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Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

In our Community Relations & Advocacy class, George posed an interesting question: “Is there a way to capture…instances where a library or librarian has made a real difference and corral that into evidence of value that would compel others to use and support the library?”

I have a couple thoughts on ways that libraries can make a real difference, some evidence that may encourage support of the library as a valuable information source.  First, libraries partner with local nonprofits and social service agencies to support the desemination of information about their services.  For instance, I have seen where Tulsa libraries provide information about domestic violence intervention services information in their public restrooms.  The idea behind this is that while victims of abuse are kept under surveillance by their abusers and are thus unable to request information about how to escape abuse, the restroom is a place where victims may have a moment of privacy.  There they can pick up a “DV restroom card” with info on how to get help and slip it in their purse or pocket without their abuser knowing.  The fact that libraries are making an effort to provide information, safely and privately, to a population that desperately needs it—I think the victims that are able to escape because of that information would say the library made a real difference in their lives.  This isn’t a small population either—statistics indicate that 1 in 3 women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

I think the people who learn to read through library literacy programs would say that the library made a real difference in their lives.  I think the people who get free tax assistance at the public library, and the people who find employment after using library resume writing and job searching resources would say the same thing.

What we need is a way to stay in contact with the people who have been helped so they can help us advocate for the value of the library.  Many nonprofits have speakers’ panels, people who volunteer to speak to groups of people about the value of the service they received at Domestic Violence Intervention Services, or at The Salvation Army Homeless Shelter, etc.  They speak to church groups, rotary groups, the elks, the moose, kiwanis clubs, school kids, to educate them about issues like dating violence, homelessness, hunger, child abuse, and how these groups can help.  Maybe libraries need speakers’ panels to talk about literacy, intellectual freedom and how to get help with finding the information they need?

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Field testing and the site visit went well yesterday, I think.  First I met with Louix Escobar and Doc Martens, and I showed Doc Martens my pathfinders and explained my process for resource selection and field testing.  Despite my getting a little nervous and tongue tied, I think this was fairly well received.

Next I went to the children’s department to distribute my pathfinders while Doc Martens observed.  I had given a data collection sheet to Buddy, head of the Children’s Dept., earlier that morning to show and explain to the children’s staff.  I made sure each person working the children’s desk had a data collection sheet and understood how to record the data.  A few days earlier I had explained my field testing and data collection process to all the children’s staff, although I didn’t have the data collection sheet with me at that time.  Louix was looking out for me and made sure to “check for understanding,” ensuring the staff understood the process.

I had planned to simply sit back with Teen Teamer near the Storytime Room, expecting a steady stream of children and parents to be flowing that direction as they so often do.  However, I ended up starting my field testing in the lull between storytimes, so while there were a number of parents and children browsing in the children’s dept., they weren’t exactly flowing my direction.  Therefore, I decided I should modify my plan and try walking around and offering my pathfinders to customers, rather than being stationary.  Doc Martens observed as I roamed around and asked customers if they would be interested in my bookmarks with lists of good books about, pirates, princesses, hamsters, etc.

The vast majority of children present were under age 8, perhaps partly because the storytimes offered Wednesday morning were tailored for younger children.  As I distributed my pathfinders, I addressed parents and children, but I primarily addressed the parent when the children were clearly too young to understand what I was offering.  Had more than one or two children older than 6 been present, I would have addressed these children more directly.  It’s important to direct attention to the children, to make children feel that their input is valued.  When addressing parents, librarians should endeavor to make children feel included in the conversation as much as possible.

Only one parent said she wasn’t interested in my pathfinders.  All the others took between one and four of my pathfinders.  Most of the adults present were women, mothers or grandmothers, although there were two fathers present.  Two women who were either Hispanic or Latina did not speak much English, and while I gave them several pathfinders, I’m not sure they understood what they were.

Because of the number of pathfinders I created (15), it was difficult to market all of them equally as I engaged with customers.  I assumed customers would get impatient if I listed all 15 of my available pathfinders.  I assumed that customers would not be particularly interested in pathfinders for winter holidays in the middle of July, although I did try to offer the Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah pathfinders to a few people.  I took some cues from the gender of the children with the parent.  I carried a handful of the pathfinders around and asked parents and children if they would be interested in a book mark with lists of good books about pirates, princesses, hamsters, summer, back to school, books to read after Harry Potter, etc.  I mentioned princess and pirate pathfinders when addressing girls and parents with little girls, but I mostly did not mention princesses when addressing boys and parents with little boys.  I held out an array of pathfinders to parents and children regardless of gender, including pirates and princesses, so they could pick out any they wanted, but I did not want to potentially offend little boys by offering them a list a books about princesses.  This might have been the wrong thing to do.  Ideally, all pathfinders should be made equally available to all customers without any kind of judgement or expectations about their selections with regards to the customer’s gender or other characteristics.  In any case, I’m afraid all my pathfinders did not get equal emphasis during distribution.

In addition to approaching customers, I also spread out my pathfinders on a small table next to the Teen Teamer’s station, so that customers passing by could pick them up if they wished.  As I walked around offering my pathfinders to customers, the ones most requested were for pirates and princesses, followed by hamsters and American Girls, then Harry Potter, and lastly one or two requests for books about summer.  I do not believe any of the holiday, back to school or tree/animal track identification pathfinders were taken, unless customers picked them up from the table while I was elsewhere.

One child requested a pathfinder featuring books about dogs.  Although I did not have a pathfinder on this topic, I directed her to a pathfinder with books about animals, including dogs, on a stand near the door.  I did not see her go pick one up however.  Because she was quite young (probably younger than 8), I think now that I should have picked up the animal books pathfinder and physically handed it to her.  That would have been a more effective way of meeting her information need.  In any case, the fact that children want books about dogs is valuable information.  This would be another valuable topic for a pathfinder.

In the 45 minutes or so dedicated to field testing, we did not collect much feedback from customers.  Only three adults responded to the question “did you find the booklist bookmark helpful?”  Two adults said no and one said yes.  There was no feedback from children (most likely because they were too young to understand and respond).  I believe that the period of time between receiving the pathfinder and checking out was insufficient for customers to assess the usefulness of my pathfinders.  Ideally, these pathfinders should be tested over a period of several weeks or months, to give customers ample time to use these tools.  I told Louix this, and he said this was exactly the conclusion that he hoped I would reach.  Nonetheless, he said this field testing was valuable as a learning exercise for future field research later in my education and career.

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