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Magazines > Computers in Libraries > October 2003
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Vol. 23 No. 9 — October 2003
Relevance, Schmelevance, You Say?
by Kathy Dempsey

Helping librarians and information professionals to prove their relevance is a task that's near and dear to my heart. Since I also edit the newsletter Marketing Library Services and give talks about marketing and promotion, the topics are always on my mind. They're not on everyone else's minds, though. "Marketing" is a word that elicits strong opinions. Over the years I've identified various viewpoints and different types of people:

Some of you out there wave off the idea with a "Bah, humbug!" and think there's no reason to promote your work or worth. This seems more prevalent in the academic sector, where the library is viewed as the absolutely necessary central core of learning—at least by those who work there.

Others are the "Yeah, but" types, as in "Yeah, sometimes I think I should bother, but I'm too busy so I guess that means I don't really have to look for more business." There might still be hope for those in this category.

Then I see the "I'm trying" type. These folks believe they need to promote themselves, and they plug away making fliers and sending e-mails and doing what they can in their spare time. It's mostly small stuff, but it's something, and it keeps the library's name out there.

Happily, there are a good number of "I'm on it!" folks. They're more proactive, seeking opportunities to step in and show their stuff. They're anxious to be more relevant and to earn ever-more respect. When it comes to targeted promotional activities, they're on it.

Finally, there are the superstars, the "I'm doing it all" types. They've done their homework: segmented their markets, done user surveys, created marketing plans, done targeted projects, and evaluated their results. It sounds like these folks must only exist in well-staffed libraries that have lots of money and support—but that's not always the case. Sometimes they're "little guys" who have simply decided to (or have been forced to) devote their time to proving their relevance.

If you rate yourself a "Bah, humbug!" or a "Yeah, but," I want you to take two steps immediately: 1) don't drop this issue, thinking it's not for you, and 2) don't give up yet! Inspiration is at hand. You'll need to add creativity, patience, and planning.

If it sounds impossible, my proof is in these features. Would you think that a group of academic librarians could distribute more than 4,000 laptops in just 4 days—and train students to use them to boot? Would you think that librarians could ever outdo the popular Google Answers service? Would you think that one young info pro could walk into a stale corporate library and turn it upside-down? Humbuggers, read these true stories and realize what's possible. Tryers, draw strength from these pages.And if you're already on it, let this inspiration carry you forward.

Kathleen L. Dempsey is the Editor of Computers in Libraries. Her email address is:

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