Getting the Word Out

I am finishing up a practicum at Capital Newspapers, publisher of the Wisconsin State Journal and The Capital Times. For one of my final projects there, I again implemented instant messaging. This time I implemented it into the news library’s intranet: “The Library Files.” I was comfortable enough with it from my experience at Edgewood and thought myself quite clever for using it in a news library setting.

I thought it would be a big hit or at least a mild hit. I know if I was a reporter I would use it to contact the library. It is simple. I wouldn’t have to leave my desk. I wouldn’t have to stop what I was doing. It would be quicker than an e-mail. It would be great!

Unfortunately it hasn’t really caught on. It has been used a couple of times right away but now it is languishing. It is similar to watching your own child get picked last for the stickball team. Now, I am not going to complain about it not catching on. I will simply analyze why it is not popular yet.

It was only introduced about three and a half weeks ago so maybe people aren’t sure about it yet. Also many of the reporters are over 30 and may not be as comfortable with IM as, say, college students. In addition there was not much promotion of the new feature. It was displayed at a decently attended training session, but other than that it is simply sitting on the intranet page waiting for people to find it.

This is, as I see it, one of the main problems of librarianship: informing people that you have really useful services. Actually informing them isn’t that hard, getting them to understand is. People may attend a training session in which they learn that there is this new service that would be useful to them, but until they actually try it out they will not actually understand its usefulness. For example: I “know” that heroin is really addictive, but not having tried it I do not “understand” the concept. How then can we get people to understand the usefulness of library services? By getting them to try it and have a good experience with it. I tried this great soup the other day. I was wary about it because there was no meat in it, and Information Tyrannosaurs need their protein. But I had a great experience with it, so I’ll keep coming back for more.

How then can we get library patrons to try the soup? Well we can’t force it into their mouths, so our only option is to keep telling them that the soup is here and its really delicious. I in fact created a poster today touting the utility of this new IM feature on the local intranet. I cannot make people use my new feature. And if they try it a couple times and don’t find it useful I won’t care and I may have to reevaluate it. I can though, keep trying to alert them to new useful tools though…or at least until I am done with my practicum.

Andy Burkhardt

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