Monday, November 13, 2006

Marketing tips from the future

If you've noticed that I've been a little behind in posting, you're right. Last week, I was busy getting together a presentation for VLA on podcasting. While I was at the conference, I attended the keynote speech given by Thomas Frey, Senior Futurist and Executive Director of the DaVinci Institute. Frey, appropriately enough, spoke on the future of libraries and I was pleased to find he confirmed many of the trends I've noticed and discussed here on LM, and he also introduced me to some new possibilities. You can read Frey's report, The Future of Libraries: Beginning the Great Transformation on your own, but here are the marketing-related trends that stood out to me:

  • Search technology will become more complex: As Google and other competitors continue their quest to include everything, the nature of search will consequently become more involved and librarians will be important resources for helping patrons find the specific information they need.
  • The rise of the experience-based economy: People are caring less about the products they buy and how they stack up to their neighbors', and are more concerned about the experiences they consume. What information experiences will the library be able to provide?
  • New target markets emerging: As more and more people work from home full- or part-time, they suffer from one or two problems, according to Frey - isolation or distraction. What these people need is a "third place" like the library. What services and facilities would a library offer these patrons?
  • Patrons take center stage: Frey argues that a library's physical space is its greatest asset. The library of the future will need to accommodate the creative ambitions of its patrons and their desire to produce their own information by offering spaces with facilities like blogging/podcasting stations, rehearsal studios, art studios, theaters, etc. While I haven't discussed physical spaces much on this blog, Frey's ideas coincide with my argument that librarians are going to have to design services that allow patrons to be successful at their endeavors, whatever they may be. Doing so entails going outside of our traditional services to find new opportunities to help patrons with our information resources.
Frey's overarching point is that our vision of the future shapes the present. To me, this means that if we as librarians don't have a vision for ourselves and what we hope to accomplish, we're not going to be able to create coherent and meaningful experiences for users in the present. While today is a time of great transition for libraries, it's important to take a step back to look at the big picture from time to time and envision a future where libraries are the cultural centers of their communities.

Categories: neat_trends | usable_theories

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