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7 Things Library Customers Want NOW | Customer Service and Library Patrons

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7 Things Library Customers Want NOW

What attracts library customers to today’s libraries? The rise of mobile culture and the smart phone society brings a dynamic shift in expectations about how, when, and where to access information. Endless media streams, interactive news feeds, and autonomous research options provide numerous avenues for information-seeking customers. What factors draw their attention to the library, rather than a crowdsourced data channel, commercial service, or search engine?

1.    Convenience. Mobile customers use text messaging constantly and carry on multiple conversations concurrently. Libraries offering SMS services to manage reference, information, or patron relationships fit seamlessly into to this information exchange and can interact directly with the customers at the point of need.

2.    Community. Libraries serve an essential role as a leading provider of educational programs, local events, after school and family activities, and employment and business resource centers. Announcements, notifications, mailing lists, newsletters, and social media are effective options for community interaction, library marketing, and advocacy.

3.    Immediacy. Libraries partner with other libraries around the city, county, state, and country, and make use of these established networks to connect readers and researchers with necessary information. From integrated request systems to on-site kiosks, libraries support patron self-service, both inside and outside of library buildings.

4.    Accuracy. Librarians deliver experienced, trained, and intuitive support to readers and researchers seeking specific content. Rich collections are enhanced by a curator’s historical knowledge, detailed research questions are handled by subject specialists, and so on. Library services delivered via IM (instant messaging), allow librarians to handle complete questions while providing direct access to supporting documentation and online resources.

5.    Customization. Once accurate content is identified, librarians provide expertise, synthesis, analysis, feedback, and references, without bias, in the context of the inquiry.

6.    Privacy. Libraries’ privacy practices are published and non-negotiable: private records are not made public, sold to advertisers, or shared with other agencies.

7.    Service. Regular library users recognize the value of direct support, local context, and personal attention. These strengths, built and enhanced through patron relationships, set outstanding libraries apart from the competition.

About the Author
Lisa Carlucci Thomas is the Director and Founder of Design Think Do, providing innovation and technology consulting to libraries, publishers, and information partners. Follow Lisa on Twitter @lisacarlucci

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Word of Mouth Marketing in Libraries – Info and Articles

Then and Now…

Faberge Shampoo started it all with their famous commercial from the 1970s. Peggy Barber and Linda Wallace nail it in their new article, “The Power of Word-of-Mouth Marketing” in the November issue of American Libraries Magazine. We wrote a post called “Word of Mouth: The Best Form of Social Media” as part of our Library Marketing Tips series.

I definitely recommend reading the whole article, but here are short versions of their “Why WOMM?” bullets to get you started:
1. It’s real and immediate.
2. It’s personal.
3. It’s honest.
4. It’s catching.
5. It’s customer-driven.

More Info and Articles

1. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association has a great educational section, WOMMA 101, giving some great initial information as well as their Best Practices Handbook (free in PDF).

2. A great blog post from Marketing Vox containing some stats (and charts and graphs), Real-Life WOM Beats Online by a Wide Margin.

3. About.com article Why Word-of-Mouth Marketing? by Laura Lake.

Shhhhh…don’t tell anybody.

RefStart: Virtual Reference + Social Media + Search =)


It’s official, RefStart is now LIVE!

When Text a Librarian launched at ALA Midwinter in January earlier this year, we began hearing of the difficulties of managing all of the various virtual reference utilities, social networks, search engines and reference sites available. “I wish I could have everything in one place” became a current theme. We immediately started research and development for what would become RefStart.

When describing RefStart, we tell people to think of it as two separate, but cohesive, parts: Personal Start Pages & The Toolbar.

The Start Page

Recently, we wrote a blog post about start pages tipping our hats to those individuals who pioneered the idea of using start pages like iGoogle, Pageflakes, etc. as external library resources for patrons and to help increase workflow efficiencies internally. It made perfect sense to develop RefStart with the functionality to include your own personal start page, to build one or to use one of our templates. Please click here to read more about start pages.
Update: Netvibes started “frame busting” so we no longer recommend them as a useful option for RefStart.

iGoogle Library Reference Tools Start Page

[iGoogle is one example of a personal start page]

The Toolbar

The RefStart Toolbar provides customizable quick links, IM reference logins, 7 single-click search engines and full integration with Text a Librarian. No matter how often you change your start page, you will always “take the toolbar with you.”


