This year's conference seemed to have an increased emphasis on marketing, publicity and outreach. Maybe with scaled back budgets the library community is more focused on defending their existence and getting noticed for the services we provide. Here's a quick rundown of some of the top workshops I attended:
Marketing on a Shoestring: This session was hosted by San Francisco Public Library representatives, one of whom was a very savvy FOTL member with a marketing background. SFPL acknowledged they while they have a great marketing budget, they were going to focus on low-cost solutions for those of us poor folks. They revisited a lot of familiar material, such as writing press releases and media alerts and marketing through social networking tools, but they had several fresh new ideas.
- When planning publicity for library events, do some careful planning to isolate the specific audience for your program and TARGET ONLY THAT AUDIENCE. The mistake we often make is trying to reach everyone. For instance, when planning a highly successful international poetry festival, SFPL decided that this event would reach the 25-40 year old "cultural consumer" who shops organic products, read reviews on YELP, and has ties to the international community. So they targeted advertising with YELP, organic food stores, and some foreign language news stations.
- It is important to reach out to potential funders by sending information about programs and events, even without the anticipation that they will fund your program. This will at least increase awareness and funders may remember you for future endeavors
- A lot of word of mouth marketing can be done by our staff. We are all marketers for our libraries, as we talk to our neighbors, friends, churches etc. Increasing staff awareness of library events and services helps everyone spread the word in our communities.
- Blogs - SFPL is trying to move away from too many blogs, focusing instead on enriching their web site, encouraging staff to update content in other ways. They found that too much information was being repeated from blog to blog, giving customers too many places to visit.
- SFPL talked about the recent success of the One City, One Book program. The book selection was key in this program - they picked an unusual mystery title "Alive in Necropolis" that incorporated ghost stories and local settings. The readership was younger and included more men than previous selections. Fun events included One City, One Book, One Bar - The bar created a signature library cocktail, and brought in about 90 people.
Positive Change: Motivating Staff to Give Great Customer Service. This workshop was hosted by Barbara Flynn from the San Diego Library. It focused on a motivational approach known as Appreciative Inquiry, which acknowledges what the organization is doing well, by catching people doing something right.
- The Appreciative Inquiry method was developed by a student researcher who studied organizational development in the highly rated Cleveland Clinic. He was asked to figure out what the Clinic could do even better. He wondered what would happen if they focused on what the organization was doing right. He personally interviewed staff members, asking them to tell him about a time when they were the most productive, most satisfied, and had provided outstanding customer service, hoping to get them to realize that THEY ALREADY HAD THE EXPERTISE TO SUCCEED. The result was that greater productivity, better customer service ratings, and higher employee satisfaction.
- Flynn provided the audience with a cautionary tale from her own experience of an unsuccessful leader who lead by fear, the leader's own fear of what would happen if the staff made poor decisions. The unempowered staff was scared to make decisions, unable to provide outstanding customer service for fear of reciprocity. By focusing on the negative, the staff was unable to move forward.
- San Diego, along with several other libraries, are experimenting with the idea that staff will focus exclusively on the customer when working at any of the public services desks, not working on side projects or book ordering. This, combined with the roving model, encourages staff to be more customer-focused, as their sole purpose is to be their for the customers, greeting and assisting with finding materials.
- A good way to motivate staff is by using an employee recognition model, interviewing staff and identifying those individuals in your organization who are providing excellent customer service, and use these responses to build a Best Practices policy.