How well do you know your genres?

A coworker recently introduced me to the fourth edition of:

The ARRT Popular Fiction List: A Self-Evaluative Bibliography for Readers Advisors by the (IL) Adult Reading Round Table Steering Committee

If you are involved with providing reader’s advisory or just want to better round out your reading, I highly recommend working through this list. It is broken into genres and subgenres. A list of authors is provided in each section and you indicate whether you have:

  • Read the author
  • Read about the author (reviews, etc)
  • Heard of the author
  • Never heard of the author

The authors lists are not meant to be comprehensive, just a listing of the authors the committee behind this workbook considered “most important, popular and who are currently writing.”

I’m not a reader’s adviser. I am a technology consultant/training working for a state library agency. But I do consider myself well read, particularly in the areas of mystery and science fiction. The ARRT inventory made me reconsider, particularly in mystery. So many recent authors I hadn’t heard of. It was like the phone ringing and saying “This is 1990s. We want our authors back.” I don’t know if I have it in me to add to my extensive to-read list, but I’m definitely keeping some new authors in mind.

If you do work in readers’ advisory, I’d love your opinion on how useful you find this tool.

Posted in librarianship, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Book Review: Youtility / Rants about businesses running like libraries

Recently I read the book:

Baer, Jay. 2013. Youtility: why smart marketing is about help not hype.

Although this book is squarely aimed at business, I think it is a book that librarians ought to pay attention to. We should pay attention for two reasons: 1) The book has a number of good promotional tips, not all applicable to government-connected institutions like libraries; but more importantly 2) because it is the story of how a number of businesses haven gotten into to the information space in social media. I don’t begrudge the businesses listed in this book for taking the actions they do, but librarians should not let this space go uncontested.

The heart of Baer’s argument is the twofold observation that people tend to use friends to make decisions and that in the social media space, businesses appear in feeds on a fairly equal footing with friends and family. So if businesses shift from being self-promoters to advisers and helpers, they might be able to cash in the potential of friend influence on people’s decisions.

Another way of putting this is Baer believes successful businesses will abandon “Top of Mind” marketing (Putting out so much promotion you think of that brand first) to “Friend of Mine” marketing (You’ll come to their brand because they’ve been a helpful friend in the past.)

The book backs up this idea of help as marketing with a number of examples, including one found in the forward to the book about River Pools and Spas in Warshaw, Viginia. Partner Marcus Sheridan explained that after his business started badly tanking in the Great Recession of 2008, he decided to differentiate the company by think of their web presence as a swimming pool consumer instead of a swimming pool installer. This lead to the creation of a blog at where Sheridan posted answers to to “every single question I’d ever received from a prospect or customer.” (Sort of sounds like a library blogging its reference questions, doesn’t it?) Sheridan reports that these questions, aimed at information without promotion, started showing up in people’s search results and really boosted their business to the point that they were thriving while other pool companies were going out of business. Flash forward to today, and their business still exists and it seems like the company is keeping up the blog.

Jay Baer’s book was written in 2013 and some of the examples he cites go back as far as 2008. As a public service, I’m listing some of those examples along with whether I can tell that they’re still active.

After explaining the value of “Friend of Mine” marketing, Mr. Baer writes about three facets of Youtility that librarians might find familiar:

  • Self-serve information
  • Radical transparency
  • Real-time relevancy

This is followed by a six step prescription to create Youtility:

  • Identify Customer Needs
  • Map Customer Needs to Useful Marketing
    Market Your Marketing (Have a great resource? Let people know!)
  • Insource Youtility (Getting members of your organization to use social media to help others)
  • Make Youtility a Process, Not a Project
  • Keeping Score

While I think libraries could use help in consistently identifying patron needs and mapping those needs to useful marketing, it was the “Keeping Score” chapter that I was looking forward to. So much has been writing about doing social media in the library field, but so little on evaluating the success of those efforts. Limited resources are close to a permanent reality for libraries. While we ought to experiment, long term activities should be confined to what advances a library’s mission of serving its patrons. Is social media a good route to service? Or is it a distraction? Ultimately only good metrics can help us to decide that.

But, you’re only going to find a little help in the “Keeping Score” chapter. First it tells us what most people should already know – that “Consumption Metrics” (how many “likes”, views, downloads, etc) isn’t enough to tell us if social media is working for an organization. He proposes three additional metrics: “advocacy and sharing metrics”, “lead generating metrics” and “sales metrics.” He finishes with a Return on Investment (ROI) exercise with what he admits are made up numbers – just to show the calculation.