Quick Links: These are 4 customizable quick links to bookmark your favorite sites for quick, easy access. You can edit/change these as often as you like.

Search: RefStart is linked with 7 search engines: Google, Bing, Librarian’s Internet Index, WorldCat, Library of Congress, Wolfram|Alpha and Twitter. Simply type your search term(s) into the box and click on the logo of the search engine you want to use to perform the search.

Chat Launch: Using the chat launch drop-down menu, select a chat program to open up in a new tab. Login to your account and begin chatting.

Text a Librarian Notification: A flashing red box lets you know that a new question has posted to your Text a Librarian microboard. Simply click on the link inside the red box or click the Text a Librarian logo on the left side of the RefStart Toolbar to be taken to the microboard.

The Result

Combine those two elements and you have RefStart: A dynamic, web-based mobile reference utility to help increase reference productivity…and to make your life easier.

RefStart Pageflakes Template

RefStart Pageflakes Template

RefStart is a free, standard feature of Text a Librarian. If you would like to see RefStart in more detail, sign up for a live demo. Questions, comments or feedback? Email refstart@textalibrarian.com.

Thanks for reading!

Library Marketing Tips, Part 4: a Tool, a Trick and a How-To

Library Marketing Tips Part 4: Tools, Tricks and How Tos

There are enough topics around the subject of library marketing for an entire blog. In fact, Jill Stover posted to her blog, Library Marketing, Thinking Outside the Book, for 3 years and it has some amazing ideas. That said, we’re on the final week of Library Marketing Tips, so we’ve decided to throw in a few Tools, Tricks and How Tos to think about, try out and share. If you’re finding this post randomly, you might be interested in parts 1-3, linked below.
Library Marketing Tips, Part 1: Avoiding the Noise (Templates Inside)

Library Marketing Tips, Part 2: The Morning News, Videos and Slideshows

Library Marketing Tips, Part 3: Word of Mouth, the Best Form of Social Media

Tool – Google Analytics

This is one of our favorites. Google Analytics allows you to go extremely deep with information about your site, but what makes us love it in its simplest form is that it lets you see where people are coming from (other webistes and search terms), what they are doing on your site while they are there (which pages get the most clicks and traffic) and at what point they left (exit pages). It’s free to sign up with a Google account and requires you to paste some code into your website. This may take a “pretty please” to your webmaster or IT Manager, but it’s well worth it and once they enter the code, you have access to the information on your own, requiring nothing else from them (unless what you find out about your site should be changed to provide a better experience for visitors).

Here are two blog posts (The Huge Collection of Google Analytics Tips and Google Analytics Maximized: Deeper Analysis, Higher ROI & You) that give a little more detail on what you can do when you’re ready, but after getting the GA code on your site, here are a few things to get you started:

1. Traffic Sources – This lets you know how visitors found you, via websites and search terms. This one is great because it can help you see whether your Facebook page and/or Twitter Tweets are worth the effort (you’ll find they will be). One thing Google Analytics has helped us find out: People search for our name over a dozen different ways to get to our site, including misspellings (“text a libranian”).

2. Content – This one is great because it shows you where people are going on your site, the busiest pages. You can see how many patrons are visiting your “Ask Us” or “Ask a Librarian” page and if it’s not up to par with some other pages, find the one most visited and make sure there is a prominent link to that particular page to see how you can direct more traffic to encourage patrons to ask questions (or more specifically, how to utilize your new text message reference services).

3. Site Overlay - As a part of the Content section, Site Overlay is where things get really interesting. It puts an “overlay” (as the name suggests) on top of your site and then gives you %s on where people are clicking to when they’re on that page.
There are many other great tools that are part of the Google Analytics package, but these are a great place to start seeing how people are finding your site and what they’re doing once they get there.

