Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Library Riff

I was looking at the January, 2007 issue of Information Outlook, from SLA. They have an intriguing article on "5 Ways to Improve Your Corporate Blogs." While I am an academic librarian, I thought, let's see what they have to say. You can get the free white paper from Price Waterhouse Coopers here It's interesting, even to non-corporate librarians.

What I really want to take off with, however, is one little statement from early in the report:

Building long-term customer relationships is the paramount goal of customer-centric businesses. The most powerful methods of building relationships and impacting customers are personal interaction, word of mouth and testimonials.

The white paper is focusing on how blogs achieve all three of those methods of building relationships with customers. They do, and library blogs are terrific. But those three methods are the heart of ALL library service and PR. Reference librarians at the interview and service points, build that personal interaction component. Acquisitions librarians and staff through their contacts both with vendors and within the parent institution, provide personal interaction. Circulation staff and ILL staff constantly provide personal interaction. The time an academic director spends with faculty as a colleague, builds personal interaction and cements relationships. My annual faculty tea party is personal interaction, bringing faculty into the library to meet my staff. And the library reputation builds and grows through word of mouth and testimonials. One faculty member who has a terrific experience with research assistance, or a speaker for class, or creating a web page or handout, tells others (the same works, alas, for bad experiences!).

See also, my post, Librarian Love Potion No. 9. The future of libraries, I firmly believe, is in SERVICE, SERVICE, and mythos. My faculty are my long-term customer base, and that is a huge focus. But we also serve the students, the alumni and the entire university community. For all of them, I want them to think of the library as a terrific service that makes all easy for them. We solve problems, we find things they didn't know they wanted. But a portion of what we do now and will continue as a vital function in the future is the mythos of the library.

The library as a state of mind, a mythic space of culture and scholarly endeavor, is possibly more important as we become more wireless, more virtual in other ways. People are hungry for the Library as an avatar of the long dialog that is civilization. You will see shelves of books used as a backdrop for ads and presentations for lawyers, for Presidential statements, and more. The books represent intellectual capital, history, philosophy, and the Law, with capital letters. I do believe we will continue to be important as bearers of that standard, as symbols of culture and thought. Libraries MEAN something important to our patrons, and even to those who never set foot in them. We have an important responsibility to our culture, and our future. Libraries Regnant!

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