I’ve posted on and off about the awareness campaign we began in June for downloadable audiobooks.  In June we ran some classes which were not widely attended,  had an electronic bulletin board campaign, some additional posters, etc. Got a little blip, but nothing to write home about.

I contacted users who had signed up with netLibrary over the last six months or so but hadn’t used the service (or used it much) and asked them why. The overwhelming answer was that they wanted to use the books on an iPod and that if they couldn’t, it was of no use to them. The next largest group said they didn’t find the selections very interesting.

(Note this doesn’t include our ListenNJ patrons, which is powered by Overdrive. Overdrive won’t let us know who our own users are. I have a problem with that, but that’s fodder for another post.)

I’m starting to come to the reluctant conclusion that until the downloadable services reach some sort of rapprochement with Apple, or Audible decides they want to get back into the library market and offers us something we can subscribe to, we have plateaued with this service. I still have some plans – seed my audio CDs with cards advertising downloadables (always good for a temporary upsurge in circ to cheer me up), revamping our web page, and maybe another limited class offering – but I’m not pinning my hopes on this any more.

I hate to say that, because we’ll be a baaaaad library if we get out of this service, right?  Plus, it has its constituancy.  It would be so much better if it would take off or just tank completely….


On page 98 of Small is the New Big, Seth Godwin talks about a Fluffenutter recipe he found on the back of the Marshmallow Fluff jar. Apparently he things the stuff is pretty good (or at least appealing to kids) and says, “Suddenly there’s a reason for every household with kids to have Fluff instock, all the time. The Fluffernutter turns it from a dessert topping into a daily staple.”

What are the things we all do from the moment we get up until the moment we go to bed? How can libraries insert themselves into people’s daily routine – supply something they always reach for – become one of their daily staples?

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.


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.

We began our campaign to increase registration and circulation in our two downloadable audiobook collections (ListenNJ and netLibrary) in the middle of May. So far we have publicized the service on our electronic bulletin board above the circ desk, and offered classes on the two services.

The classes didn’t attract many attendees.  We did, however, increase our registration numbers, which had never been more than 12 in a month, to 36 in May and 26 in June.

I was hoping that would translate into greater circ in June, but it really didn’t – we did hit a high of 144 circs for the two services combined, but that’s still just eight higher than last month, and about 20 higher than our average for the rest of this year.

For the next couple of months we’ll concentrate on revamping the service’s web page and reaching out to those already registered, to see if some one-to-one contact can improve circulation.

Today’s good read: Sticky ‘Brary librarian Mark discusses the use of Web 2.0 technology versus f2f service in libraries. Why is this a great post? Well, he touches on four important issues:

1) Differentiation – One issue marketing books stress is that in order to do good marketing, you need to decide what your brand is about, and build your marketing around that. Libraries are about the most local of institutions you can get (except maybe the schools), and I think that’s an integral part of our “brand.” I like to think we should be a lot like Cheers – a place where you can come and everybody knows your name.

2) Segmentation – I confess, I’m a technology freak too. But we need to realize that while all the people we know are having a great time playing with the new technology, there are a lot of people that don’t want to get anywhere near it. Yes, I want to do Library 2.0 stuff to reach my younger or tech-savvy patrons, but I still have a large constituency who doesn’t go there, and I won’t abandon them.

3) Planning! – Related to that, it’s great to offer lots of neat stuff, but we don’t have the time or the resources to throw every new idea against the wall to see what sticks. Moreover, without a way to integrate new services into our existing operations and really market them, we risk spending a lot of time implementing things only to see them falter from lack of patron awareness or interest, or lack of time or knowledge or time on our part.

4) Funding issues – Remember what they say, all politics is local. When it comes down to deciding whether to fund my library or not, it’s going to be the people in my town who will be the most influential, not the people I’m reaching outside this community. To end this where I started, I believe part of our “brand” is that we’re a local institution, and that’s what we’re here for – to give all our citizens, young and old, the services they want in the most cost-efficient way possible.

John Jantsch has a great piece on his blog, Duct Tape Marketing, about the use of social networking tools in marketing efforts if you go here. He argues that different social networking tools build on one another in a hierarchy, and that your efforts will be more effective if you start at the beginning and build on them as you go along.

This is an interesting way of looking at social networking and marketing efforts. I think there’s a lot of emphasis on using social networking tools so libraries can prove they’re “Library 2.0” – and that’s great it you have a plan and the infrastructure to support it. Effective marketing isn’t just throwing every new tool against the wall to see what sticks, it’s making a plan and looking at what elements will move that plan forward.

This is a great, fun site, BTW, which contains articles, links, resources and podcasts with a lot of practical information. It’s definitely on my read list.

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