Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Summing up Solinet

I'm back after a trip to Atlanta last week to speak at Solinet's Annual Membership Meeting, where I was fortunate enough to meet some of the most encouraging, friendly librarians in the field.  My sincerest thanks to my colleagues for such a warm welcome and an excellent program!

While I couldn't attend every session, there were some that I think you librarian-marketers would have enjoyed.  Dr. Richard Madaus delivered his popular "Staying Ahead of the Technology Curve" talk.  The biggest trends have to do with user-based meta-tagging and what he calls "personalization on steroids."  Furthermore, librarians will need to adapt their Web sites to accommodate formats for small handheld devices like cell phones.  Dr. Madaus made the point that it's not about the technology, it's about people, and that, no, technology is not a threat to books, as evidenced by the numerous Barnes & Nobles/Borders that regularly crop up.  

I was most intrigued by George Needham's (OCLC) presentation on the Perceptions report, which he briefly summarizes on It’s All Good.  The bottom line seems to be that patrons want to be in control of information and librarians should not function as gatekeepers of that information, but rather as educators.  Patrons pursue what George calls "free-range learning," or self-education.  Librarians, then, ought to facilitate this style of learning by providing ample educational materials and learning opportunities.  George also spoke to a major report finding – the library-as-books brand.  He notes that most businesses would kill for such a strong brand association and that rather than try to change this strong brand (which he says is nearly impossible to do), librarians should embrace it as their most vital asset.  He argues that instead of focusing on revamping the brand, librarians should extend it to other service offerings.  This discussion has come up before here on LM, and it’s still one I struggle with a bit.  I do agree that trying to change a brand is a fraught with difficulties and can quickly become a disaster, and there's certainly nothing wrong with being associated with books, but I do wonder if the book brand will prove to be a limitation rather than a boost for libraries in the long run.  I have a lot to learn about brand management before I can develop an informed opinion on this, but I would be extremely interested in your thoughts!  My favorite of George's points was that librarians ought to focus on transformation, not information since there are a lot of competitors in the information business, but not in the transformation business.  Agreed!

If you want to take a gander at my presentation on marketing trends, the PowerPoint is here, but it's probably familiar territory if you read LM regularly.  I tried something I've never done before and offered a wiki as a follow-up to the presentation where attendees could share their own thoughts.  Even though I only gave the password to attendees, the questions I pose on the wiki follow the outline of the talk and will give you a good idea of the topics that were covered and some of the issues these trends raise (there are a lot of them!).  So far, there haven't been any takers but I'm excited to see if a discussion or two pops up.

Also, though I couldn't sit in on these sessions, they both looked very promising:  Max Anderson’s "Advocacy:  Working with Public Officials" discussion covered how to craft messages that resonate with officials in order to raise libraries' visibility, and Robert Burgin's "The Library as Place:  Why It Matters" considered the role library as place plays in the lives of users and how fulfilling these roles will matter in the future.

While my sparse notes on all of these sessions don't do them justice, Solinet is going to be posting the slides to their site soon, and I hope you'll find them to be as helpful as I did!

Update: Solinet presentations are now up and available for viewing!

Categories: excellent_events | resource_roundup


Max said...

Thanks for mentioning my session Jill! It was great to meet you. While there were only about 20-25 people in my session (I was competing with Dr. Madaus) - it was very successful just the same. Lots of interesting ideas came out of it and hope for the future (boy that sounds so sappy!)

Jill said...

Hey, Max! It was very nice to meet you too. Glad the session went well! There were a lot of great sessions all going on at the same time, so it's too bad we had to choose.