Monthly Archives: January 2012

Library Communications Journal – a new journal for library communications professionals

Exciting to see this actually happening after the inaugural conference I attended in 2011, with great sessions on digital signage and social media, among others. Now I just have to start brainstorming some article ideas. On that topic, how do you generate and record ideas? I have found, over the years and to my disappointment, that my workplace culture is not one of idea-generation. I’m not sure what it would take to be one — article or book clubs, staff teams built around common library goals, like user experience? — but it’s definitely not here. Now that I’m back into more of a habit of reading blogs, articles & books (one of my professional goals for 2012), I’m struggling with how to keep track of the ideas that I generate upon reading. Would love to hear your ideas!

CFP: Library Communications Journal – a new journal for library communications professionals

As part of the formation of The Association of Library Communications and Outreach Professionals (ALCOP) which is scheduled to be announced on or before February 15th, a new online journal focused on library communications has been established, and we are now seeking articles for the first issue.

Library Communications Journal will be an online quarterly publication available to ALCOP members and will feature practical articles on a diverse range of issues of concern to library communications professionals today. At the helm of the new journal will be Ms. Jordan Strohl, an experienced journalist who has been a contributor to many professional journals focused on communications. Jordan will serve as the Managing Editor and Assistant to the Publisher.

We are seeking articles on such topics as:

•        using social media to promote libraries
•        ideas for outreach to underserved populations
•        innovative program ideas and how to promote them
•        how to motivate the library staff
•        using technology in promoting the library
•        how to plan a great special event
•        best practices for working with the media
•        fostering student engagement with the academic library

… and many other issues relevant to you and how you do your job

We also seek all kinds of “how to” articles as well as book reviews on new texts focusing on library marketing and public relations.

The journal will welcome articles directed at a general audience or specifically for practitioners serving public, academic, or special libraries.

We are seeking articles no more than 2,000 words in length and book reviews should not be more than 400 words. LCJ allows all authors to retain copyright privileges to their work.

To be considered for the inaugural issue of Library Communications Journal, please submit your articles in Word format to Jordan Strohl at no later than February 15, 2012. Please address any questions to Jordan at that same email address.

We hope you will be part of our first issue schedule to be published in the early Spring.




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Recommended (library) marketing books

There’s been a discussion happening over on the academicpr listserv about good (library)  marketing books, so I  thought I’d gather the collected wisdom here as a sort of to-read list for myself and others who are interested in keeping up with this field. I’ve read some but not all of these. I highly recommend Marketing Today’s Academic Library to anyone who does outreach for an academic library and The Accidental Library Marketer if you’re in charge of marketing at an academic, special, or public library. I teach heavily from both of these texts in my online course, “Marketing Your Library.” Steve Krug’s books are essential for anyone getting started in web usability. I read them back when I was in grad school and interning at Credo Reference (then called Xrefer), and I was asked to work with the founder on the first usability test of the site. I also referred back to Krug when spearheading a redesign of the library site at Lafayette College (that was a few years ago, and now we’re once again in the thick of a redesign). No one mentioned Seth Godin’s books, but they always come highly recommended and are definitely on my to-read list.

Marketing Today’s Academic Library: A Bold New Approach to Communicating with Students by Brian Mathews

The Accidental Library Marketer by Kathy Dempsey

Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems by Steve Krug

Don’t Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug

Creating Your Library Brand by Elisabeth Dovcett

Creating the Customer-Drive Academic Library by Jeannette Woodward

Marketing and Public Relations Practices in College Libraries by Anita Lindsay

Bite-sized Marketing : Realistic Solutions for the Overworked Librarian by Nancy Dowd, Mary Evangeliste, and Jonathan Silberman

The Visible Librarian: Asserting Your Value with Marketing and Advocacy by Judith Siess

Listening to the Customer by Peter Hernon and Joseph Matthews

I would also add:

Building a Buzz: Libraries and Word-of-Mouth Marketing by Peggy Barber and Linda Wallace

Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear by Frank Luntz

Once I figure out how to do it, I want to display these visually (help, anyone?).

What are your favorite (library) marketing books?


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Capturing stories

I just started reading a really interesting article that appears in the January 2012 issue of portal: Libraries and the Academy: “Research Papers Have Always Seemed Very Daunting”: Information Literacy Narratives and the Student Research Experience” by Robert Detmering and Anna Marie Johnson. I love narrative.  It personally speaks to me a lot more than numbers. As they write, “In the face of assessment literature on information literacy, student voices have been missing for the most part.”

