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 learningat 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 supportbut 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 daysand 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