Trick – The “Marketing Possibilities are Everywhere” Exercise

This isn’t so much a “trick” as in a magic trick, but more of an exercise in getting your mind to think about all of the places where marketing can take place. If you’re already a marketing oriented person, you may already do this, but if not, it’s a great exercise. For a whole week, challenge yourself each day to write down at least 1 unique way of marketing a service that isn’t already being used. It’s ok if you find out later that it already is, it’s the exercise that’s important.

Example: Every time I fly, I wear my Mosio T-Shirt. Why? Besides the fact that I love it and that it’s very soft, there are thousands of people at the airport, including a few hundred that will be on the plane with me. Those are all brand impressions, I literally see people looking down at the logo. Plus, in some cases, someone will ask “What is Mosio?” and I get an opportunity to talk about our company and what we do. Our shirts are intentionally simple. No huge letters or slogans, no website addresses, just the logo, making it the only thing the eyes can focus on. We offer Text a Librarian T-Shirts on a site called Spreadshirt. We don’t make any money from them, people pay what we pay, but this is another great opportunity to promote your service or strike up a conversation about the service.
Mosio T Shirt
(You always get a second chance to make a brand impression)

So what ideas can you think of? What places would be great to put a marketing message? Write them down, 1 or more a day, for a week and see how your thinking has changed. After finishing the exercise and thinking about marketing for a week, begin thinking about the areas and places where you could market your own library services. See what new comes to mind and how it can be done in your library or community.

How To – Manage Social Media Presence Multiple Places

So you have a presence on: Myspace, Facbook, Twitter, FriendFeed, etc, etc, etc, and managing them all can be a hassle. First, we’re not advocates of having an account on every social network on earth. In fact, we think it’s better to have fewer with focused strategies on how you’ll use them. Even adding 2-3, plus your own website, email newsletters, printed materials and anything else can be a full time job in and of itself. Luckily, there are several tools you can use to help you manage your social media output.

HelloTxt - Originally, I was going to post about how you can use the Facebook Twitter Application to post Tweets to your Library’s Facebook page, but with the sporatic reports of the Twitter App on Facebook not working I thought it best to write about another useful site called HelloTxt, that has been gaining steady growth since I first heard about it more than a year ago. It lets you post once and updates to any of 45 social networks through their APIs. If the last thing you want to do is join another “thing” (we can understand this), then we at least want to give you the link to the Twitter Facebook App that lets you post your Twitter tweets to your Facebook Page’s Wall.

Start Pages - We recently wrote a post about how you can use start pages as virtual reference tools, it included Netvibes, Pageflakes and iGoogle, all of which can be also used as a way to manage multiple places at once. In fact, they are the absolute best way to do that. Each has varying options for widgets, gadgets, flakes, modules, etc (they differ in what they’re called based on the service, but all mean the same thing). They give you quick access to: Facebook, Myspace, Flickr, Twitter, Digg, Delicious, 43 Things, blogs and a handful of email programs.

So that’s all of them, Library Marketing Tips 1-4. We hope you learned some ideas on how you can better promote text messaging reference services to your community. Mobile messaging is growing at a rapid pace in the U.S., there is a lot of excitement around the mobile channel, so getting the word out to patrons and your community gives you an opportunity to extend your outreach by expanding the walls of your library on mobile devices.

Start Pages as Library Virtual Reference Tools: Pageflakes and iGoogle

Start Pages as Library Virtual Reference Tools

We realize that start pages have been talked about in the library community for several years. Michael Stephens wrote a great piece on start pages about 18 months ago (originally written in Computers in Libraries in April of 2007) and Dr. Joyce Valenza recently wrote a piece called “netvibes enhanced!” on the School Library Journal in May of 2009. These posts are very helpful in showing how start pages like Netvibes, PageFlakes and iGoogle can all be utilized as “library info-portals” which is absolutely true. What we’re finding interesting (and Michael Stephens mentions it in his piece) is how these start pages can be used as a time-saving, virtual reference efficiency tool.

