Wednesday, 5 June 2013

If You Could Change One Thing?

A friend asked me the other day if I could change one aspect of our library service what would it be and after a bit of thinking I answered publicity and marketing... yes I know this covers quite a broad area but in my opinion publicity is not something we are brilliant at as a profession. Don’t get me wrong advocacy for the profession has taken the spotlight in the last two years, you only need to look at Twitter and websites such as Public Library News  or Voices For the Library to see the different campaigns against budget cuts in the public sector. But we are an ever evolving profession; we have to be dynamic to stay relevant whilst still delivering essential core services. Before you start worrying this is not another tirade on CILIP re-branding although I do side with the majority in the necessity that a professional body that represents information and library professionals should have both information and library in their title. This is a look at what we already do and how we can evolve our marketing strategies – both the simple solutions and the more dynamic.

As a profession I think we are very good at preaching to the converted; very good at publicising the library within library walls but how do you reach the thousands of people who walk past the door without ever venturing inside?

Social media has filled that gap in the last decade for some with Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, blogging and Pinterest to name a few. Wiltshire Libraries has an online presence both on the council website and with the use of Twitter to advertise different services such as Health Matters (nurses in libraries), online resources, reservations, new titles, library events etc.  But we have to also be aware that we live in a country where 14% of the population have yet to use the internet.  There is still a digital divide in Britain and rural counties have ongoing issues with internet access and broadband strength. We have to realise that we can’t rely just on online marketing, we have to have a presence in the communities that we serve.

Simple solutions can be found, for instance most libraries in Wiltshire have notice boards on their exteriors and in the towns they are based in, but not every library has a colour printer. At the moment things can be printed at HQ and sent out but this means a delay of days. We also use local newspapers to promote events but we never advertise the core services we offer in print. Simple solutions such as leaflet drops have become a thing of the past with budgets being cut but are a simple and effective way of getting our message out there to those who feel the library has nothing for them.

You would not believe the amount of people who don’t know that it’s free to join the library or use our people’s network computers. We need to get out into the community and let people know this but with staff reductions across the service time is limited for community outreach. We don’t have the time to cultivate relationships, to approach groups that would benefit from using the library and putting to bed all the myths and stereotypes. Partnerships are such a key publicising tool but it falls to the bottom of to-do lists.  

Another simple solution: In my limited research most libraries that have a Twitter account also have an online presence in the form of a blog – these online tools work hand in hand to target potential users and share information about new developments and events. We could also promote services and future events to users through an online newsletter as we ask for email addresses as part of our registration process. Wiltshire is quite a cautious service and I understand the need for this; you don’t want to sign up for everything digital, you need to be selective but by the time online tools have been researched and justified there the fashion for them has often passed and they are no longer current.

So I think the point I’m trying to make is that we need to invest in publicity, we need to get out to our communities and make ourselves heard as the threat to our profession have become very real very fast and if we do not advertise our worth and breadth of services we are in danger of losing budgets further and in extreme cases closing libraries. We have to learn to do more with less, to economize and use the resources at our disposal to reach as many people as possible.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

May Book Reviews

The sequel to McKenzie's Falling Fast - River and Flynn have made it through Romeo and Juliet, now real life is posing all the problems. Flynn can't handle his temper, rumours at school are getting worse. River's friends are worried about her and after one too many incidents Flynn drops a bombshell that tears River's life apart... can the star crossed lovers make it through? When you're in love if you're not in the relationship you just can't understand - An easy absorbing read that teenagers will be able to relate to.

My guilty pleasure - A Bank Holiday read in the sun, just shows how much you don't know about people. This biography chronicles McFly from inception to present day, following the highs and lows of Tom, Danny, Harry and Dougie. A must for all fans who I'm sure have all got their signed copies already. There's much more to these boys than their public image and you should never judge a band by their photo shoots!

 I've had a bit of reader's block lately and so returned to an old favourite. This is the third or fourth time I've read 1 Reasons Why and every time I get engrossed in the story and finish it within 48 hours. Hannah Baker committed to suicide a fortnight ago but no-one knows why... In the night that follows Clay Jensen finds out why. There are 13 reasons, 13 people responsible and on 13 sides of cassette tapes Hannah explains why. 

You can touch someone's life without even realising.. have an effect that snowballs or just catch someone on an off day but unless you realise how can you help?

John Crace writes a digested reads column for The Guardian. In this book he takes one hundred books, ten from each decade of the twentieth century and puts his twist on them. Unless you are very well read you won't know them all, especially those from the earlier decades but this does not stop you enjoying Crace's unique perspective on literary classics.

I don't like giving up on books and it's not something I will readily confess to but The Olive Route is an Everest that I will never conquer. In this episode of the Olive Farm series Carol leaves her own olive farm in France and travels through the countries of the Mediterranean learning the history of olives. 

This is a very dense read, Drinkwater jumps from political, historical and religious aspects at the turn of a sentence and I got no further than 3 countries in before I could take no more. 

This was my wild card of the month which was a bit of a flop in my opinion. The premise was interesting and thought provoking.. a romance for the 21st century - Marie falls in love with current events blog writer Jeff Brennan so when she meets him in person a relationship is fast formed. What she doesn't know is that he virtual Jeff Brennan and the Jeff she has moved in with are completely different people. 

There are 5 different voices through out the novel, physical Jeff, virtual Jeff, Marie, physical Jeff's grandfather and his best friend. I found the different voices confusing, and the layers of plot didn't interlock as smoothly as they could but props to the author for tackling such a contemporary subject which is very rarely explored for all it's importance in today's world.

The third in the Chemical Garden Trilogy sees Rhine find her brother and Gabriel and develop her relationships with her sister wife, Cecily and her husband Linden. But as with all stories there is always a villain of the peace - House Master Vaughan. No matter how much she tries Rhine cannot escape Vaughan's grasp, not when he threatens the lives of everyone Rhine holds dear, but there are secrets to revealed and friends lost as they hunt the elusive cure. A fitting end to the trilogy... I look forward to future offerings.

Catching up with my junior fiction whilst I am not enjoying reading as much and this is a cover that always stands out at me so I thought I'd give it a go.

"Dirk Lloyd" falls to Earth from his plain and is taken in by the Purejoie family. Convinced of his majesty and his need to return to the darklands he enlists the help of Christopher, his "brother", Sooz the "Night Walker" and Sal the "Cricket Overlord". What ensues is a humourous tale of trying to fit in and find your place, with a little magic for good effect.

Solid story for ages 7+