(L-R) Misty Jones, Bobbi Newman, Gary Shaffer, Larry Magid
The closing panel, Future Focus, was composed of
Misty Jones, Director, San Diego Public Library;
Bobbi Newman, Community Outreach & Engagement Specialist, National Network of Libraries of Medicine;
Gary Schaffer, Director, Library & Information Management Programs, University of Southern California; and
Larry Magid, Technology Analyst, CBS News and Columnist, San Jose Mercury News and Forbes.com
The panel was moderated by Jane Dysart, IL Program Chair, who asked the panelists a series of questions (shown in italics below). Here is an edited transcript of the conversation.
What in your past experience has influenced you to think about the future?
Larry: Fake news is a symptom of a lack of information literacy. The ability to verify and parse information takes a village, which it cannot make out of thin air. You need verifiable data. Sometimes I need help, and I have relied on libraries for that. It is easy to make a mistake and get the wrong area, which is one reason why it is so hard to stop fake news. You have a right to use your perspective, but hopefully you are basing it on a set of facts.
Gary: When I first came to libraries I saw marketing opportunities everywhere. For example, we are not promoting performers, but we are advertising that we have their works. Tap into the creative part of your brain to solve problems.
Bobbi: Coming to conferences has been important over the years for me to make sure I was not operating in a silo. Talking to people from different backgrounds or in different-sized libraries is important to get different viewpoints. Libraries operate in diverse communities and are part of them, which is what makes them unique.
Misty: I did not go to the library as a child, but went into library and information science because it looked attractive. When I started working in a library, I loved it from the start because I realized that we do change people’s lives. How dare you ask if we’re relevant; do you realize what libraries do for the community? It is my personal mission to never have anyone ask the relevance question again. Always be a vital part of the community and be a part of a vital service. Redefine what the community needs to be.
Tell us about metrics.
Misty: We have a program called “do your homework at the library” and hire teachers to be point people in the center. We got a lot of push-back from council members, so we gave them a year’s worth of metrics to show that we had 5,500 kids using the program in the first year for 40,000 hours. We tracked how many grade levels they went up and the major subject that they studied. Now parents are also taking classes in some libraries, so the program became a vital community resource.
What combination of learning, technology, and collaboration will spark innovation and creativity?
Bobbi: I don’t think technology is the solution to social problems; it is just a tool. That is where libraries are so important. Collaboration and learning will be key. Everybody wants librarians to help them. You have the keys to your organizations. Libraries fail at this because they don’t partner.
Larry: Technology does not create problems either, but it can amplify them. Here are things that are starting to be used in libraries and will have a large impact on social problems and the acquisition of knowledge: virtual and augmented reality, Amazon Echo, and the amazing things that artificial intelligence is going to unleash. Properly managed technology can help us solve our human problems.
Bobbi: Those who need the Echo the most won’t be able to afford it.
Gary: We are offering programs on collaboration to identify what the community is trying to accomplish. We are looking for ROI. Identify your partner’s mission andoffer the library’s help to solve their problems. Build evaluation into this.
Have you seen some interesting or exciting partnerships?
Misty: Not all partners are the right ones. For a long time we jumped at the chance to partner with anyone. Now we are picky who we partner with. We just started a partnership with the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) Extension program. We are paying attention to what is going on in the community, the workforce development, and the education kids are getting so they can be recruited by companies in the area and talent does not have to be imported. We are the educational place for everyone. Who can we work with? People want to work with libraries because they have access to the entire community.
Gary: We also have a high measure of trust.
Bobbi: A library in Indiana is partnering with the Alzheimer’s association to help people give end of life care. It launched a series of programs and provided meeting space.
Gary: We entered into a partnership with Starbucks and installed the first Starbucks in a public library in the US. People were hired to work in the Starbucks shop but were still library employees. All revenue after royalties went to the library. That is a partnership that makes the library relevant on many levels. A different type of person—those oriented to customer service—applied for those jobs and became a recruiting track for new employees. Starbucks wants vivacious and outward-focused people and so do libraries.
