Monday, July 16, 2007

Thanks for the chat! Here's the summary...

Thanks to everyone who turned out for the chat last Tuesday. I thought there was some good discussion and some promising ideas came out of the talk. However, I do understand that the chat room format can get a little unwieldy, and we lost a person or two I really wanted to follow-up with ("Kate:" If you're out there, feel free to get in touch with me to follow-up on the question you had!). I want to summarize what we talked about and point out the major issues we identified when marketing to internal staff.

A major point of discussion was the observation that many staff are reluctant to try new technologies because doing so is seen as waste of time, a source of stress, and a distraction from serving patrons. Participants offered up a number of ideas to get staff into a "play" mode where they can experiment and make some discoveries that may ultimately help patrons. Some of the librarians in the chat room mentioned that they have no funds to pay for incentives, so our ideas focused on other means of motivation. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Have a bragging wall
  • Sponsor competitions with other libraries
  • Get people together to talk about what they learn
  • Put people in teams
  • Let managers and staff know what the ROI is (Return On Investment) for their time (it's not a waste of time to try new things!)
  • Partner with patrons who are familiar with social technologies so that they can teach staff (someone suggested that this could count as volunteer hours)
    • Have an "open mic night" where patrons can share their tech knowledge with staff
  • Integrate "play" into daily routines
"Kate" and I were the only two academic librarians in the bunch (I think), and she brought up a really good point but left the room before we could get into it more (darn!). She said that in her library, time and the learning curve do hinder experimentation with social technologies, but more of an impediment is the desire to move slowly because no one is sure how to proceed with these trials. There is no policy in place and people are a bit nervous to enter uncharted waters. Kate's observation stands out to me because in the past couple of weeks I've been hearing similar comments in a number of different contexts, which makes me think we have a pervasive problem on our hands when it comes to marketing: a culture of fear. I want to think on this some more and get Sybil's take on this before I write more (I'm being cautious - ha!), but essentially I hear from librarians that they are afraid to move ahead with ideas because they stop themselves by thinking of all the ways things won't work instead of considering their potential and reserving judgment. In part, I think the lack of clear policies or at least parameters can increase uncertainty and therefore fear. This problem is definitely not unique to libraries, but that doesn't make it any less problematic. For internal marketing to work, people need to feel free to fulfill their brand promises and confident that they'll be backed up by higher-ups.

Finally, our conversation didn't stop at tech talk. Some participants talked about branding projects their libraries are working on. The general consensus was that it's important to involve staff during the planning process, and that it could be more difficult to rally staff support when they are simply offered a finished logo they had no say in. One person mentioned that in a former position, the library redesigned its Web page, involving staff in the prototype stages. To top it off, staff were given nifty t-shirts with the Web address, which they donned enthusiastically. I know that having too many cooks in the kitchen has the potential to stall projects, but involvement could be structured so that it's productive. Today, I was just thinking that even something as simple as letting staff vote on one of a few prototype logo designs could give them an investment in the project that would pay off during implementation.

Feel free to read the full transcript of the talk and contact me with questions or other ideas. Also, I'm going to contact my internal marketing guru, Sybil, to get her take on our exchange.

Thanks again for showing up! I'll post a new chat time and topic soon.


Anonymous said...


It sounds like you had a great discussion, and I'm really looking forward to reading the full transcript. It may take me a few weeks, however, as I'm juggling multiple client projects and getting ready for a long-awaited vacation. So I ask for your & your readers' patience in the meantime.

Take care,

Kate said...

Hi--sorry to have dropped out of the chat so suddenly. I had a student drop by for a research consultation which is rare in the summer!

I love the point about making play a part of daily routines. I think some of the resistance to trying all these new tools must be "hangover" from the kinds of technology decisions we make that *do* need to be "analyzed to death". Choose the wrong ILS and you've wasted a lot of time and money. Sign up for myspace and decide, in fact, that it's not your space and you haven't really lost much at all.

I'm concerned that we're working on our external image but not cultivating an internal culture that can deliver what we're promising.

Jill said...

Hi, Kate! I'm glad you were able to participate and share your thoughts because you really hit the nail on the head. As service providers, I think it's easy to become so concerned with addressing patrons' needs that we forget that in order to do so, we need to address those of staff first. I hope we continue to discuss this - it's a key marketing issue for us!