The Unquiet Librarian wrote a quick blog post called “netvibes recognizes itself as a virtual library/reference pathfinder” and there was a lot of excitement around the office when we saw her post. We actively read and discuss posts and “how to” pieces by Aaron Tay on his blog “Musings About Librarianship.” We’re fans, love how he shows as much (if not more) than he tells how to get crafty with technologies and try to follow the same educational elements in our blog as he does in his.

A Quick Note About RefStart

It’s no secret that we’re about to launch a beta version of RefStart, a project we’ve been working on since April, which is a standard feature within Text a Librarian giving librarians one-click access to reference tools, search, web 2.0 sites and popular social networks. We announced and actively showcased it at ALA Annual in Chicago last month and got an amazing response, there are two main reasons we think this is the case:
1. Budget cuts and layoffs are making everyone need to be more efficient.
2. There are new web 2.0 and social media services popping up all the time.

Why Start Pages?

The reason we love start pages and think they’re great reference tools is because they are versatile, customizable, can be accessed from anywhere and if a new social media or web 2.0 service pops up and your library is part of it, chances are you can add a widget, gadget or module to have quick access to it. Also, they can be made private (the 3 services we’re listing below default to private), giving you the ability to have your personal information there or share it with colleagues behind a user id/password. Need more info on how start pages can be used to be more productive? Check out the SlideShare presentation iGoogle for Productivity and Outreach by PF Anderson, April 2009 at the bottom of this post. It has some great screen shot examples and info on how iGoogle can be used to be more productive.

3 Start Pages You Can Use

Rather than do a point by point break down of each (here’s a break down of them from PC Magazine if you’re interested in that), I’ve simply pasted a screen shot with a quick description of each. Ultimately, it comes down to personal choice on what you want. In the efforts of guidance, I will say that a large number of people at Mosio/Text a Librarian use iGoogle, but we created reference start page templates in Netvibes and Pageflakes (some might say they are reference tool overkill, but it was sort of the point) as part of RefStart. The templates are public, so anyone can use or copy them. The screen shots for them are below as well as a link to them.

RefStart Template Use #1
If you really like our templates and want to use the reference resources inside as is, by all means please feel free to do so. They are for public use. You can bookmark your favorite template and use it without registering on Nitevibes or Pageflakes or having to create your own page.  The limitation of this use is that you cannot move/add widgets or personalize it in any way (i.e. you can’t add/manage your social networks via one of our templates).

RefStart Template Use #2
If you like a lot of our widgets and resources, but you want to be able to add new widgets and personalize everything, we recommend signing up for the service of your choice. Once you have your own start page, you can go back to our templates and simply copy the modules/widgets from the template on to your page. This is really the best use as you are able to manage your own page.
Note: iGoogle does not allow public access of personal start pages (except for a few celebrities as of late).

1. iGoogle

iGoogle has thousands of “gadgets” that can be easily added and shared. The iGoogle page shown below features Delicious, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Gmail, Bookmarks and YouTube Gadgets. Click on the iGoogle title above to browse features and/or sign up.

iGoogle Library Reference Tools Start Page


2. Pageflakes

Pageflakes is very easy to work with. The Pageflakes RefStart Template below features Facebook, Twitter, a handful of virtual reference search bookmarks/links, Google, Rollyo Search and a CNN RSS feed. The best thing about these start pages is the ability to copy pages or modules that you like. You can copy individual modules from our template or the whole page after you sign up to create your own Pageflakes page. Clicking on the image below will take you to the RefStart Pageflakes Template.

Pageflakes Library Reference Tools Start Page

3. Netvibes

Update (11/12/09): Netvibes started “frame busting” so we can longer recommend them as a useful addition to RefStart. If you’re a die-hard Netvibes fan, we don’t blame you, it’s a cool service, but we recommend using either iGoogle or Pageflakes with RefStart for a better experience.
The Netvibes RefStart template below features Facebook, Twitter, a handful of virtual reference bookmarks/links, Myspace, Delicious, Flickr, Twitter Search, Google Calendar, YouTube search and an RSS feed from ALA TechSource. Like Pageflakes, you can copy any module/widget you like, so if you create your own Netvibes page, you can then come back to our RefStart Template and copy whatever parts you like and add them to yours, all in a few clicks. Clicking on the image below will take you to the RefStart Netvibes Template.