What do you think will be most challenging for us in the next year or two and what do we need to deal with those challenges?
Misty: Our biggest challenge is going to be how to remain relevant. We are competing for people’s time and attention. We must make the library an experience and tie into the community. Stop telling them what is best for them and let them tell you that.
Bobbi: Make money, countering people who think libraries will become extinct, and make people understand what libraries do and how they function. But the most important thing is to realize that not everything that matters can be measured. The outcomes matter more.
Gary: Improve the perception of libraries going away. Some libraries have 10,000 people/day walking in. Talk about what libraries do. The perception is that a library is just a book warehouse and all information is on the internet. Educate people. Who is the problem: the city council that defunds the library or the staff that did not tell them what the library does? Always have a presentation ready to go. Talk to funders—they are required by the IRS to give away some money, and you are helping them! But don’t take money for things that are not in your strategic plan.
Larry: The reason why I am a journalist who writes about libraries is that I have been to this conference for years. Talk to the journalists in your community because they can get the work out. This community has a huge public relations challenge to let the world know how relevant they are. You must monetize by getting the word out.
Misty: Shove the library down people’s throats so they understand what we are doing.
Gary: Shove it down with kindness, keep fighting the good fight, and don’t get upset with people when they don’t understand. Find something that makes the library relevant for them. Look for hooks of relevance.
Larry: Be thankful you are not in my business: 47% of the population thinks the media makes stuff up. Realize that what you do is critically important and you are more relevant than you have ever been. Make sure that the libraries are put forward as bastions of truth and light. Form alliances with anybody who will listen and understand the vital role that the library plans.
Bobbi: Libraries are powerful partners in your community. You are a big deal—act like it.
This panel addressed the problem of promoting libraries through Google searches. Trey Gordner, Founder and CEO of Koios, thought libraries could use some digital marketing. There are two ways to appear in search results. There are two ways to appear in search results; organic search results through “search engine optimization” (SEO) or though paid advertising also known as “search engine marketing” (SEM). When you type in a search term into Google, you can get one or both type of results.
Organic search results from SEO gives searchers what Google thinks at that moment is the best possible result for their query at the top of the first page.Google looks at over 200 ranking factors which fit into four categories:
Linking (are you linking well to all of your pages, who are the people linking to you?),
Content (are you creating fresh content that’s interesting to visitors?), and
Engagement (how often do people come, how much time do they spend on your site? Are you answering a searcher’s need).
Paid search results from SEM are not just a function of who is the highest bidder. Google gives a quality score to each bidder.Every company wants to get to the top so Google adds in a quality score component and then creates an “Ad Rank” (quality score times bid score) which governs where your ad appears. People do actually click on ads.
For non-profit organizations, paid search is not expensive. In fact, libraries can get $10,000/month in ad credits from Google with their AdGrants program.
Corinne Hill, Director, Chattanooga Public Library, was Library Journal Librarian of the Year in 2014. She will not buy databases or books that people do not use. The library is presented as a free alternative to Google. They get over 100 views/month with a 9% click-through rate. The library signed up for Ad Sense because it is a marketing tool and helps the library get in front of people’s eyes. They put the logo everywhere they can. One example of a successful service added to the library was to become an agent for passport services. The ad for this service gets 1,500 views/month and 75 to 100 clicks/month.
What does library advertising mean for stakeholders? The Friends group got a grant, and advertises for book sales, etc. which helps to keep the customers they have and brings in new ones. Advertising provides brand recognition. For staff, nobody is complaining about being overloaded with work. It does take some commitment. Patrons have pride in being a community member.
John Andrews, Internet Services Librarian, Washoe County (NV) Library System, used to tell his students not to click on banner ads at the top of search hit lists, but he had to change his tune a bit when he saw an instant correlation between people seeing the ads and using the services. 25% of usage for the year happened during the week the library’s service was advertised on Google. An ad for resumé help got 1,500 views/month, and there was a 33% increase in use after one month.
