Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Passion, Persuasion and Persistence: CILIP East of England Branch Event

The CILIP branch event today was very interesting and I've definitely come away with lots to think about! The theme of the day was word of mouth marketing and front-line advocacy.

The morning session involved a lot of group discussion, we were all divided into random groups so that we could exchange ideas with people in different sectors, but unfortunately 4 out of the 5 librarians in my group were from Cambridge colleges and faculties! Still, we had a good discussion! One of the group activities I really liked was this one:

We had to come up with things our library is or does that we were proud of. Each idea was written onto a post-it and then at the end we all stuck our post-its up onto the big library heart *awww* There was some duplication, but not a lot really! My favourites included "one-stop-shop", "spaces" and "treasures".

The group activities in the morning were mixed in with some slides on word of mouth marketing.

  • Tell one person about your services in such a way that they will tell ten people.
  • However if we don't deliver excellent services to meet people's expectations, we risk alienating two to three times as many people as we could have gained as advocates - people tell more people about a bad experience than they do about a good one.
  • We need to be ethical and demonstrate integrity. No stealth marketing! (Okay, abandon the plan to pay Paris Hilton to tweet about our library.)
There were a few quotes that I liked but didn't write quickly enough to get the sources. When the slides are put on the website I'll add in who said what.

"Getting people to talk often and favourably to the right people in the right way is the most important thing you can do."

"No advertising is as trusted as the spontaneous testimony of delighted customers."

"Get someone else to blow your horn and the sound will carry twice as far."
Just before lunch we had a tour of the library (we were at Cambridge Central Library by the way!) including seeing behind the scenes of their cool automatic sorting machine, and the BFI Mediatheque which I'll have to go back to play with!

After lunch was the CILIP East AGM, then we into the afternoon session on front-line advocacy and being ambassadors for our library. I generally don't like it when libraries try to be too much like retail (hence I have a problem, I don't like using the word "customers" for the people who use our library and "patron" sounds too stuffy to me) and the start of this session where we were told to think about what lovely things the Apple Store Gurus do made me go hmmmmm... However there were a lot of really useful points made during the course of the afternoon, so I guess as a business model it isn't toooo bad :)

Jenny Salisbury, Library Locality Manager for Essex Libraries gave us a presentation on front-line advocacy, using Essex libraries as a case study. She had a lot of good things for us to think about:

  • Think about the customer - what do they need/want? Don't think about what YOUR problems are with what they're asking you.
  • Continuous reinforcement and refreshment is important for staff. They need to know why they are being told to do things so that they don't get "ideas fatigue" with being told to do different things all the time!
  • Importance of retaining core values "in light of never-ending change"
  • Don't just satisfy your users, delight them! Give them more than they'd expect.
  • Choose your attitude - i.e. passionate, responsive etc. Many people are competent at their work but lack this attitude.
  • Difference between Output and Outcome - E.g. "35 people came to story-time" - that is the output. The outcome is "3 of the parents who weren't library members have now signed themselves and their children up for library cards."
  • Branding the library as THE place for information. E.g. co-location with careers services at Central, and with council services in Essex.
What I found particularly interesting was Jenny's two types of library user, the hunter and the gatherer:

Hunters - come into the library knowing what they want. If they can see where to find the item and it is there, then they don't want to have staff pestering them!

Gatherers - want a social experience using the library, browsing, having a chat to staff, sitting down to look at books. They may well want to know more about library services.

A few more points:
  • We need to be completely indispensable! Think over our unique selling points, e.g. free wi-fi, late night/weekend opening hours, partnerships with other services etc.
  • Front-line staff may get asked difficult questions such as "are all the libraries going to close down?" Could be helpful to compile FAQs and if necessary, scripts so that staff know what line to take when answering these.
  • The expectation in an academic library is often that users know, or should know, how things work - however we shouldn't make these assumptions. Yes, they may have been shown how to do something in their induction, but this was likely early on in term when they were being told all sorts of things.
So lots to think over! Lyn Bailey was tweeting pretty comprehensively during the afternoon session, so that's worth a look, here's the feed.

Aaaand that's me finished with this post just in time to pick Rory up from the station! Ciao for now!


  1. Wow - that was some speedy blogging! It was an interesting day, wasn't it? Like you, I'm not convinced about calling readers/users/patrons 'customers', and it's an edifying mental exercise to work out why not. Is that I think customer means retail and that libraries are nobler than that? Or does the term customer seem to give over too much power to want/demand good service and extra features? Or is it because 'reader' at least hints at one of the things people do in libraries, whereas 'customer' is extremely generic.

    I dunno - will be mulling it over when I get round to writing up the day.

  2. Haha I suppose so, I knew the rest of the week was going to be busy and I'd have forgotten everything by the weekend. I think my niggle with the word customer is somewhere along the lines of it cheapening the library experience somehow? When we first started talking about how retail staff behave yesterday afternoon I was thinking "great, we're going to shoehorn a retail model onto libraries" but it turned out to be a lot more relevant than I'd imagined. So I'm open to being persuaded that I'm wrong!

    Great work tonight by the way! I didn't really know anything about Fred Hoyle so thanks for the really interesting talk!