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Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 94 – Networks and black holes

After reading with some horror at the thought of the UK closing (or should that be – thinking about closing) several hundred public libraries to save money, then the conversations with colleagues within our industry about why they have moved out of libraries because they can’t find work for which they are qualified, and the related news that Borders and Angus & Robertson have gone into liquidation I have to admit I am slightly concerned. Today’s issue takes a brief look at why marketing & promotion is more important than ever.

In this issue we will look at:
•    Networking
•    Bookshops, e-books and where is our stock going to come from?
•    Black holes in our literacy standards – the UK Public Library System

Networking:
It should come as no surprise, but if your networking is not working properly you will struggle to:
•    Promote yourself
•    Promote your services
•    Promote your business

Promoting Ourselves: Social and Networking Events
•    Are you the shy, retiring type who wanders into a networking event and stands at the back desperately searching for someone you know? Or
•    Are you the loud, brash one who dominates the conversation – and you don’t care who you are talking to? Or
•    Are you the kind of person people seek out – they know you, like what you have to say and always leave the event feeling enriched by speaking with you?

I can appreciate and understand being a little shy, but standing at the back hoping no-one will see you is not going to make the kind of impact you need to make now is it. So, how do you get through those first sets of nerves that always seem to appear just as you are about to walk in the door? I think it comes down to a few things.

1. Preparation – think potential employers and interviews. How would you dress if you were going to an interview? Would your particular choice of outfit help or destroy your chance of success? Given that you are going to be meeting a lot of people from within your industry, and a lot of them will have the power to hire, don’t you think it would be a good idea to ensure you look the part. You might argue that you are an individual with the right to dress how you like – well that may be true, I just prefer to be remembered for the right reasons. Case in point – A group of senior managers from across the industry were asked to run a panel session on interviewing tips and techniques. The event was well attended by people looking to brush up on answering questions and to hear the “employer’s perspective” – however, less than half a dozen people in the “audience” dressed appropriately. What a wasted opportunity to make a brilliant impression.

Name badges – always take your own and wear it. It does make it easier for people to address you by name if they don’t have to ask or feel embarrassed because they know your face but can’t place your name.

Business cards – always have them with you, but don’t give them out to everyone you meet. If you are given business cards, take a pen and jot down on the back a note if you have promised to send something to the person you were talking to. Can you imagine being asked to submit your CV to someone and you get back and you can’t remember who it was. Take the pressure off yourself and make notes.

2. Confidence – You may not feel it, but you can act it. If you don’t think you know anyone at the event, think again – you will have had to correspond with the organisers, so spend a little bit of time (assuming there isn’t a massive queue) and say hello. As new people come in, you can then offer your hand and your name and away you go.

3. Questions – people will want to know a little bit about you, so be prepared – but don’t give them the normal info – aim for something a little more memorable (but in a good way) people probably don’t care that you have 3 cats, a goldfish and like 50’s music. In return, ask your new acquaintance what is the most interesting / challenging aspect of their job and you will probably have found a friend for life.

Promoting Ourselves: Twitter and Facebook

Do you have a presence of Twitter and Facebook? Is it a personal account or do you (have you been tasked to) also promote your organisation / business through these social media tools?

IEA is on Facebook and Gail, Shirley and I also have personal accounts. Shirley and I also have personal Twitter accounts, and IEA now has its own Twitter account – why? Because when it comes to marketing and promotion, organisations and businesses need to go where the people are talking – and these 2 sites are the happening places at the moment.

To connect with IEA on Twitter – go to http://www.twitter.com/IEA_com_au

It does take a little time to build a following, but you do have the chance to interact with thousands of people from across the world – so make sure that if and when you do set up your account (assuming you don’t have one already) your messages promote yourself and / or your business / organisation in a favourable light – at all times.

The question is, what do you say? And more importantly – what shouldn’t you say?

Facebook and Twitter are the equivalent of an online postcard, with every status update and Tweet archived into the behemoths that are the search engine pages / rankings. With that in mind it is a good idea, especially when you are promoting a) yourself b) your current organisation and c) any future organisation you wish to work for, that every post should be at least polite don’t you think? Unfortunately a lot of people have failed to learn that lesson.

