Marketing. That one word brings up a mixture of reactions for me. I feel a combination of terror shiver-down-the-spine and a touch of apathy. I have come to realise over the course of the 23 Things programme that I don’t get all this emphasis on being on every single online service going. Being on Twitter/Facebook/YouTube/Flickr/other is just a bit too much for me. As with everything, this is very much down to personal choice but I fear that all of this focus on the web is distracting us all from dealing with matters a bit closer to home.
While I agree that having a website and email contact address is pretty essential for any entity that provides some form of service, how far should that have to extend? My main issue with being online in many ways is that…well…are students even going to look on Facebook for you? If I ever need to find out about a department/company I will google them and go on to their website. I won’t start off with Twitter or Facebook and work back to the website itself. Life just does not work like that.
Another issue I have with all this shiny tech is that, great…we look amazing and welcoming online but if the student walks through the doors of *insert library name here* and the first person they meet has terrible customer service skills then all of that work has been wasted. I’m not saying that we’re all terrible outreach people, but I have heard time and time again from students that they know all this stuff exists, but there seems to be this horrible myth going around that some libraries always have a notorious individual who have been hostile/difficult. Now I’m not pointing the finger at anyone in particular, but I fear that some of these myths may have some truth to them. Just working through the horrible attitude that a lot of students have towards the UL alone is an uphill struggle. Time and time again I heard students that I either know through work or on a more personal level ranting about how unwelcoming it can be and how they have had run-ins with people who have made them feel like never coming back again, especially when they can camp out in their college library overnight and not have to even bother trekking out across the river to the big Dark Tower of Sauron (not my nickname!).
I love the UL and I think its an amazing place, as is the University in its entireity but I feel that this issue is something that we desperately need to tackle and I’m not sure if the Web is the best place to do it. As many studies have shown, online interactions have a considerably less “real” feel to them than a face-to-face conversation. I feel that we should be putting our energies more into being present at Fresher’s Fairs and running forms of welcome days periodically throughout the year, with the offer of a cuppa and a chat with a librarian. Rekindle a warm and fuzzy view of the librarian rather than the net-savvy whizz that we seem to be trying to promote nowadays.
I’m not saying disregard web-based things entirely. There have been some excellent Things so far and I can see how they can be effectively used, but I just fear that people are moving on too quickly in the name of progress without stopping to reflect on the potential cracks that they are leaving behind. I know that the UL have orientation tours and other things to get students to get to grips with the complex layout of the place but I have noticed (as I have given some of the tours myself) that not many undergraduates have really been turning up. We need to become more integral to students’ lives so they can’t survive university without us. A lot seem to be doing pretty well and I have heard proud declarations of how some have never even gone into their departmental libraries and still have passed with a good degree. From personal experience, promoting the invaluable services that we libraries provide via effective poster campaigns in different colleges and departments has more of an impact than a Twitter announcement that not all students will see.
Ensuring that our marketing is effectively produced in Fresher’s packs, subject introductory packs, given to tutors to hand out at supervisions when appropriate….that’s what we need to do more of. Communicating our services with the people who have more direct contact with the people we’re trying to reach. I’ve never liked calling students “customers” but at the same time, they are paying for a service through their fees and I feel that we should be providing value for their money. Putting leaflets in students’ pigeon holes would be another excellent and direct way of doing things. Plus we could be very focussed and use student lists or library user lists to give out information that is specific to the individual rather than bombarding some poor NatSci with information about the MML library for example.
I know I haven’t covered much about the original topic: marketing with social media. After looking at the links provided in the original Cam23 post, I must say I really liked the examples presented by Erin Maassen. I love the idea of a eye-catching business card that has a trading/game card feel about it. This use of imagery and style breaks down the wall between user and provider, making them more approachable and reachable. This is the sort of thing we should encourage. Having actual people as the contact points for a library. If someone knows what the librarian that they need to talk to looks like and they’ve emailed them a few times, they’re going to be less intimidated about coming in to the actual building and engaging with that librarian further. I don’t feel that Twitter et al. provide this same sort of connectivity. While the contact cards that Erin provides have many contact points to Twitter and Facebook, the Head of Adult Services has a far less complicated contact card as she simply provides a few options of getting in touch with her directly. Unlike her presented colleagues who over-provide, she jumps out as being far more approachable as you are given a few services to contact her rather than the average individual getting lost in the forest of multiple links.
I apologise if this post has offended anyone, it really was not my intention. I just felt this Thing was an excellent springboard to discuss and present some concerns that I have been having for some time about Cambridge University and its libraries. I’m not saying we’re all doing a terrible job, far from it! I just feel we need to make sure we don’t drop the ball on this. Engagement with the user is critical, and we need to tread carefully as to how we go about it.
One final point about Twitter and Facebook: any student will tell you that such services are terrible procrastination tools. Are we ok with encouraging students who already spend too much time online to spend even more time messing around with a pretty Facebook Group rather than getting off their backsides and actually coming in to the library and benefitting more directly?