Sarah Houghton-Jan, Digital Futures Manager, San Jose Public Library and
Aaron Schmidt, Director, North Plains Public Library, Oregon
The goal is to connect users with librarians. Libraries want and need to transform lives but this requires the establishment of relationships.
When serving people online, we’re serving everyone, even people who aren’t carrying one of our library cards. Serving all digital inquiries should be a cooperative arrangement between libraries like interlibrary loan service.
What Are You Marketing? Snake Oil or Substance?
Make your library website two-way. Can people register for cards? Share their opinion? Have an identity? People expect these possibilities today.
Be good! This is crucial. It’s imperative to have great content online. Develop a plan to get it, update it, and make it relevant to your community. It’s the number one thing you can do to get people to your website and engaged. Once that happens, they’ll return.
Free Is Nice!
Take advantage of library directory listings using LibDex, MapMuse, Libraries411, PublicLibraries.com, and Libraries on the Web. Make sure the information on these sites is correct. Many offer links to your catalog.
Blog Search Engines
Feed Submitter submits your RSS feed to 15 sites at once. Good for posting your programming calendar. Consult Robin Good’s list of where to submit your blog and feed. RSS Specifications provides a list of where to submit your feed. Enter your feed URL and your email address and you’re done.
Blog Geo-Search Engines
List your library blog on geographic blog search engines such as Frapper, Feedmap, Blogwise, and gFeedMap. Sarah finds these get used a lot and brings people to her site.
Wikimapia is like Wikipedia but with a map. Add locations for your libraries and other community features of interest by drawing a box and adding a link. It's great to bring in visitors to the community.
Search Engine Findability
Search for variations and mispellings of your library’s name. Try minor non-Google search engines and metasearch engines, too. Buy AdWords from Google. (The words libraries need are inexpensive.).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
This is a professional service that will cost money but is well worth the expense. They will help you get noticed and give you a plan to keep their efforts updated. Get teaser information out in as many places as possible.
Get your library listed in Wififreespot, Wifihospotlist, Wifi411, Wifinder, Jiwire, and Wi-fi zone. These listings will get people to your website as well.
Community Website Presence
Americantowns.com, booksalescout.com, artsopolis.com; Eventful, and LibraryThing Local. The latter catalogs local collections. You can click on the Do You Work There? link and prove your relationship. They’ll let you update your library information regularly. Be sure you’re listed on Yelp! and other community ratings sites. You can use positive Yelp! quotes -- short and pithy -- on your marketing materials. If you get five 5-star Yelp reviews, you'll get a sticker to put on the front door.
What Are They Saying?
Searh link:yourlibraryURLhere in Google or Altavista to find sites that mention your library.
Social Review Websites
What are your customers saying about you? Be there, compliment good comments, and initiate conversations. Offer explanations and apologies for bad experiences. Use negative comments to plan changes in service.
Where Are People Looking for Phone Numbers?
For many, they're not consulting a printed phone book! They look online. Make sure you’re listed in AskCity, Yahoo! Local, Google Maps, and MSN. Tiy can add photos to your entry and harvest Yelp reviews and reviews from similar rating services. It can take a long time -- up to two months -- to get information corrected.
Make Your A/V Content Findable
Make sure your podcasts and videocasts are listed in YouTube, Google Video, blip.tv, Blinkx, Singingfish, Yahoo Podcast, Podcast.net, and Podcast Alley.
Create a profile for your library on social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, and Ning. People will friend you and form positive relationships with your library. Being in these spaces communicates to people in a way they understand and are comfortable with. You must have follow-through!
Aaron's plea: Please don’t use your building as your avatar image on these sites!
Iowa City Public Library has a lot of fans on Facebook. Yes, friends, reference transactions are taking place in public. Some is fun stuff, just talking back and forth.
Yep, it takes effort to keep interesting content on these sites. You get results if you make the commitment.
Find Local Blogs
Use Blogdigger Local, Metroblogging, Feedmap, and Blogs by City to establish a community and interact with it. Don’t intrude but be available. Don’t talk like a librarian! Don’t be heavy handed. Have authentic interactions. Don’t exhort everyone to “come to the library” on every post. You need to build your street cred.
Monitor blogs and forums and offer help and information.
Aaron featured Hennepin Public Library’s Bookspace, which offers one-stop shopping for avid readers. Readers are discussing their love of reading with each other. They can sign up for a newsletter. People can create book lists similar to the ones on Amazon. There is book club and audio book information. There are links to research books and authors. Featured lists, book events, new titles, etc. are included.
Aaron’s point: Readers are featured here instead of being faceless and nameless. This is a way to drive traffic to the site. Input is allowed from anybody anywhere.
List your staff as experts in free expert finding tools such as Allexperts.com, Ziki, Illumio, Qunu, Yedda, FAQQLY, Otavo, Yahoo Answers, or Ask Meta. Since these sites offer payment for correct answers, it could be a revenue stream for the library.
Slam the Boards is held on the 10th of every month. Librarians jump on the sites listed in the paragraph above, answer questions, and then identify themselves and gently mention that this is what librarians provide as a free service.
Push the information on your site OUT!
Invest in newsletter software or use free Open Source software. You can get email addresses from your ILS if you have had the foresight to specify that the library can send promotional emails in the user agreement your cardholders sign when they apply for a card. Send updates periodically but don’t spam. Only send news out once a week or once a month, not every day. Offer a way for users to specify the frequency for these updates and to opt out.
Get an entry on Wikipedia. Promote free wifi, reference service, and programs. Some libraries attempting to do this have been contacted by Wikipedia monitors and asked to remove the promotional content.
Make sure you have a short URL that people can remember. Register variants of your URL including a variety of domains such as .com, .org, .net, etc.
Instant messaging should be a primary form of communication. It's free, easy and therefore has a huge rate of return. Choose a fun screen name and advertise it.
Text messaging: Cellphones and SMS continue to grow. Offer both circulation and reference information via SMS. Distribute hold announcements and overdue notices via SMS. There’s software for this.
Text a Librarian combines instant messaging and SMS into one web-based monitoring system that allows for queues. Can have 20 people monitoring one screen name. Can form text messaging and IM cooperatives with other libraries similar to the Ask a Librarian service.
Twitter - Use this microblogging service for short informational messages. Be clear about what you’re sending out -- book recommendations and program announcements, for example. Casa Grande Public Library is using Twitter very effectively.
Second Life: Aaron isn't a fan. He says it's a huge time sink. There are many more things you can do that offer more bang for the buck.
Be tech leaders in your community!
AIM address: xxagentcooperxx