We have been experiencing some difficulties with the bookmarking widgets in Netvibes when using IE explorer. All seems to work fine with other browsers (Firefox, Chrome, etc.). We’ll continue to work on a solution. In the meantime, try a different browser if you’d like to view &/or copy the links to the reference sites/logins on Netvibes. Thanks.

Netvibes Library Reference Tools Start Page

So that’s about it, 3 start pages that can be created, copied, edited and are accessible anywhere. Start pages will continue to evolve as more developers create widgets and gadgets for them and don’t see them going away any time soon. The templates are only a part of the RefStart application soon to be released in Text a Librarian. If you are interested in signing up for a live demo of Text a Librarian to see how start pages integrate with RefStart, you may do that here.


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Library Marketing Tips, Part 3: Word of Mouth, the Best Form of Social Media

Library Marketing Tips - Word of Mouth

A new study shows 2/3 of marketers are using social media. Indeed, it is a very important element of promoting products and services, but what about getting back to the basics?

Word of mouth is, and will always be, the best form of marketing.

Qualified referrals from trusted sources play a vital role in customer decision-making. There’s nothing like a recommendation from a friend, family member or associate to help introduce and endorse new products and services. These recommendations increase consideration and participation across the board.

New services at your library are no exception. Adding text messaging to reference services  means harnessing the mobile channel to increase outreach by connecting with patrons wherever they are. This is a cool concept and a useful service. Why not reach out to those people in your circle to let them know? Maybe they will find the service helpful. Maybe they know others who will too.

Word of Mouth 101

A great introduction to Word of Mouth Marketing 101 can be found at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association website. For this post we’re going to focus on two of the five basic elements they highlight:

* Educate people about your products and services
* Provide tools that make it easier to share information

For years, the Faberge Organic Shampoo commercial has been a great example for how word of mouth marketing works. In the commercial, a woman talks about loving her shampoo and telling 2 friends, who tell 2 friends and so on – this is Word of Mouth Marketing 101 in its simplest form.

Start Internally

When we make major announcements or launches at Mosio/Text a Librarian, everyone on the team is encouraged to tell friends, family and associates. Usually, a single email is sent internally to give quick “copy/paste” info. That way, everyone has the information bullets and can pass along in their own voice. Depending on the context of the announcement, in addition to emailing, it may also be encouraged to post online (Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Delicious, Digg, etc). It is never required and always optional, but whether or not someone chooses to pass the information along, s/he has the tools to make it easy. At the very least, now everyone knows.

Email Still Works

This isn’t to simply say “send out an email to your list and the world will show up at your door.” An effective email, even sent to your personal contacts, must have a compelling subject line, easy-to-digest content and clear main points, thus making it a quick read with defined takeaways. Those elements will not only help tell your story but will allow the recipient to easily share with friends and colleagues too.

Adding “Please forward this email to anyone that you think will find it helpful.” or something similar can work really well to extend the reach beyond your address book. It’s not pushy and lets everyone know that it’s ok, and welcomed, to forward along if they choose.

Contextual Contacts

They may not currently be in your virtual Rolodex, but establishing relationships with local teachers, student union representatives, education professionals, before-and-after school program instructors, community center staff and other contextual contacts can go a long ways to spread the word about library services. The wider net you can cast, the better.

If these groups are already on your contact list, continue to keep them updated. It can be as simple as asking them if they want to sign-up for a library newsletter to get news and information that could benefit their students, members and patrons. They might also be willing to distribute or place library marketing materials at their information desks.

Encourage the Social

Of course, the importance of word of mouth marketing through the sharing utilities of social media cannot be overlooked, but must taken in context based on any number of factors that would consider a recommendation as truly qualified. That said, the more exposure a product or service has as a result of social media sharing, the greater the likelihood that individuals will take the time to investigate to determine their own level of interest.

