New Marketing Trends

Marketing Ideas for Non-Profits and Libraries

The M Word helps librarians learn about marketing trends and ideas.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

How do you see the future of libraries?

Welcome! I've posted this blog out to libraries today so am featuring a post in which I think you could all have fun participating. Please take a few minutes to make your comments. If you have topics you want to make sure I cover in the coming weeks, let me know that as well.

Have you been following the showdown of Google vs. Microsoft? To catch up, read NY Times reporter Steve Lohr’s article. Simply put the clash is the result of the continuing overlap of desktop computing and Internet services and software. “Microsoft, of course, is the reigning powerhouse of computing and Google is the muscular Internet challenger. On each side, the battalions are arrayed: executives, engineers, marketers, lawyers and lobbyists. The spending and competition are escalating daily.”

There are plenty of reasons to follow this clash but for librarians this morning’s article by Lohr is food for thought about the future of our business. He covers the history of two corporate battles from the past, mass-market retailing and automobiles, and points out that historically the defining battle was for talent. What caught my attention was that he noted, “… even more significant, those who came out on top, judging from history, had two more specific attributes. They were the companies, according to business historians, that proved able to adapt to change instead of being prisoners of past success.”

Does that sound like the debate we are all having as we discuss the future of libraries? Libraries are in the process of redefining ourselves from repositories of books to ever-evolving community and information centers but according to OCLCÂ’s study
, Perception of Libraries and Information Resources 2005, the public seems to still cling onto our old image believing libraries are synonymous with books not information. A great conversation would either be to talk about the people we see as our great talent in the library world or how you or your library have shed the chains of the past and moving forward to the future. Have fun- share your thoughts! If you don't want to write your comments here, e-mail them to me directly: -Nancy

Categories: "Trend spotting"


Harrlynn said...

And as a librarian, I woefully cling to the idea that doctors write prescriptions and lawyers work with a variety of legal matters. You shouldn't sound so dismayed that people still cling to the old image that libraries are places primarily responsible for the collection and maintenance of books, which are not, as you say, "the chains of the past," but rather our primary and distinguishing feature, despite the fact that we dabble in the lending and dissemination of other media that may or may not contain what you view as information.

Information is everywhere. Free access to all kinds of various media and materials, including and especially books, are at the library.

Nancy Dowd said...

Posted for Steve:

I think libraries cannot define themselves generally, but have to consider what their niche is within their particular community and within their technological, fiscal and personnel environment. I may have missed a couple things there, but really, my point is that some libraries may be a perfect match for their local situation by being "about books". Others may be able to become a civic hub, a partner with local governments, non-profits, schools, universities or businesses. The key is to scan those environments, find out what your community wants and needs, and set out to occupy some indespensible purpose for the community.
Does that mean being about books? Maybe. It may also be about something else. Those who get stuck defining themselves rigidly according to some normative criteria risk losing touch with the interests and priorities of their communities.

Iris said...

I think that's exactly the point, Nancy/Steve. We need to play to our users needs as well as to our own strengths. Unfortunately, I think the idea of the user gets lost in a lot of our planning, especially if we fall back on the idea that if we offer a service that no one else does, people will come. But figuring out what users need is only half the battle because then we need to figure out how do meet those needs WELL, which means playing to our strengths.

As a side note, I think that books will be one of the main cornerstones of our library lives for at least the foreseeable future. But this doesn't mean that we can't also incorporate other things into our conception of the library, or that we have to manage the books in exactly the same way for all eternity. We're in a both/and culture, so why not play that up to the best of our ability?

Steve said...

Being a place for books is something I just take as a given at this time, not only because I think the medium has not worn out its usefulness, but because I am pretty sure our public has a strong sense that books are a major part of our business. That's gotta be worth something...

But I also worry that getting stuck in the mindset of "being about books" can be dangerous. Libraries can be about a lot of things, depending on the community- a third place, a wireless hotspot, a source for free meeting space, a research center, etc.- and I need to be open to whatever the community tells me is important to them.

It is my professional responsibility to maintain an operation that understands the state of the art and that is responsive to trends in information technology. Those trends influence patrons' expectations of what our services ought to be and how they should be designed. My job is to respond as appropriately as possible to satisfy those expectations, which requires a solid grounding in the profession and a well rounded perspective on the community and where our organization fits in.

Harrlynn said...

steve, how is any of what you've written not entirely obvious?