique, and it comes much easier for some than others. Important comments regarding hiring of the right staff; he talked about the importance of hiring people who really care about others and see service as an honor or privilege; if you make a mistake in hiring and cannot cultivate the employee into the type of person needed, you need to do both of yourselves a favor and send the person on his/her way.The customer is NOT always right, but is always the customer. Allow the customer to be wrong with dignity.Continuously evaluate & seek feedback; aim for a zero defect policy. Celebrate the successes of your staff--via public recognition, small gifts, etc.Aim to create WOW moments.Always try to answer Yes--unless the request is immoral, unethical or unsafe.Empower your staff to make decisions to respond to unusual circumstances (and train them so that they can do this well).Discussion of core valuesGraham shared more tips about the talk:We had our staff develop of list of almost 20 questions that we'd like him to address--many relate to challenges we face in our library work--and enjoyed having him work through them with us.We created a Client Care task force and blog back in the fall and have now instituted a Positively Outrageous Service button so that our staff can commend one another for examples of positively outrageous service. I think we'll share the contributions at our monthly staff meetings and draw one for a complimentary $5 Starbucks gift card. We'll see how that works.The Pitts Library also created the Client Care at Pitts blog to support their discussions. Check it out for more resource links.Thanks, Pat, for sharing this great idea. I often think libraries can learn from other industries, it's great to have this positive example to share. On a personal note, I really appreciate every comment and e-mail I receive here, they inspire me to keep blogging (see this is two posts in one month! A record as of late). So if you feel the slightest twinge of desire to leave feedback, please do so.[...]

E-Mail Pitch Tips: What Not to Do


*updated 4/10/07Sooner or later everyone has to ask for a favor or pitch a complete stranger via e-mail. I’m sure no one does this with the intention of doing it badly, but lately I’ve been on the receiving end of some less than stellar examples of e-mail pitches. So I'm taking this opportunity to jot down some tips to keep in mind when writing a pitch e-mail, or any e-mail really.First, a quick note on the jargon. I’m using the word pitch to cover a lot of possibilities: the sales pitch, the media pitch (where you try to interest a reporter or editor in a story), even the idea pitch. Then there is the favor pitch, for lack of a better term, where you ask someone to do you a favor, pass along some information, provide information to you, etc. There are oodles of tips for media pitches online and they’re worth reading, but many of those tips should apply to ANY e-mail you send.Here are some things to keep in mind:Just say no to attachments! Some people may not mind them, but it's best to play it safe. Don’t send an attachment to someone who doesn’t know you. Attachments take time to download, take time to open in another program, and are used to transmit viruses. Today I received a sales pitch e-mail, but all it had was an attached PDF file and contact information. Now I’m nosy, so I did open it. The PDF was just a list of the company's services. These could have easily been incorporated into the body of the e-mail.State the desired action. A good pitch should include a specific call to action. Are you sending information that you hope this person forward to an e-mail list, publish in their newsletter, or just as an FYI? Include a polite, but specific request. I receive press releases in both my work and personal e-mail accounts that do not include context or introductory information and I'm not sure why I'm receiving them in the first place. These get deleted because I don't have time to figure it out. But if someone sends me relevant information and asks me to pass it along I'll always do so.Get the right information to the right person. Sending unsolicited information to someone who doesn’t want it is spamming them. No one likes spam, so don’t send it. Not everyone will be interested in everything you send, that’s ok, but don’t send things that are completely irrelevant.Be wary of HTML and graphics. This may just be a personal pet peeve, but I feel strongly that HTML e-mails that use multiple typefaces, type sizes, bold, italics, and colors just end up distracting from your message. Any one of these techniques can be used rarely and tastefully to help enhance your message, but remember that less is definitely more in this area.I’m sure you’ve all heard the warnings about how different e-mail software displays these things differently, and some people and organizations have settings turned to not display HTML or images. A nicely designed, well-formatted HTML e-mail is fine, but these are rare. If you must use these techniques, be sure to include a link so recipients can view it online.Keep it simple! If completing your call to action is too complicated or confusing, then your message will be ignored. For example, I recently received an audio card. Usually I won’t open these things, but this one had a good headline on some information I wanted to know and since there was no text, I had no choice but to listen. I clicked and was taken to a Web site. I had to search for the appropriate link and click again, which I did. I was then taken to a page with no cle[...]

Articles Worth Reading In C&RL


I know I'm (at least) a month behind, but if you haven't looked at the February 2007 issue of College & Research Libraries News, there are several articles that may be of interest. And this is news to me, but now you can get the full-text articles online! Cool. When did that happen?!
If you are embarking on creating a marketing plan, you may find the resources in the OhioLINK Marketing Toolkit useful, especially the communication plan workbook and the additional resources.

Do You Believe In Public Access to Public Research?


Excuse me while I stray from the marketing topic, but since I haven't been around to be on or off topic, I figure anything is better than nothing. ;)

I'll be the first to admit I'm far from an expert on open access, but not requiring public access to research funded by public funds just seems silly. If you agree, considering signing the Petition for Public Access to Publicly Funded Research in the United States.

It's open to individuals and organizations of all types. If you are a researcher whose work is funded by the federal government, your signature is especially important since it shows that you want your work to be shared and used.

What's Worse?


When your posts aren't noticed, or when they're noticed for all the wrong reasons? Case in point here. That'll teach me to post embarrassing stories.

Bonus points to anyone who spots all the errors. Oh, I know, it's supposed to be funny. Oh my side.

Noteworthy Links