Friday, August 04, 2006

OCLC & Library Management

Tonight, George Needham (VP for Member Services, OCLC) gave a talk to our Library Management class with Don Barlow (Director, Westerville Public Library)

Needham went through the various publications of OCLC (free downloads here), and he particularly focused on the report Perceptions of Libraries and information resources. Unlike his presentation to Nancy Lensenmayer's Library Automation class, he focused particularly on user perception stats-not on the disaggregation of information.

Here are some of the takeaways:

1. The Perceptions report was in response to librarian resistance to the early OCLC Pattern Recognition (environmental scan) report
1. Librarians were paraphrases as saying the Pattern Recognition did not represent their constituencies; however, librarians had not conducted any basic research (i.e. scientific research, I was not meaning rudimentary).

2. Friends and links from other sites are how new websites are found

1. This is very, very cool because social networking sites have really become mainstream. What a great opportunity for libraries to get linked in.

2. Needham indicated that one possible marketing avenue could be word-of-mouth (WOM).

1. I asked Needham what he thought about viral marketing, and I wanted to see how he would respond to the specific strain of marketing called stealth marketing (I should have made that distinction in class. Stealth marketing is a deceptive tactic in which the receiver of the message does not know that the message is disengenous. For example, a "tourist" asks a bystander to take their picture with the tourist's Sony Ericsson cell phone [Of course the "tourist" was a paid actor and their objective was to start a conversation about the cell phone - go here for the CBS report]. Stealth marketers hope the message will become viral).

2. I had brought up the Proctor & Gamble (P&G) example of mothers becoming "paid" representatives. I indicated there was a fine line between a testimonial and deception.

3. Needham did pretty well with his answer, but Barlow's answer is what really stuck out in my mind. He said that the political ramifications of such a technique [if uncovered] would be an enormous setback to the library. I'd add that it would be fatal.

3. Meet the customers where they are

1. Search engine optimization (SEO) is something libraries should definitely get into. From the basics of just adding your site to the search engine's index to paid sponsorships, I think this is definitely the way to go.

2. Fellow classmate, Joe Weitz, and I had a great conversation about this after class. He had the insight to say, "We should meet the customer where they're already at." Meeting the customer online in search engines is exactly how we can do this. Joe brought up that even general topics could be linked back to the library. For example, a person looks up the Cincinnati Bengals football team on Google. One of the first hits would be something like "Cincinnati Bengals @ Your Library." Genius.

3. Another way to reach customers is through there browser. Augmenting what can be done in individual search engines, we've got the tools to link our catalogs (yrs, I know those need to be completely overhauled) to any webpage through Firefox (hopefully, I.E. and others soon). See my Open Source for the Reference Librarian post on 6/25/06 (LibX Firefox extension)

4. We must have a "bone-deep" knowledge of our users.

1. This goes to the heart of "user driven libraries" (the title of Needham's presentation)

2. Focus groups, basic research, applied research, environmental scans will help.

3. We must go to the users first to find their needs and create programs and services from those discussions. Instead, we've been creating services that we think the user will want and then promote it [Barlow].

In all it was a great presentation.

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