What Keeps Your Library Customers Coming Back?

Yesterday, I had a short but meaningful Twitter conversation with fellow librarian Aaron Tay about “how much is your library service worth to users.”

http://twitter.com/aarontay

aarontay (aarontay) o

Twitter via kwout

I shared with Aaron a new “service” my library is offering this year—custom loan periods.  I am actively working with teachers to offer extended loan periods for independent reading assignments to help students stay out of “fine” territory and to schedule a day in which they come back to the library to return the books or renew if needed.  In addition, my staff and I are actively asking students who do individual checkouts if they need a longer loan period than the standard two weeks we offer; if they do, we offer three and four week loan periods.  My hope is that students will be able to enjoy their books and then return them without worry of fines by having the extended loan period.  Only time will tell if these new options will entice more students to use the library and help reduce overdues/fines, but I feel the initiative is worthwhile.

My Twitter-sation with Aaron, along with some other readings and blog posts I’ve reflected upon this summer, have had me thinking again today about “customer service” in my library and library program.   What services or special options can my library offer and add to our current menu to attract and retain student use of the library?  To encourage collaboration with teachers?   What matters to them?

A dream I had in an afternoon nap today somehow reflected these musings.  I dreamed that I was on a trip back from Florida with family and Tammy, our media clerk.  In the dream, we stopped at a convenience store that was a major tourist attraction in the Southeast because it offered quality gas and other standard store fare, but it also gave customers the opportunity to sit in a royal blue Corvette and enjoy a high tech simulated driving experience inside the store.   In my dream, I marveled at how people came from all part of the Southeast to shop at the store and “ride” in the Corvette.    While I realize the content of my dream borders on nonsensical, the principle is perfectly logical—offer your customers services they can’t refuse and that they love—-and they will  keep them coming back.

Two blog posts I have read this evening reinforce my thinking about how I can continue to market my library brand more effectively.  The first blog post, “Brands That Matter” from Seth Godin, offers two important questions:

  1. Do I want people to interact with me and my brand in unexpected ways (as opposed to just quietly consume it)?
  2. When they interact, do I overwhelm people with delight worth remarking about?
I think these are two important questions we as librarians should be able to answer with a resounding yes.  If our response is only lukewarm, negative, or indifferent, then we have some thinking and retooling to do.  I am committed to finding “unexpected ways” to have student interact (think participatory librarianship!) with the materials, services, and staff in my library.   In the next few weeks, I’ll continue to think about how I can innovate at all points of contact with our teachers and students to make our increase the worth of our library and to up the level of conversations we have with our teachers and students.
A second blog post, “A ‘Brand’ New Perspective for Libraries” by Kim Cofino, offers some practical and do-able tips for library design and marketing your “products” (in this case, books are the focal point) from library design expert Kevin Hennah. As the journey of Library Remix continues in my library, my staff and I will use these guiding principles to make sure we our physical space and placement of materials reflect these effective design strategies.    Kim leaves us with this thought-provoking question:
If retail strategies have so much to offer libraries, I’m now left wondering, what do popular and “addictive” websites, like Facebook, have to offer schools trying to shape their online presence?
While Kim’s question is directed toward a general school virtual presence, I will be thinking about this question in relation to my library’s virtual presence.   Am I effectively use our social media presence to reach students and teachers?  How do I assess that?  And if I find I am not effectively reaching students and teachers with our virtual presence, how do I make it more effective?
How would you answer these questions for your library program?  Your musings and ideas are welcomed here!

My First Effort at Presentation Zen

Thanks to the incredibly gifted Kim Cofino, I finally took the leap and created a presentation using the principles of “Presentation Zen” outlined by Kim in her wonderful post from January 2009.  After stumbling on one of her presentations in SlideShare through a friend from Twitter, I was in awe and subscribed to her blog.  Consequently, I came across her post and decided I wanted some presentation zen, too!  If you have seen Kim’s work, you know how inspiring and talented she is; I also appreciate her being so generous in sharing all her pearls of wisdom in her blog post on principles of presentation zen.

Our district has two  technology integration programs called Teach 21 and Media 21 (media specialists).  One of the courses, “Introduction to Information Literacy”, is taught by three other media specialists and me.  We have been offering the course for about a year now, and like any other class, we are constantly fine tuning it.  I decided for my night that I would try to use a “Presentation Zen” style PowerPoint to facilitate discussion.

As Kim suggested, I decided to create a storyboard with three main “areas” of concentration.  My job was to focus on the concept of research pathfinders, GALILEO (our state’s virtual library), and NoodleTools; I also included a small subsection on emerging sources of authority and social scholarship.

The most difficult part of creating the presentation was finding the images.  I started with the Creative Commons search Kim suggested, but eventually changed over to the advanced search feature in Flickr to search photos with specific types of Creative Commons licenses.   Because I had such a wealth of images to use, it took much longer than I anticipated to find the “just right” image for each idea.  In addition to those images, I found a wonderful selection of images within Microsoft Clip Art (try the live search)  I was sure to provide a photo attribution for the Flickr images on each slide as well.

Additionally, I incorporated this YouTube video to help frame the idea of students developing personal learning networks for research; the video is embedded in the SlideShare presentation.

After taking all of her suggestions to heart, I worked on it for about seven hours into Monday evening, and I then worked on it through the wee small hours of the morning into early Wednesday.  It was a labor of love, but it was well worth the effort!  I really enjoyed the creative process of blending ideas and images together, and while I see a few changes I would make, I am really proud and pleased with how the presentation looks.  I definitely recommend the “Presentation Zen” approach to anyone who may be preparing an upcoming presentation to a group even if it is more instructional in nature like mine.

I did supplement the main PowerPoint with a course page on SharePoint and a shorter PowerPoint designed to be more of a handout on the course page (which is not available to the public at this time….it is housed on our district’s SharePoint training site…I’m sorry you can’t see it for now!).

My links for this course are available at http://delicious.com/theunquietlibrary/informationliteracy_day2 .

I plan to continue using this model for future presentation, and I am getting ready to tweak an existing presentation to convert it to this style.   Many thanks to Kim Cofino for so generously sharing her insights and advice with all of us as I think this mode is going to help me create and deliver more effective presentations!