What’s Going On at the Library?

Know your customers” is an old adage in marketing. Yet, how much do you know about librarians or library markets? Do you still think libraries are just building filled with nothing but dusty books, magazines and newspapers? Well, here’s some news for you.

This year’s 29th Computers in Libraries Conference, will be held April 7-9, 2014 at the Washington Hilton in Washington, DC. The theme of this year’s conference is “Hack the Library”.

You might never think librarians would be wannabe hackers. But from wearing tight black leather skirts to body piercings and tattoos and long hair on men, librarians have always had a bit of an unconventional side. It shouldn’t be a surprise that there is a site by and for library students called “Hack Library School”.

The mission of these students begins thusly, “This is an invitation to participate in the redefinitions of library school using the web as a collaborative space outside of any specific university or organization.”

Hack Library School was based on a 2011 presentation on HackLibSchool, given virtually by Micah Vandegrift to the New York Metropolitan Library Council.  You can see his video here.

Workshops about hacking

Computers in Libraries workshops on hacking caught my eye immediately: “Hacking Google: Learn about the new and little-known search features that enable you to out-Google anyone…even your clients.” Other sessions include “Hacking the Deep Web [also called the ‘invisible’ web],” and “Hacking the Social Web“.

Lastly, as the library school students at Hack Library School hoped, librarians are leaving the library space altogether in a concerted move to get online for what one workshop at the conference calls a “Slam-a-thon! Slam the Boards”.

“Slam the Boards” is a concerted effort among reference desk librarians  – “to provide answers on popular ‘Answer Board’ sites like Yahoo Answers, WikiAnswers, AskVille, etc. We also make it clear that the questions have been answered by librarians. This gives us the opportunity to demonstrate our question-answering skills to users who may not realize that librarians provide reference services”.

Librarians also have a playful side.

Fun library workshops

On Sunday evening, the conference features a free welcome and networking event,  “Games, Gadgets and Makerspaces”. OK, I didn’t know what a makerspace was either…

“…makerspaces are community centers with tools. Makerspaces combine manufacturing equipment, community, and education for the purposes of enabling community members to design, prototype and create manufactured works that wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to individuals working alone.” Some makerspaces even feature 3-D printers.

Maker Day

Maker Day at Chattanooga TN Public Library

Makerspaces are about how play can aid learning and understanding difficult concepts.

For example one workshop is on teaching teenagers the value of failure. The originators of makerspace aim to transform education by helping students feel they can learn to do anything. It’s also about community building.

Makerspace isn’t about training engineers or entrepreneurs of youth who will be working with their hands; it’s for everyone. You can download the free 84 page guide to making a makerspace at makerspace.com.


Continuing the play theme, the University of Guelph is sponsoring a workshop at the conference on “Lego Serious Play”.

Haven’t heard of legos yet? Check out the giant cities and sculptures made out of Legos at Legoland in California, Florida, and many countries around the world.

Then there is this workshop: “Personas: Why They Work & How They Make Library Websites Better”.

If you’ve ever used Nintendo Wii or Xbox or played online games like Second Life, you are familiar with avatars. A persona is a bit different. Here is a definition of ‘persona’ from Stanford University library and examples of seven personas representing topical students.

A persona is a character sketch that represents a particular segment of the target audience,” according to Steve Mulder, author of The User is Always Right: A Practical Guide to Creating and Using Personas for the Web.

I would suggest that using personas is an interesting marketing technique that those of you who write books might want to consider using. Creating personas could help you visualize the audience(s) you’re writing for and might help you with marketing your book(s) too.

If you would like to know more about librarians, the different kinds of work they do, and how they choose books for their collections, please see my 153-page downloadable PDF, Marketing Your Book to Libraries: An Insider’s Guide for Authors.

For a look at more new things librarians are doing – at this link are four libraries honored this year for creating apps and other cutting-edge digital technologies.

Marketing Your Book to Libraries Marketing Your Books to Libraries: An Insider’s Guide for Authors by former librarian Nancy K. Humphreys includes: 

  • How to tell what kind of library to target
  • Types of librarians and books they order
  • Strategies to get past the “gatekeepers” who influence librarians
  • Right ways to approach librarians most likely to order your book

Learn more about librarians


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