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Survival Lessons for Libraries: Staying Afloat

This month’s Searcher Magazine has a made a featured article “Survival Lessons for Libraries Staying Afloat in Turbulent Waters—News/Media Libraries Hit Hard”  by James Matarazzo and Toby Pearlstein available free online.

There has been quite a bit written about the fate of newspapers (and magazines) and the staffs that support them with respect to creating new publishing business models. Weaning the industry away from a model based on print advertising alone in order to arrive at a successful internet-based business model seems to be the overriding challenge.

As recently as January 2010, the Financial Times reported that Alan Rushbridger, the editor of The Guardian, “described the financial effects of the internet on his newspaper … [as] sometimes quite scary.” 1 In discussing the viability of pay walls such as the FT itself now uses and will be implemented by The New York Times in 2011, the author points out that even if only a small percent (6% is quoted from an Outsell, Inc. study) of U.S. readers will pay for online news sites, this number alone could mean profitability and could provide enough data about subscribers to enable more targeted and therefore more sellable online advertising. 2 The kicker, if you will, is that specialized business publications like the FT and the Wall Street Journal have a better chance of survival because their business focus draws corporate customers. For the general newspapers to be saved, they will have to “take the plunge” and find a new way of doing business.

Read the full article at  Survival Lessons for Libraries: Staying Afloat in Turbulent Waters—News/Media Libraries Hit Hard.

Two Story Tellers Converse About Libraries of the Future

Paul and Erik talk libraries

Paul and Erik talk libraries

Paul Holdengraber proved to be witty, engaging, and feisty when he interviewed Vint Cerf at the opening keynote. On Day 2 he was the interviewee and was even more insightful and delightful. I talked to Erik Boekesteijn before the start and he was a man on a mission to elicit Paul’s story about libraries and engaging people—how public conversations can make libraries “irresistible.”

(While Jane has already posted the archived video of the 45-minute conversation, I just want to convey some highlights and key quotes here. Permanent link: www.ustream.tv/channel/ILlive)

Paul, as director of public programs at the New York Public Library, is founder, curator, and voice of “LIVE from the NYPL.” He pours his energies into creating stimulating programs to bring books, ideas, and people together. His role is to make the Library’s lions roar—to “oxygenate” the library. People ask him how he comes up with his ideas for conversations in the library.

“I’m porous—I spend a lot of time listening to people. I spent a lot of time at the dinner table arguing with my father. I bring people together—and have the library become a place for exchange of ideas.”

What an eclectic and knowledgeable guy! He told Erik, “I believe in the friction of dialog. If you ask me any difficult questions, I will relish them.”

He basically hitchhiked around the world and spent an enormous amount of time in his childhood exploring with words. He’s not a librarian. He taught at many universities, worked at the Getty Museum, and began a program at the Institute for Art and Cultures at the Los Angeles County Museum. He was then recruited by NYPL.

First he changed the name – from Public Education Programs, PET, to Live from the NYPL. He actively worked to gain a younger audience. He changed the program times so people could come after work. He changed the format. He works to make the programs surprising, entertaining, exciting—it’s a happening. While he says it’s a struggle to pull it off every day, it must look effortless and easy. “You have to be passionate about what you do. Get to know your audience.”

He brings very large groups together – and makes the extremely private experience of reading public. He calls it “cognitive theater.” He brought Norman Mailer together with Gunter Grass. The program also has an artist in residence – Flash Rosenberg – she does absolutely wonderful, witty “conversation portraits.” Check it out at www.nypl.org/LIVE.

The push to provide gaming and popular activities, as espoused by Erik and others, strikes him as somewhat desperate – why should the library give young people the same as what’s on the street just to get them into the library? Give them something new and exciting.

Paula J. Hane

ITI News Bureau Chief

Pecha Kucha—Conversation Face-Off

 

The program explained that Pecha Kucha is Japanese for the sound of conversation. The program indicated the ground rules for this fast-paced series of presentations. Each panelist had just 6 minutes and 40 seconds to take a stance about some strategy or technique in libraries. As Greg Schwartz described it – this was “presentation magic.” As Rebecca said, the format forced them into clarity.

 

Rebecca Jones on planning frameworks: “I learned about planning from my farmer Dad and from Peter Drucker – 0.0 technology dudes.” They showed an ability to bring clarity to planning—it’s about knowing your current situation is, knowing what you want. Clarity on what, who, how, why and where. Drucker’s advice came from his book, The Five Most Important Questions. Be clear on the answers to those questions. Why do plans get derailed? Get those “buts…” out of the picture, she declared! Practicality, planning, and persistence pays off.

 

Stephen Abram on trendspotting (weak signals from the future) – how do we know what is coming next? He predicted our crappy economy a year and a half ago when he analyzed the signals. Which is affecting the election more – the debate and ads … or the YouTube video, “I can see Russia from my porch.” YouTube of course. In the 2008 Olympics, Yahoo got higher ratings than NBC. Adults are now playing online games—definitely a signal of the times. Are you ready for mobile? Phones are replacing laptops (oh, oh…).

 

David Lee King on “The Librarian… Is the Product.” We usually don’t see librarian and product in the same sentence. Libraries really do have a lot of products. What product should we be selling? Amazon sells books better than we do. Search results come from Google. Maybe we should sell ourselves—and promote ourselves—better than we do now. “We are the value-added super heroes behind the stuff.” Google may answer the question, but librarians IMPROVE the answer. We’re the ones that hold the library together. YES!

 

Nancy Dowd—“A Marketing Manifesto, A Foundation for Planning”

I will call them by name if I can—client, patron, customer… (member is better, according to a follow-up conversation with Dowd and Abram)

I will be transparent in my marketing – honest conversation. I will listen.

I will no longer support the silence of silos – call someone if they’re doing it better.

I will support innovation. Try, fail, try again and again…

I will make demands on my vendors. If their products aren’t easy to use, bye, bye.

I will honor all choices of communication tools

I will embrace diversity – even Republicans in my library!

I will act GREEN.

I will find the “me” in my library – be authentic

I will measure the right stuff – am I reaching people?

I will market to voters – so I can get funding

I will tell stories – stories that will matter and create an impression

 

Nancy was voted the best/favorite presenter by the audience.

Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief, Information Today, Inc.