“Advocacy and sharing metrics” – defined as “Measurements of how often your helpful information is forwarded to a friend, tweeted, shared on Facebook, or other behaviors of similar type and circumstance” might be helpful to libraries. If there are libraries (or archives or museums) tracking these sorts of measurements, I’d love to hear them.

“Lead generation metrics” – Tracking when people are thinking about buying something. As far as I can tell, this does not have a library counterpart.

“Sales Metrics” – For the library library field, this could be when a patron either consumes a library service or checks out a library item. But tying such things to specific social media efforts could be tricky.

In the end, it is the Return on Investment portion of Keeping Score that disappoints so badly. The admittedly made up example shows a profit from a blog, but I think it would have been more interesting to run the calculations (or several times) to demonstrate the break even points from blogging.

Overall, the book is decent for what it is, a handbook to business marketing. Despite the weakish evaluation examples, the trend of businesses flocking to the point of need information space should be worrying to librarians. We don’t have a particular ax to grind and our profession has high trust ratings. How can we get into this space? And have we as a profession listened the idea of running libraries like business for so long that we don’t notice when businesses are running themselves like libraries?

Posted in librarianship, libraries | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

ALA Council Orientation Session – YouTube

If you’re looking for insight as to how ALA Council works, consider setting aside a few hours for this detailed orientation. It provides a good overview of the American Library Association, its finances and how our Council meetings are run.

Posted in ALA, ala council | Leave a comment

Library Displays: Word Cloud Quiz

Source: Library Displays: Word Cloud Quiz

This looks like a very fun idea. If you’ve tried at your library, leave a comment.

I ran across this because of a friend’s Pinterest page. Library ideas are everywhere.

Posted in libraries | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Adult Coloring Explosion (WebJunction)

Libraries are hosting adult coloring programs weekly, monthly, as a series, or as a one-time event. Libraries are scheduling events over the lunch hour, in the afternoon, in the evening, or making coloring available at drop-in times.For more passive programming, some libraries are setting up a display, perhaps near the public computers, with colored pencils and markers. One library is hosting a Coloring Contest for adults, with the coloring done at home, and a public viewing and awards ceremony at the library. And we learned of one library district who has purchased adult coloring books to put in circulation, encouraging people to color in them and then turn them back in. When the books are filled with color, the library will put them on display.

Source: Adult Coloring Explosion (WebJunction)

Before this WebJunction article came out, I had not realized that adult coloring was a thing. While I’m not aware of any Alaskan libraries doing this, that doesn’t mean it isn’t going on.

Seeing it explained like this, I think I would attend such a program, especially if it came with Hubble coloring books. I’m sure some are out there.


Posted in libraries | Leave a comment

Shutdown could threaten library funding – District Dispatch

Some information from ALA about likely funding scenarios starting in October.

I’m grateful for the ALA Washington Office. I think they do a good job of tracking and sharing information about legislation and federal funding levels.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Comments on Library Card Spokesdog | American Libraries Magazine

We know that libraries need to create affinity for the “library brand.” The library card, used in all types of libraries, remains a symbol of our brand. It’s a daily reminder that the library is an open, trusted source that belongs to the cardholder; it’s the physical proxy that links the library’s core values of privacy, equity, intellectual freedom, and democracy to the individual library patron. This is perhaps why President Obama recently issued the ConnectED Library Challenge, which calls for library cards for all children to ensure access to a library. A library card is their key to the education, employment, entrepreneurship, engagement, and empowerment opportunities that libraries provide.

Source: Library Card Spokesdog | American Libraries Magazine

A spot on column from American Library Association President Sari Feldman. I like her imagery of the library card as the physical manifestation of all the library has to offer. The whole column is well worth reading. I agree with her comments on libraries needing to do more marketing/promotion. This is an area where libraries will need to tread carefully, and where Friends groups will need to lead the way. This is because nearly all public libraries are local government agencies and there is tremendous, nationwide hostility to government agencies advertising their services on the part of government funders. Some of the (misguided, in my view) reasons offered for this hostility include:

  • Having money for marketing clearly means you have fat to cut, starting with your marketing budget.
  • We should take no chances whatsoever on competing with the private sector – even where the private sector sees no market.
  • Advertising by government agencies “artificially inflates demand for government services.”
  • If you have to advertise, it means no one wants your services anyway. So we can eliminate your agency entirely.

Because these reasons do get bandied about in city councils and state legislatures, I think libraries dramatically ramping up their advertising budgets nationwide is a non starter. But getting Friends of the Libraries groups to spend more on marketing their local library might be a winner. It depends on what a Friends group is already doing for their library.

Overall, kudos to President Feldman for giving libraries concrete ideas to work with.

Posted in ALA, librarians, librarianship, libraries | Leave a comment