There are a handful of ways to make it easy for people to share information…about anything. These services give you a little bit of code to copy/paste onto your website, blog, etc so readers can easily share the information via email or a handful of other social media services. We’ve listed 3 below and use Add This simply because we have for awhile. All seem to work well and Add This claims to be the biggest. If someone is excited enough, they’ll figure out a way of telling others, but you might as well make it as easy as possible for them to do so.

Here are a few to consider:
Add This

Add to Any


Other Ideas

* Email Signatures - These make every email a marketing tool, are simple to update and can have mass reach from lots of sources. They can also help spark conversations with contacts that you communicate with, but would not normally send an announcement email.

* Add Footers on Your Reference Answers - You can add a footer to reference emails if you’re responding to patrons via email, or manually type out a footer at the end of an IM conversation (using a ” * ” symbol helps delineate a footer message from the body of text). Text a Librarian has an SMS Footer option that lets libraries add a small message at the end of a response.  If your library offers SMS reference, you can try something like “Tell a Friend to Text Us!” in your SMS Footer.

There are certainly many other ways that companies and organizations have successfully utilized word of mouth marketing not mentioned here, and we look forward to trying some out ourselves.

Thanks for reading. See you next week!

Ps. You may see the “Share” button at the bottom of this page.  If you know anyone that might find this post helpful, please share it with them.

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Social Networks, Web 2.0 Services and Collaboration Tools in the Library

I’m fascinated by the new report from Robin Hastings, Collaboration 2.0 and I haven’t even read it yet. My fascination with it is the fact, and I’m not really too surprised given the library industry, that a report has been written to help library managers make a case for utilizing social networks to increase outreach and collaboration. I think it’s great! A company I founded and still a partner in banned instant messaging for employees while at work. Even though the company is spread over offices in 4 cities with collaboration being a necessary part of every day, the thinking was that people spend too much time chatting and not enough time working. As against the policy as I was, I don’t “work” there anymore, so I let it go. There was no uprising, there was no coming together to make a case for why things would be better, no reports written to arm employees with the info they needed to make a case, mostly posts on how to circumvent firewalls or philosophic questions about whether or not it should be allowed. Then again, these employees weren’t and are not blocked from those sites, they were just told it was against company policy.

Text a Libarian is about to launch a new service we call RefStart. It’s a web application combining virtual reference with social media and search, giving librarians one-click access to the web 2.0 tools they like best. I say “like best” because the fully flexible system lets them choose, so if they use Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Flickr and Google, for example, the system let’s users quickly link to those pages while notifying them on the page when a new text message reference comes in through our system. The initial reaction we’ve received about the feature has been very positive, but I’m curious to see which librarians will see it and say “well this is great, but we can’t use Facebook or Twitter.” It won’t matter either way because they can simply choose elements of their page that don’t access those (or other) banned sites, but it’ll be interesting to see how many come forth with that info.

My favorite thing about working at Mosio / Text a Librarian is that the day-to-day energy of this place is in the creating solutions, solving pain points, making reference librarian’s day-to-day tasks easier. This isn’t lip service, everyone here loves what they do. We ask, we watch, we listen to librarians in trying to find out what will make not only the best text messaging reference software in the industry, but how we make it the best virtual reference software on the planet. This way of thinking fosters innovation, it’s what made the development team come up with an optional, pleasant audible noise when a new question came in because a library customer wasn’t allowed to use IM. The task was fun: “What does an incoming question sound like?” We found a great one, then got a request from the same library that the sound was SO pleasant that it blended in with the ambient noise of the library. Their request? “Just below the level of foghorn. How about some Led Zeppelin? ;-) LOL” Awesome.

I’ll loop back and re-post about how the experience goes, but whether or not those we talk to are able to access Facebook, Twitter and the like, RefStart will be there and work well. After reading Robin’s report, armed with the tools librarians need to gain access and open up outreach to the new web 2.0 technologies being used by thousands of other libraries, they’ll be able to update with no problems.

Mosios Text a Librarian - Mobile reference simplified. RefStart Image.

Mosio's Text a Librarian - Mobile reference simplified. RefStart Image.

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