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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Marketing for Digital Libraries: Kathy's Magazine Interview

There's a new magazine out there called Digitale Bibliotheek, which is Dutch for Digital Library. It was just launched in March, and I was honored to be interviewed for the second issue, which came out in April.

The headline / subhead translate to: Competition Is Tough; Building a Website Is Not Enough.
The descriptive paragraph on top means roughly this: The arrival of large bookstores and the Internet have ended the era where libraries were the only place to go for information. Therefore it's time for real marketing, says American marketing expert Kathy Dempsey.

Note that, in the second picture, I'm sporting my Super Librarian shirt with the URL, in order to build some interest in NJ libraries and to drive some traffic to the website! It's like a double-edged promotional sword. :-)

For those of you who can't read Dutch, you can translate the Digitale Bibliotheek site by pasting its URL into Google's Translator, where you would then get this page. The translation isn't perfect, but you can click on the link under the cover (top right) to see the whole TOC, masthead, and editor's notes.

The woman who started this magazine, Karolien Selhorst, is a delightful, accomplished Belgian woman who also works at the Public Library of Vlissingen in The Netherlands as the Digital Library/Knowledge Manager. She blogs at The Flemish Librarian (mostly in Dutch) and speaks at various library events as well. Karolien has arranged for DiB to be a content partner with Computers in Libraries magazine (which I used to edit), and so DiB has some text in Dutch and some in English. You can find her full profile on LinkedIn (in English!).

While the full text of my interview is not online, I'll give you the main points:

++ Most US librarians aren't good at marketing; they confuse it with promotion and don't do the real marketing that's based on customer research.

++ All info pros need to educate their customers about the differences between authoritative info and what they find on the open web.

++ "If you build it, they will come" does not apply to library websites. Just having a site is not enough; you need to work hard on its Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and on making it the sort of site that your potential patrons actually want to use. You're competing with the likes of Amazon and Barnes & Noble, which have very customer-driven websites.

++ You should have a written marketing plan that spells out how you're going to publicize your website and all your digital offerings. Promote your digital library via the applications that your target audience uses, if you want them to ever find it. (This means you need to start with good customer research and a solid understanding of their wants and needs.)

These are just a few points from the interview... but I was glad to share my view of US libraries and to help educate European readers about true marketing. Euro librarians, especially the Dutch, view a lot of things differently than we do, and it's always valuable to exchange ideas and best practices. (Roy Tennant just wrote about this in his blog for LJ.) Thanks, Karolien, for allowing me that wonderful opportunity!

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