The Top 10 Strategies for Library Success

by Alexandra Yarrow, Librarian at the OPL Rideau Branch

Stephen Abram spoke to Ottawa Public Library staff and invited guests on Monday, September 17th 2007 about "The Top 10 Strategies for Library Success" and "10 Cool Technologies and Your Library's PR Plan".

His presentation opened with a photo of a street sign in London, England that read “Changed priorities ahead.” Below it, another sign read “No stopping at any time!” This is how we should be dealing with web 2.0 and library 2.0 issues: there is no stopping at any time! The technology will continue to roll forward and we can’t afford to get stuck along the way. Stephen reminded us that “when we study something to death, we have to realise that death was not our original intention.”

A brief aside about Google: we have no reason to be wary of Google. They do not do our job and they do not serve our clients. Who are Google’s customers? Advertisers, not us! Search results are chosen by search optimisation industry’s strategies. Says Stephen, librarians “are the thin blue line between stupidity and the search optimisation industry!” Google is bad at the how and why questions – we can and should focus on these.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project’s report on the Future of the Internet predicts that technology refuseniks will emerge as a group… But we have to keep forging ahead anyway as a profession: “50% of the world doesn’t have a telephone; are you going to give that up, too?”, Stephen asked us. We need to focus on meeting our real goals in the best way possible: these goals include (evidently) our enterprise’s mission and vision, and our values in the library profession: entertainment, learning, cultural preservation, etc. We also need to look at what library end users want and expect in the 21st century, in terms of media and delivery of information. For example, news websites have gone social: 97% of newspaper websites have RSS and 49% have podcasting. Not everyone is a text-based learner: how are we using YouTube to our advantage? Even something as simple as putting pictures on your library bulletin board can have an amazing visual impact!

Stephen’s lists:

Issues facing the library profession and the strategies we need to employ to ensure our success:

  1. Our changing users: Millenials, Gen X, Boomers, Seniors – not the same seniors as previous generations! These seniors are active and have been using the Internet for the past 15 years! Millenials avg. IQ is 10 points higher than Boomers. Social networks are organised differently for these different user groups.
  2. Preserving our culture: non-American, Aboriginal voices. Use of repositories, local history/oral history projects, the need to get more voices on the Internet.
  3. Me! The personalised generation – expects the ability to individualise the experience (online and offline!)
  4. Boundarylessness: Cross-disciplinary/inter-disciplinary research.
  5. Being local – GPS, GIS.
  6. Beyond lists: librarians are predominantly text-based learners – many others are not! Make me a picture; make the experience visual. Our clients do not want an advanced search option!
  7. Selling libraries as essential and valuable: For every $1 invested in the public library system in a community, the community sees $6 in economic returns. The presence of a hospital library decreases death in the hospital by 4%
  8. Re-organise: use consortia, teams, cross-functional. Eg. Knowledge Ontario projects. Use relationship management – one person on staff tasked to communicate with (for example) the Board of Trade or the School Board on behalf of the library.
  9. Portlets: XML, portability of the product and the library brand.
  10. Teaching success & knowledge management: real role of information literacy. Role of a chapter-level and unit-level economy.

Trends to be aware of:
  • U.S. national debt is rising and will affect the budgets of all publicly funded institutions.
  • $4/gallon gas prices: if Google rents books for 99¢ and a trip to the local public library costs more in gas than it is worth, we’d better be doing something more than just lending books!
  • Global change: China, India, etc.
  • Google = search, advertising, and applications. This is not our role and this is not the role of a library. “Libraries are not about information: they improve the quality of the question and improve the user experience.”
  • Reciprocal mentoring: “For perhaps the first time in history, the younger generation has as much to teach the older generation as the older has to teach the younger.” So, if older generations continue to treat younger professional colleagues like children, we will have a problem!
  • Mergers: Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal & MySpace. Information sector increase.
  • New competitors to Google emerging.

Top 13 applications for libraries:
  1. Google Suite
  2. Meebo/Chatango
  3. Wikipedia
  4. Worldcat.org
  5. Amazon.com
  6. Del.ici.ous
  7. Bloglines
  8. Zotero
  9. Facebook
  10. Wordpress
  11. MediaWiki
  12. Ning
  13. Twitter

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