I absolutely hate television commercials! In fact, I am very quick with the remote control to channel surf whenever they come on, but lately that’s changed. Now I can’t seem to get enough of them. I’ve started deconstructing every ad I see. What is the real message? What are they really trying to say? Does it hold my attention? Do I care? In fact, now I even flip to channels I never watch (Lifetime, Nickelodeon, Home & Garden) hoping to catch commercials I don’t typically see.
Long story short, last night I saw a “dating” phone line commercial featuring females urging guys to call in and get connected. What a great campaign for libraries! Why not tap into the library experience and use the “get connected” theme throughout print, video, and web advertising. Something like this:
A group is gathered around a computer. It’s an active conversation. One of them uses a laptop to search for graphics. Another flips through a pile of PDF articles. A whiteboard beside them is scribbled with notes. They are working together on a project. The Library enables them to be connected, the synergy, collaboration, and all that stuff.
We see the group again. This time they are dressed up and off in a room making final preparations before they head off to class to give a presentation. A PowerPoint slide is projected on a screen and one of the members fixes a typo. Another makes photocopies of a handout. One of the guys is struggling with his tie and a group member helps him out. They get ready to rehearse one more time.
A few days later. The group is now in the café, talking, laughing, relaxed. They’ve bonded through the presentation experience and are now taking a break, catching up, whatever. People around them are sipping drinks, flipping through magazines, surfing the web. A professor talks casually with a student. It’s a fun and chill mood. The café is a socially connecting agent.
This is the kind of advertising I want to see. Don’t tell me you have a million books, and offer classes, and have great reference assistance—show me! I kind of think we overemphasize quality, rather than utility. Give me context that applies to my life. Why should I use the library? Why do I care? Build stories that show snapshots of patron use. Give me a potential need and solution. And make it real. It can’t be someone reading a script, or looking too posed. It can’t be too neat or too obvious. I don’t want generic examples of how wonderful the Library is or how to use Boolean or telling me how important peer review journals are and how bad Wikipedia is. Show me what my peers are doing. Make me think “huh.” Redefine the Library through actions.
I try and walk throughout the entire building (and around campus) several times a week, morning, noon, and night – and I always see stories unfolding. Sit and watch your patrons sometime and build your advertising around that, not around what you think your library is or wish it was. Help them to see the value of the Library and how they can “get connected” with us and with each other.
A big theme of mine is to attempt to reduce the idea of the Library being a place that students have to go, and turning it into a place that students actually want to be. No one wants to do homework, but if they have to, so why not give them a proper environment? Connect them with what they need to succeed in the broadest sense: books, journals, dvds, workspace, study space, computers, software, equipment, supplies, tools, wireless, cultural events, socialization, relaxation, updates, news, etc
ALA should be doing this kind of stuff at a national level. Show Americans why they should care about libraries and how they are relevant. Putting Natalie Portman on a READ poster would be great, but that’s not going to change public perception of libraries. Inspire me ALA!