August 2008


Jocelyn Harmon writes Marketing for Nonprofits, and we’ve been blogging back and forth about life, the universe, and libraries.

She recently put up a post called Don’t Market Like a Librarian, detailing her close encounters of the shushing kind of her childhood libraries and imploring librarians to change our ways. Now, we all know that the shushing librarian is juuuuust a little bit dated (even if Nancy Pearl, bless her, lent her image to the famous action figure), but Jocelyn’s got me thinking again about the nature of the holy grail of target audiences: the dreaded non-user. Are they the folks who encountered one too many real-life action figures during their formative years, and have sworn off us forever?

Jocelyn’s post talks about being guides to information instead of gatekeepers, using email and social media to communicate with patrons, and inspiring patrons to love and learn about information. We all know most of us have that and more to offer, but we’re not getting the message out to the important people like Jocelyn who were turned off by a library that in most cases, thankfully, no longer exists.

How do we reach the prodigal users?

This is a first: this is a rant. I had pretty much vowed not to use this forum to rant, and it will be a rant on topic, but it’s still a rant.

I’m a member of another group which includes a subgroup for people involved in marketing for nonprofits. The site lists everyone’s avatars, so I clicked one at random. Got a lady who specializes in helping nonprofits market themselves.

I clicked on her blog. A couple of posts down, she’s just loving a service called Bookswim – it’s Netflix for books, with plans that will set your patron taxpayers back between $220 and $360 per person per year to get a fraction (just books, none of the other great stuff we all offer) of what they’re already paying taxes for. Add a moderate Netflix subscription to this, and our taxpayers could be paying $450 or more in usage fees just because they don’t use their library.

(Okay, maybe they subscribe to Netflix and Bookswim and use their public library, but I doubt it.

Let me be clear: I’m not mad at my fellow group member. I guess Bookswim seems like a good deal, although as someone intimately involved with libraries, it doesn’t to me.

I’m just…discouraged. And jealous. How the hell does Bookswim manage to reach the people I can’t reach? The people who, in this day and age and economic times, shouldn’t be paying for the same service twice?

Grrrr.

Okay, I didn’t chronicle my Introduction to Marketing class the way I thought I would. To be honest, I think it’s because it’s an intro course and it’s not being conducted in a way which stimulates discussion: it’s all definitions and facts-as-the-textbook-sees-them. It’s left me a little frustrated, as I’d hoped for discussions relating to real-world situations between busy working people ecking out a few hours for some pertinent continuing education.

Oh well. I’m the type of person who appreciates the community setting of a classroom in focusing my own thoughts on a topic, so I’m getting a lot out of it from that perspective. I also feel that we throw around marketing and marketing-related terms a lot, and this at least has helped me get my vocabulary straight!

For the record, we’ve covered The Overview, Strategic Planning, Marketing and Social Responsibility, Global Marketing, Consumer Decision Making, Business Marketing, Segmentation, and Product Concepts, and will try to get through Developing and Managing Products, Nonprofit Marketing, and Customer Relationship Management before class ends next week.

It’s given me some things to think about, and I’m hoping Consumer Relations will be more interesting next semester.

Just another comment…of the 26 individuals who registered to use downloadable audiobooks from April – July 2008 who stopped using the service, 24 of them (92%) were active, in-person library users during the same period. WOW.

Of the 12 patrons who are registered for downloadable books and who are either active users or who have registered within the last 30 days,  10 or them (83%) are active users. I can’t determine the status of two others because their names don’t match what’s in our files.

So what does this mean? It seems trying or using downloadable books is an extension of the services already used by our active user base. The service doesn’t seem to be connecting with the theoretical “people who want to use their library a different way.” And while most of our marketing has been pitched to people who come in to the library (Electronic bulletin board slides and postcards handed out to advertise June’s classes) there’s also a notice on our home page, so it is accessible to people who never set foot in here.

Interesting.

Numbers are in for July downloadable audiobook usage…holding steady in the mid 130s, which is what we bumped up to after our late Spring advertising campaign and classes.

Time to delve into this a little further. We have two downloadable subscriptions, one of which registers patrons like a regular library. We had 47 registrations for that service from April 1 – July 31. Of those 47, 19 (or 40%) were staffmembers, test accounts for the classes we offered, or are people who are actively using the service.

I’m going to contact the other 60% by email and ask them why they haven’t used the service much or at all since they signed up. I did this a couple of years ago and found that most people dropped off when they realized you couldn’t use the service with an iPod. Unfortunately that hasn’t changed much, although Overdrive is finally taking baby steps toward the iPod crowd. Unfortunately, with iPod marketshare estimated around 70% (that low? see here) what we really need are giant leaps.

Keep an eye on this space for results.