An ongoing conversation about the changing landscape of public libraries.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Make Your Library Remarkable

Public libraries set the bar really low. In general, we create a boring environment with bland products and mediocre services. But this doesn’t have to be the case, and I think libraries can learn a lot from the business world. I just finished reading Purple Cow: Transform your business by being remarkable, by Seth Godin. What follows is a list of advice from Godin and how I think it can be applied to public libraries.
  • Users are interested in services that are remarkable. Most libraries are boring, bland, stagnant. As Godin says: “Stop advertising and start innovating.” Consistently good service is not enough; libraries have to be innovative. Does your library make people say “wow”?
  • Key to promoting is to get the message to the right users, not the most users. Who are the right users? “Sneezers”: patrons who will spread your message. Example: high school and college students, and nonprofit organizations. Social networking was available for a while, but it didn’t become hot until teenagers helped spread it. Focus on groups that will spread your message!
  • Think about niche markets that are being underserved. Example: students, job seekers, grant seekers, immigrants. Are there gaps in your collection? Can you improve your services to any of these groups?
  • Libraries need to provide services that fascinate people. Example: video games. People either love or hate the idea of video games in libraries. Regardless of their feelings, it gets people talking about public libraries. It generates publicity. What other services can public libraries provide that will really wow people?
  • Be aware of your competition. Know who your competitors are and what they are doing. Competitors might be nearby libraries or libraries that are leaders in the field. Find out what competitors are doing well and what they are not doing well. Use this information to improve the services at your own library. The status quo is not good enough – we have to be surpass the expectations of our users..
  • Be obsessed with creating a great experience. Libraries are always an option, but what can we do to make the public library the first option? How can we make our services remarkable?
For more on these ideas, read Seth Godin’s Purple Cow (Portfolio, 2003).

No comments: