Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Extreme Makeover: Library Edition - now online

OCLC's Community site now links to talks from the OCLC Extreme Makeover Symposium. You can also access its reports and Advocacy resources here too. For details, see It's All Good.


Anonymous said...

Interesting article, but no real solutions. I know as a NextGen hospital librarian, I have a hard time convincing nurses that the library is more than books, or can be used for anything other than course-related research. But I don't have much power beyond my institution to change that brand. As long as there is an old-school librarian out there somewhere refusing to update the library brand beyond books, my efforts are in vain. I wish ALA and other library organizations would work harder to update the "library" brand and work to distance themselves from old school libraries and librarians. I think it would be a better use of my fees, anyway. What do others think?

Jill said...

This is a terrific point, and one that I've struggled with myself. I'm working on an upcoming post that may address a piece of this, but I agree that the "big" library brand that's out there does not seem to be managed as a whole. Each library has its own leadership, goals, personality, patron base, etc. and their branding strategies (if they have them) are equally varied. This is just the opposite of leading national brands that maintain their identity no matter where they are and throughout the entire organization. Plus, as you point out, the library brand as books model has been out there for so long and is so embedded in our culture that it presents a daunting marketing challenge. On the positive side, most people at least have some kind of an understanding of what the concept of a library means to them, which is more than most brands can say. From what I've learned and observed, branding is one of those marketing tasks that must come from the top down, not the bottom up, and that poses a problem for libraries. Libraries aren't McDonalds where one is just like the next in terms of look, feel and products. Maybe it's ok that each library has its own brand identity, and maybe, in fact, there's no alternative. Or, maybe there are exceptions to the top-down rule, and if a critical mass of libraries achieves a less-traditional brand, the "big" brand will evolve too. I'm very glad you posed this problem and I know I'm going to keep thinking on it!

Alice said...

Hey Jill and NextGen,
Rock on! is all I have to say. As someone who spends most of her waking--I mean, working--hours thinking about libraries and brands and the intersection of the two, I think the research totally shows that the library brand has potential to be more than books.

The good news is, librarians as a professional group of people LIKE to work together. It's in the DNA.

So with cooperation coming as second nature, the idea of banding together to transform ourselves is a powerful one.
One thing's for sure, as you say: it's gonna take ALL of us to change people's perceptions. And it won't happen overnight. But it WILL happen, I have full confidence!

Jill said...

Thanks, Alice! Your enthusiasm is really inspiring and that positive attitude is going to be the most important factor in changing people's minds about what the library means to them. Thanks for reminding us of "Librarian Power" (never to be underestimated! :) ).

Norma said...

Librarians live and work in a closed loop, whether they are the old-school variety or the NextGen. I asked the periodicals librarian of our Public Library (town of 40,000, suburban, primarily white, Christian) if we could have more than one Christian periodical in the collection. No. After researching my request, she decided that they are not reviewed, not indexed, and therefore, would not be purchased.

Now what self-respecting library publication would ever list an evangelical Christian magazine so that it could be indexed so that it could be selected? It's not going to happen, so the community will just gradually discontinue using the library.

George said...

I'm a contrarian on this one. I don't think we should be trying to escape the book brand. How many institutions have the sort of public recognition that libraries have? Just because we aren't happy with the brand doesn't make it wrong.

In my view we need to be working not to escape but to extend the library brand. We are...books and a comfortable place to study; books and videos and other forms of entertainment to expand your consciousness; books and author programs so you can enjoy your books even more; books and a fountain of ideas for how to get your preschooler ready for kindergarten by reading to her.

Changing a brand in the mind of the public is next to impossible. (When was the last time any of us had a "New Coke?") The martial arts principle is that one should never resist force but should instead follow the flow of that incoming energy. How can we build on this well known and respected brand, instead of trying to avoid it?

Jill said...

Your points are well-taken, George, and certainly give us a lot to think about. I agree that we should not/cannot ditch the library=books brand and that there may be ways to use that brand equity to extend to other associations, as you say. From an academic librarian point-of-view, I do find the library=books brand to be somewhat lacking, since we strive to support scholarly research with electronic journals, databases, specialized services, etc. I’ve often found that the strong association of libraries with books is an obstacle to students doing research who don’t think beyond books to consider what other resources we have available that are most appropriate for their work. Some even tell me that they dislike books and will only use them if their instructors require it! While difficult, modifying perceptions is possible and I’m a fan of the idea of inviting patrons to help shape the brand (which they do anyway).

I think you may be interested in a previous post about an article called “Marketing Malpractice,” which discusses how to extend a brand without weakening it based on jobs people want done for them. If you can get a copy of it, it's definitely worth a read!