Mabee Library recently started an IM Reference service, and we haven't received the response we had anticipated. We promoted the service through e-mail and other announcements. The same could be said about the library's blogs (which I maintain). I know, via statistics from StatCounter, that people are viewing the blog, but reaction from patrons remains indifferent. I guess this is a two-part discussion: Has anyone had particular success with a type of marketing or promotion? If the indifference can't be blamed on marketing or promotion, have other librarians felt that their patrons just weren't impressed at all by the various Library 2.0 technologies?

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we've gotten more response since we put it on the homepage and people don't need an account. Check it out:

library.oregonstate.edu
You prompted me to go take a look at our library's blog stats and I have to confess, most of the recent readers look non-local. Still, that may not be entirely accurate given that the majority of our community population is seasonal, so some of those may be actual patrons checking up on things from their winter homes. I know I do get comments reassuringly enough when I'm staffing the circulation desk that indicate reading about a new acquisition brought someone in specifically to check it out.

One question I of course ask myself is whether our blog contents are what our patrons want. I don't look at lack of commenting as an especially important measurement here, just because our particular populace has a long history of preferring not to comment and not using commenting in other online settings (we had a comment option in our weekly online newspaper--now out of publication--but it was used only by a few for grandstanding, never for substantive discussion) or in fact in any public "on the record" settings other than perhaps the bar. My sense of our community is they are willing to use the internet for locating information, but their social use remains, except for the kids, strictly within the email realm. I'm about to start petitioning our director for a trial of IM and perhaps a kid-oriented MySpace presence, but I don't have huge hopes of either one generating much traffic, especially very soon. Word of mouth remains our best publicity tool, here.

My latest publicity ploy, however, is one I'm proud of: using that old concept that having tax forms would bring folks into the library who would come back. My 2.0 version is putting up a blog post about tax form resources and instructions, and when people come in looking for paper forms, sending them home not just to download them online, but with the library post url rather than the direct IRS one (so they get those explanations of things like what you need to read a pdf or that the forms are listed in a dropdown). No, most of those folks will, just as with the 1.0 tax forms deal, not necessarily be returning to the site, but at least they'll have the knowledge that it's there and I can hope that a few might look around while they are there. *shrug* It may just be the 2.0 of the old delusion, but I can dream, can't I?
We've had IM Reference at the YS desk for several months. It started off slowly,
but after each school visit (when it gets promoted with bookmarks) the traffic has increased I think you have to expect these things to grow slowly and spread by word-of-mouth.

Our blog is like yours. I know there are people looking, but there is very little commenting
I think that's par for the course for most blogs, so I don't worry too much. I tell myself we're the long tail of library marketing! Just because a huge amount of people aren't using it (yet!) doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile to those who do.
Our reference chat [ AIM:ShipLibrary ] has been picking up steam, but is still sporadic. Often, I get chats from students physically in the building on our loaner laptops (and occasionally on the reference area machines *right next to the desk*) asking very good questions which are more easily answered (and retained) via chat.

I archive my chat logs so I can skim back to see what has been asked by a particular person, if it's a repeat question (which I rarely get) I reference back to the old chat and occasionally copy+paste blocks of the historical conversation.

The most effective way I think we've promoted our reference chat is by having it up *and answering someone elses question* while on the desk. Invariably, when I'm doing this and say to the f2f person "Would it be okay to finish this chat comment before I start to help you?" I am accomodated and they generally also say "Wow, I didn't know you were on chat!" (even though the chat service is promoted top center on the library web site).
I started out on the reference desk, but for the last 12 years have paid my bills doing web interaction design, information architecture, and user experience work.

To your second question first: after the first few minutes, technology doesn't impress people. People come back because you are giving them something valuable. (This isn't to say that being in the stone ages doesn't count against you.)

If we assume that reference is a valuable service and we are offering it as the right price point (free), then why don't we see higher uptake--particularly of newer, more user friendly services?

If I asked my Dad how he would go about getting information, the first thing he would say is, "Go to the library." If I asked my kids the same question, they would say, "Google." If I pressed them, I am not sure they would ever come up with "the library." If this is true of the kids of a librarian, who regularly go to the library, what of the average kid?

We have a mismatch. The audience that think about the library as an information source largely isn't comfortable with the latest technology. Those who would typically use the technology, don't typically think of the library as a first (or second) source of information.

Even this doesn't capture the full problem. If I asked my father's generation, "Why should you go to the library?" They would respond, "because I should be able to find a book there with the information I need." They would not talk about, "because there are librarians there that can help me." *We* think of ourselves as information experts, but the public largely views libraries as warehouses of physical items (most of which you can borrow) and librarians as custodians. They do not see librarians as interacting with even the content of their own library (must less outside content) and certainly don't see them as experts.

The concept of "reference as a service" just doesn't grok for most of the public. Therefore, marketing easier ways to use this thing that they don't understand is a non-starter.

Users *need* what we have to offer and they even know that they need it. What they don't know is 1) that help is available at all--especially free help, 2) that libraries are where they can find that help, or 3) that "reference" is what the help is called.

If I really wanted to market an IM based reference service for a public library, I would probably try something like taking out an ad in the local High School newspaper:

___________________

RESEARCH PAPER? FREE HELP!

Expert Researchers who can:
* help you figure out why your search isn't working!
* help you find articles that your teacher will accept!
* help you get access to things that aren't on the internet!
* go beyond Wikipedia and Google!

NEED FACTS? WE CAN HELP!

Many quick facts, we can just give you--With Valid Citations!

WE ARE THE RESEARCH EXPERTS! WE CAN HELP YOU AND WE ARE FREE!

Call us now:
(123)456-7890
AIM:
YIM:

______________________________

Not perfect, but it tells an audience that needs your service what you are offering, the price you are offering it at, and how to buy. That is frankly a lot better than we usually do in libraries ;-)

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