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Your Website’s Got Tentacles!

tentacles

image cc on Flickr via brunkfordbraun

You have a library website. People go there, learn about your library, get help, and access your resources. But that’s not the only place where people should be able to do those things. The library website should be thought of as a larger critter, with tentacles that stretch out in lot of different directions, trying to scoop in unsuspecting patrons.

What do I mean by tentacles? Tentacles are other places, spread out on the web, where people can connect with the library. This could mean customizing your library Facebook page, to add a chat widget or links to library resources. It could also mean having notes on pictures in Flickr that link to a catalog record. It could mean a lot of things:

  • Library resources in your LMS (Angel, Blackboard, Moodle, etc)
  • Creating search alerts in Twitter to snag patrons who didn’t even know the library could help
  • Library blogs
  • Library videos on Youtube or Vimeo

Your official library website should be a sort of home base where people can learn everything about your library and what you have to offer. But having tentacles can be very useful in showing the value of the library and catching users who may never go to your website.

An LMS is a good example of a tentacle. Some users (especially distance users) may never even think about the library. But if you have a section or page in an LMS then the library may become more visible and get additional use. The same goes with Twitter. Users may not be following you library account, but if you set up alerts for a few library related words, you can contact them and make them realize that they have access to a library and that it could be of value to them.

Get bits of your content out to numerous places on the web. Don’t think of these things as watered down versions of your website. Think of them as tentacles stretching out across the web, extending your services and resources to unexplored nooks and crannies.

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An Elevator Pitch for Your Library

You have to risk making a fool of yourself

At Champlain College there is an annual elevator pitch competition. Students compete against their classmates for cash, honing their networking and rhetoric skills. They get ninety seconds to make their case in three categories: job seeking, business idea, or non-profit. I think this is such a cool idea and a useful skill to have.

Librarians could definitely benefit from practicing their own elevator pitch. Who knows the next time you might find yourself in a golf foursome with the president of the college, seated next to the mayor at a restaurant, or simply trying to convince a student about why they should use the library.

In the competition, an elevator pitch consists of four parts: an introduction, talking points, an “ask,” and a follow up.

For the introduction keeping it simple is fine. This part is about establishing who you are and developing a connection with the person your pitching.

For talking points, come up with a good list of things and then tailor them to whoever you’re talking to. Why should you use the library? Well…

  • Librarians will save you time in your research
  • It’s a good place to meet either socially or for group projects
  • We have resources tailored to your needs

You can elaborate on your talking points a bit to make a convincing case, but try to keep it to two or three points It’s important to keep your concept focused, or people won’t remember it.

Finally, you need to have an “ask” in mind. This is what you want from this person. Sometimes it could be something major, like additional funding.  But it could also just be simple like “stop by the library next week for our event,” or “here’s my card, contact me for help on your paper.” It’s also important to have a specific follow up action that you will take. “I’ll call you next week to set up a meeting.”

If this networking and pressing the flesh shtick seems a bit salesperson-ey, that’s because it is. We can’t be content to simply sit behind a desk and do our jobs. We have to sell ourselves and be ambassadors of the library. We’re in competition with a lot of competing interests so we need to build relationships, network and make people take notice of us. An elevator pitch is a good weapon to have in your arsenal.

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It’s All About Appearances

In Borders the other day I happened upon this display. Glancing at it, I figured “oh, looks like they’re hocking the Twilight books pretty hard still.”

But on closer inspection, that wasn’t the whole story. There was a Twilight book or two in the vicinity, but the books they were hocking were a bit older. In fact, they were classics. Playing on the black and red cover styles of the Twilight books, they had Wuthering Heights with the tagline “Love Never Dies,” and a sticker that lets you know it’s “Bella & Edwards favorite book.” They had Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with the tagline, “The Original Forbidden Love…”

They were attempting to fleece young people into reading classic literature. Kind of a good idea. There’s that hackneyed adage about not judging a book by it’s cover, but that’s exactly what everyone does. People who enjoy Twilight have probably read all the books by now, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to read. Repackaging classics into thicker volumes with larger print and a flashy cover just might get young people to read these fine works of art. Most of the time it’s all about appearances.

How can libraries steal this idea? How can we change the appearance of something to make it more appealing or relevant to users. An example might be your library’s website. There’s good content and useful tools on there, but maybe the way they’re displayed isn’t exciting or makes users turn to something easier.

Perhaps by reformatting the website content, making it prettier and more interactive, users might be more inclined to navigate to your website and stick around for a while.

Are there other ways we can change the appearance of something, either physically or online, to increase usage?