What I’m especially interested in is how those narratives can then be harnessed to make improvements or how they can be shared to promote services. Project Information Literacy just announced the release of a new “Practical PIL” page on their web site that showcases how schools have been using PIL findings to develop new sites, sources, and materials. I really like it.

Over the past few years, I’ve started a few different interview series–one with faculty about ways in which they are incorporating information literacy into the classroom and another with honors students about the process of researching and writing a thesis. The goal of the information literacy interviews–which are published in our biannual faculty newsletter–is to encourage more faculty to build information literacy into their courses and to collaborate with librarians on information literacy instruction. It’s a lot more powerful for faculty to hear from each other than it is for them to hear from librarians. The honors thesis interviews are also meant to showcase librarians’ work, but also to offer support to thesis students by capturing the stories of those that have gone before them.

I’d love to hear more from others about narratives and stories that you are capturing, and how you’re using them.


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Locking it down

This past semester, we had a rash of laptop thefts. They started earlier in the semester than usual and just didn’t let up. These were not library laptops but student laptops that were being stolen — nice Macintosh laptops. Of course, we were working with our campus public safety office to try to identify any patterns and catch the thief or thieves. And we put flyers up around the library (which kept getting taken down), table tents in our cafe, and notices on our web site and Facebook urging students not to walk away from their belongings. Still, students continued to leave laptops, backpacks, textbooks, calculators, and sometimes cell phones and money unattended! I brought public safety staff in to talk to my library student advisory group, the Library Ambassadors, and we discussed ways that we could all raise awareness about the problem without compromising the undergoing investigation. Students suggested putting a big sign up when you enter the library with statistics about the thefts, but I didn’t think our admissions office would appreciate that during their prospective student tours. I realized that we weren’t going to change behavior with a bunch of flyers and notices…we needed to give students something to do. In an ideal world, we would have lockers in the library, but that’s a long-term goal (we’ve put requests into the capital budget for this in previous years but haven’t gotten anywhere with it).  So I suggested we purchase and circulate laptop locks for students to use with their own computers. We already lend out locks with the library-owned laptops we circulate, so this wasn’t a big stretch. Still, students weren’t so sure their peers would use the locks, and I had my doubts, too, since I’d seen them go unused with the library laptops. However, I just accessed the statistics and am pleased to find that, in the less than three weeks we had these in circulation, the seven laptop locks were checked out twenty-seven times and renewed four times.  A display that I set up at the front of the library helped to drive attention to the new items for the first week. I locked a laptop (admittedly, a busted one even though it shouldn’t have mattered) down to a desk in the lobby with one of the new locks and a sign indicating that they could be borrowed at the circulation desk. It was a roundabout way of advertising the thefts. What I’m particularly pleased to have “locked down” here is a discrete marketing opportunity: I identified a need, found a way to fulfill it and am now able to assess it. I’ll need to return to the campaign in subsequent semesters — if I had more students working for me, I would have had them walk around the library with the locks to encourage students to use them — but for now, I’m really happy with the low-cost and high-return I got on improving library culture.


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Fifteen years from now

Today I had the ultimate outreach experience: I (along with my librarian colleagues) met with our Provost. While she and our Dean meet regularly, the librarians themselves have not had any formal opportunities to meet with this current Provost during her five years in office. I’m interested in how often other librarians have the chance to meet with their provosts and what is on the table during those meetings. Of course, we asked for her support (and not just monetary) for some strategic initiatives, such as digital scholarship and preservation of electronic College records. But to guide our conversation, we also used the document “Redefining the Academic Library: Managing the Migration to Digital Information Services,” which was put out by the Education Advisory Board for chief academic officers. Have you read it yet? It looks like some people involved with putting together that report will be coming to Lafayette in February to present to faculty and administrators, and the librarians will be brainstorming ways to both interact and respond. While there are many pronouncements in there that are “old news” to us, there are also some assumptions that we don’t agree with or that don’t fit our profile. One of the biggest is the assumption of a “collections arms race.” As a liberal arts school and not a research institution, we’ve never been engaged in one; our collections have been built up to support our curriculum, so we don’t have a lot of dead weight we can now get rid of to gain space.

I was reminded during the meeting about my job interview at Lafayette. I was prepared for the question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Instead, I got asked “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” I was so taken aback that I completely stumbled my response. The Provost challenged us librarians today to think 10-15 years out, and I realize I don’t have a lot of practice with this kind of long-range thinking. In fact, I’ve sort of shied away from the “library of the future” conversation that is so common at professional conferences and on listservs these days. But fifteen years from now, my son will be in college, so it’s probably about time I get invested in the question of what his academic library might look like.


