A few days ago I posted at the Re:Generations blog about marketing in the lie-berry. I mentioned that a few of the sessions I attended At the OLA Superconference in February focused on this topic, and the closely related topics of outreach and communications. In particular, I was rather smitten with a session by some wicked marketing lie-berrians. I wrote over at Re:Gen that,
I attended a great session by three marketing and communications librarians from universities across Ontario (Catherine Baird, Marketing Communications and Outreach Librarian, McMaster University Library; Nancy Collins, Communications Librarian, University of Waterloo Library; Cecile Farnum, Communications Librarian, Ryerson University Libraries), who discussed effective marketing and communications strategies, successful undertakings in their libraries and how they pulled them off, and what they focus on in their work.
Having sat (rather giddily) through that session, I am now so sold on the notion of marketing in libraries: Effective marketing is also an amazing advocacy tool come budget time, and it makes stakeholders – from users to deans to whoever – so much more aware of the incredible amount of stuff academic libraries do. Having a marketing mentality forces us to think outside of our assumptions about the services and resources we provide, to make the library a truly user-centered space. I mean, if we’re going to sink all this time and effort into marketing services, events and resources, we might as well make sure we’re providing the services, events and resources students actually want.
On the topic of assumptions though, I do like some of the assumptions that seem to go without question. Assumptions like, The library is awesome and you want to be here. Or, The library is more than just a support unit for the university; rather it’s part of the core competencies of this place.
For example, during the session there was mention of the University of Guelph’s efforts to position the library as the “University Town Square”, firmly place the library at the centre of university life. Or Ryerson University Library’s “Library in your Pocket” tag — befitting for a university that has become synonymous with digital technologies and design, and getting lots of coverage about it’s innovation.
One issue that came up is the recent move by Ryerson to designate an area of their library as Silent Study Space. When I was in undergrad I required total and complete silence, which is pretty hard to come by in today’s modern academic library. Today I’m constantly asking students to be quiet or move or get of their phones because fellow students are giving them the evil eye and IMing us on Meebo to ask us to come and tell people to shuuuuush. So I listened intently about how they pulled off this change.
Rather than just make the shift to isettlement (which, let’s face it, is a rather unglamorous one that often comes about only after desperate students complain for long enough), Ryerson create a full-throttle campaign to let people know: This change is coming, it’s what students want. And they made these bee-U-tiful posters to get the word out!! The posters were created by Chris Hernandez, the Graphic Designer person in Ryerson’s University Advancement Office. (Does York have a graphic designer? I want a graphic designer! We always joke about how we make signage that nobody reads. People will READ these gorgeous signs!!). This is the type of improvement library marketing can help deliver more effectively and with less push back from students. I mean if the hipsters say it’s cool to be quiet, it’s cool.
Anyway, those are some thoughts on the issue. A few people have commented over at the Re:Gen blog, but any insights are also welcome here! And bravo to Cecile, Catherine and Nancy for a job very well done at OLA.