But What Can You Do With It?

Do you ever have tours come through your library and the tour guide starts talking about the impressive amount of resources you have? “We have 50,000 books, 60,000 e-books and thousands of online journals!” First they never get the numbers or information right. Second, who cares? What does x number of journals mean to a prospective student anyway, let alone an undergraduate? Nothing.

The best student tour guides are the ones who tell stories. “I was able to Skype a librarian when I was abroad to get help on my research paper, and I got an A because of it.” When you get an actual example of the library being beneficial it makes it more concrete and gives it meaning. It’s much more effective to portray our experiences than our stuff. Apple does this well in their commercials.

In this commercial they don’t talk about the specs of the iPhone or about how the picture is crystal clear. They simply show what you can do with it. They portray the relationships that are strengthened and the magic that happens because of it.

Google, though almost never an advertiser, realizes that search by itself is boring. But what you can do with it can be life changing.

The first time I saw that commercial I think I misted up a little. Searching is like breathing for people who use the web. We don’t even think about it and it is completely mundane. But this commercial shows the power of a story and an experience. This is how we need to market and portray our libraries. In conversations, on Facebook, on Twitter, in videos, we need to share the stories of what libraries can help you to do.

Instead of “hey look at all our stuff,” we should be saying “hey look what you can do with our stuff.” It’s only a slight shift, but it makes all the difference.

Andy Burkhardt


  1. This is exactly what I’m trying to get at in my LibTech (and my ILA-ACRL) presentation. It’s not about the software it’s about what you can do with it! Well that and the fact that a story is a powerful tool.

    Last week I had a student literally stop in my office with a prospective student and ask me if I had any fun and exciting presentations I was working on. The prospective looked a little freaked out, but I really appreciated the tour guide trying 🙂

Leave a Reply