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QR Codes

Just sat in on a webinar organized by the LITA Mobile Computing Interest Group. It’s not a group that I follow, but a colleague (thanks, Bob Duncan) alerted me to this:

Handheld Tube Tours:  Increasing orientation engagement with viral videos and mobile devices
– Sean CordesInstruction Services Coordinator, Western Illinois University Libraries

Library orientation tours are helpful, but for many students, if you’ve seen one service point, you’ve seen them all. This presentation describes the practice of incorporating the You Tube viral video format with handheld devices to energize and engage students during library orientation tours. Topics include best practices for creating viral library content, and triumphs and challenges of using handheld devices to support library orientation tours including device availability, connectivity, sequencing content, and pacing the handheld supplemented tour.

I was interested because I organize the library orientation program for first years every Fall. For the past two years, I’ve harnessed students’ phones and used QR codes as part of the program, which is designed as a scavenger hunt. I’ve presented on this and been written up in the Chronicle of Higher Ed’s “The Wired Campus” blog as well as ACRLog. But really, my use of QR codes has been very basic: students collect clues in the form of text or images via QR codes that can then be unscrambled to find a mystery location. It’s an old-fashioned scavenger hunt stepped up just a bit with technology. That’s been fine with me, since part of the message I’m trying to get across to students is that the library is a place where the new and old collide. They’re using their smartphones and QR codes to find an old object that’s usually held in Special Collections: the Marquis de Lafayette’s sword.

I originally thought that introducing QR codes to first years would open up an opportunity for me to start using them in the library, but I haven’t done anything more with them…yet. Sean got me thinking again. Now that I have some iMovie skills, why not create short videos not just for the library web site but for placement around the building? I don’t think I’ll be investing the kind of time that it took him to create Western Illinois’s zombie video, but I can see placing short videos via QR codes around the building to help explain call numbers, locations, and compact shelving, among other ideas. So I’m going to add this as part of my first iMovie video challenge to myself — that it should be a video that is location-specific and can be accessed via a QR code somewhere in the library building.

Sean mentioned that you can track analytics now on QR usage (they do it using a Google URL shortener and Google Analytics) and that’s really appealing. I know there are plenty of other libraries out there using QR codes in their catalogs and around their buildings, but has anyone been tracking their usage? Is the jury still out on whether QR codes are a fad or a useful technology?



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Winter break in academia

It’s winter break in academia, which is prime time for librarians like me to reflect on the past semester, get through the to-do list that built up during busy times, browse & read, experiment with new programs, take time off, meet with colleagues and faculty, file, and start planning for the coming semester. I’m really enjoying stepping out of my day-to-day work to let ideas percolate. I increasingly believe in turning off the computer every once in a while (I do every Saturday) to just let the dust settle. Here’s my (partial) list of things to do or try over the winter break:

  1. Play around with Mendeley. I’m dissatisfied with RefWorks 2.0 and intrigued by Mendeley’s faculty focus (with its pdf ingestion), the social/sharing aspect, as well as the free price tag. I took an online workshop but need to just spend some time playing with it in both its desktop and web versions.
  2. Work on Bytes & Books, the biannual faculty/staff/Friends newsletter I produce. This is an exciting time for me because I’m working with the College’s Communications Division (thanks, Kevin Hardy!) on an image rehaul. I’m excited to share the before-and-after with you when it’s all done.
  3. Prep for my third time teaching “Marketing Your Library” for the online continuing education program at Simmons GSLIS. I would like to tighten up the readings and assignments in weeks 3 & 4, which focus too broadly on emotional branding, designing messages, word-of-mouth marketing, value, and statistics. This involves doing some reading — on my list are Listening to the Customer and College Libraries and Student Culture: What We Now Know and making some tough decisions about paring down.
  4. Plan my first library web site video. Yesterday, I had a tutorial on iMovie with an instructional technologist on campus (thanks, Jason Alley!) to prepare me to conquer a longstanding goal to produce short videos for the library web site. I took some footage of the (alas, empty) library on a Flip camera that my library dean bought me and was surprised to learn how easy  iMovie is. The hard part for me will be coming up with tight ideas and editing the voice and images into something interesting to look at since I’m not a particularly visual person.
  5. Read, read, read, and come up with a schedule to do more reading. How do you fit blog, magazine, article and book reading into your weekly schedule? My pile of old Library Journals has gotten out of hand.

What are you working on over winter break?



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