We can deliver a service to people if they understand that it is offered in the library, but you need to be focused on what you are offering.
Promotion of materials is important. For example, people know that libraries have books, but people want e-books, so you need to get the word out that e-books are in the library, not just on Amazon. People want a workaround to paying for e-books–that’s what the library does! The goal is to get both organic and paid hits through Google. It is a challenge to get books to show up in results when people are looking for things in a subject area, but with Ad Grants, that is possible. And the vendors do all the back-end work. The value of Google is to get to people who are not using the library yet.
Get the library into local conversations. We can create a curated list of similar books, show users additional content, and be relevant very quickly.
If someone is not a library user, they can sign up for a card right from the search results. Frequently, users do not use the library website but they are big Google users. Ad Grants helps overcome this.
David Lee King discussed using your data to figure out new ways to connect with your customers (which is called market research in the business world). This is not weird!
Use your data
GIS mapping will show you characteristics of the library’s service area. For example, here is a map of the county served by David’s library (the city of Topeka, KS is the green area at the center).
Library Service Area
77% of inner city people are library customers. The 25,000 people living in rural areas of the county will not drive to the library so they do not have library cards, which suggests that maybe a bookmobile stop would be appropriate for them.
The library’s website can reveal data about library visits. Almost 40% of website visits to the Topeka library are from mobile devices. Libraries need to make sure their websites work responsively. 77% of our population are smartphone owners; 51% own a tablet. This is happening now in your library; are you prepared for that?
Most social media platforms have some type of analytics that you can use to measure usage.
People data: who visited the library? (Topeka has about 3,000 visitors/day.) An iBeacon stuck on a tree can measure traffic going into the building. (Some libraries use Wi-Fi signals or webcams for this purpose.)
Welcome signs are a good way to thank your customers,and an email newsletter is a way to do it digitally. If they don’t use their card much, they can be sent an email inviting them back.
Ways to make strong partnerships
Librarians can help organizations facilitate their meetings, which can help the library in its strategic planning.
Hold facilitation meetings around town and share what you are doing with the community, get input.
Help train candidates for local office. Give them basic social media training to communicate with their constituents.This gives them communication with the library and can be an advantage when they get elected because they are a friend of the library.
Assist in the planning stages for makerspaces, etc.—they are one of the places in the community where innovation starts.
Use partnerships when it is necessary to scale up the library. (Community connections were one reason why the Topeka Library was Library of the Year last year.)
Use technology tools
Install self-checkout machines to avoid lines at checkout desks. (Even less tech savvy customers liked them.).Give people something to do while they are standing in line by putting a book display near the checkout station.
Make the catalog social. Get Bibliocommons to show recently reviewed materials, get comment from library staff members, follow staff members in the catalog and see what they like. Allow readers to comment and share their opinions of books.
Put the library on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, and Instagram so they can interact with the community.
Digital inclusion projects: put books and checkout stations in homeless shelters. Help build a computer lab in a community center.
Create a Library HotSpot like the New York Public Library did for people to get internet access at home.
Why should we do these things? Because of our customers.
[Call For Speakers] Start planning your schedule at this year's #InternetLibrarian and submit a proposal by the 10th of April, to speak in our online event on October 17-19, 2023! http://ow.ly/vvX830suyvk
[Call For Speakers] Start planning your schedule at this year's #InternetLibrarian and submit a proposal to speak on October 17-19, 2023 at our online event! Deadline for submissions is April 10th! http://ow.ly/WzqB30suyvj
@INNOV8game #CILDC keynote on #Library #Communities, #AI & Possible Futures was terrific! Excited to hear a new book, parenting guide to AI, coming soon! #Internetlibrarian @ALALibrary @culc_cbuc @ARLnews @IFLACPDWL
Look for our director @cmairn at #CILandILConnect next month. He will be highlighting the educational possibilities using @spatialxr and other #VR technologies. More info at https://pheedloop.com/IL2021/site/home/.