PALINET Regional Spring Meeting

Yesterday I attended the PALINET Regional Spring Member Meeting at Seton Hall University in NJ. In addition to updates from the organization and member libraries, Leslie Burger and George Needham gave talks.

In preparation on the drive up I listened to the Talking with Talis podcast interview with George. George was talking about the OCLC Perceptions of Libraries report.

First why did OCLC want to perform this survey? Because for years librarians have been saying things like “people trust us more than search engines” – yet there was no proof. Turns out we were somewhat wrong – while we are trusted more – that doesn’t mean that people will use us over search engines. Why not? Because libraries are not convenient when compared to search engines.

When asked where they start their search for information, 84% of users use search engines and 1% use library websites. Why? Well, I have a story from my life. I was recently applying for part time jobs at local public libraries and I started at their websites. I was shocked to find one site was worse than the next. One of the library sites was one page – one very very long page – which a peach background – who’d want to start there? You don’t need to be an expert web designer to create a simple organized site – we’re librarians after all – aren’t we organized by nature?

George included a slide with a great quote that goes along with the The User is Not Broken post at Free Range Librarian.

“It is not our job to understand OCLC; it is OCLC’s job to understand us.”
Saudi librarian to OCLC President Jay Jordon, 2002

The slide was titled The basic reality … let the user drive!. We need to give up control – not all of it – but if we don’t give up control soon the users will stop coming to us altogether.

He then moved on to talk about the library brand. As librarians we think of words like “trust”, “privacy”, and “quality information” – out of the entire pool of people surveyed – only 2 used the word quality and no one used trust or privacy. What did they think of? Books!

“Books, books, books, rows and rows of books, stacks of books, tables filled with books, people holding books, people checking out books. Libraries are all about books. That is what I think and that is what I will always think.” – 41-year-old from Canada.

So why are we fighting against a brand that is so strong? Why not use this brand to our advantage? George said (maybe not an exact quote) “You can extend the brand, but you can’t change it.” And why would we want to change it? My favorite thing about libraries is walking through the stacks and smelling the old books.

We need to market our libraries. We’re not the only ones who know how to handle information anymore – we need to start acting – not just planning to act.

Which brings us to Leslie’s talk. She told us about her plans for the next year – one of which is to market libraries!

It was great to hear her talk. I have read her blog, but hearing her talk really made me like her. I’m glad she’s going to be in charge of the ALA – even if I’m not a member.

Anyway, it was a productive day – I’m glad I made the long drive up there to attend this meeting.

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