I watch with horror as the messages come thick and fast, bad spelling, awful grammar, bagging “friends”, colleagues, co-workers and organisations. If you consider that people have had job offers rescinded based on inappropriate photographs why do people still think it is OK to post inappropriate status updates and not get reprimanded or sacked is beyond me.

With that in mind, it is a good idea to:

•    Ensure your “friends” are not undermining you
•    Post positive, upbeat and interesting information – what are you working on, who have you helped, what have you achieved, what about your future hopes, dreams and desires?
•    Who are you connecting with? – the whole point for using social networking for business / professional development is to connect to people who you may be able to help and who may be able to offer you insight and direction.

Bookshops, e-books and where is our library stock going to come from?
But it’s all on the Internet and thank goodness for the Amazon’s of this world – but the issue of where our stock is going to come from, for libraries that are facing multiple cuts – budgets, hours, staffing and ultimately the services that we provide to our customers is worrying.

One of the things I do have to question is this – is the traditional publishing model no longer serving us? And are the publishers undermining the bookshops?

Bookshops are suffering not only because of the squeeze being placed on them by the publishers RRP, but increased rent for the buildings, increased costs for staff and so on. 2 things:

Given that even with postage I can usually get the books I want overseas and cheaper I must admit I cannot remember the last time I bought a book in a bookshop. Well, apart from the fact I couldn’t get the book I wanted, they offered to get it for me, and I said, thanks but I can do that myself. And

Some time ago I went to an industry meeting with a print on demand publisher. Publishers would send their files to the POD company including all what could be deemed to be “out of print” titles and voila – a whole new lease on life for millions of titles. The quality of the books was excellent, though the covers were a bit 1970’s … and the cost wasn’t horrendous either.

So a double whammy for the bookshops courtesy of the publishing houses – and then there is Google of course. Google is also breathing life into the out of print and orphaned works it has scanned through deals with library’s around the world. The first of the online bookshops are now open – so long as you live in America, but they (as I always knew they would) have become a Print On Demand Publishing House.

But where does that leave the library services and those people who don’t like to purchase books or anything else online for that matter?

Will e-books take over? Possibly – but what of those people who bought the Kobe e-book reader? Will the demise of Borders affect who and what people can buy for their e-reader? We do live in very interesting times. But something tells me there is going to be another round of shakeups before we are finished.

Black holes in our literary standards – the UK Public Library System

It is estimated that more than 350 public libraries in the UK will close as a result of attempting to find and fund spending cuts. Threats by councils saying services to the elderly, hospitals and schools will occur if they can’t find the money (aka close the libraries instead) are rife and rising according to newspaper reports I’ve found (just search Google “UK Public Library Closures”) if you want to read them.

There has been some fight backs, one public library had every single book in its collection “borrowed” by the community. And authors and musicians are leading protests in the “save our libraries day” campaign across the country – but what is frightening to me, and given the comments made at last year’s New Norcia Library Lecture on the state of childhood literacy is what our children will face should similar happen here, and what will happen to the UK’s children and young adults if it should happen there.
The UK’s National Literacy Trust report, based on a survey of more than 17,000 eight to 16-year-olds, revealed that almost two-thirds (64.5%) of those who use the library are reading above the expected level for their age.
For non-library users, this figure is just 35.5%.
Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust said: “Our research shows just how important a role libraries play in supporting literacy.
“In the UK today one in six people struggles to read, write and communicate, which can affect their health, confidence and employability.
“The National Literacy Trust campaigns to improve public understanding of the vital importance of literacy.
“We are supporting Save Our Libraries Day and encouraging everyone to get involved, and show how passionately they feel about the importance of literacy and libraries.”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturenews/8305746/Authors-lead-protests-against-library-closures.html    

If you have ever doubted as to why marketing and promotion of our library and information services is vital in today’s society – perhaps we should leave the last word to Nicky Wire:
“It’s hard not to feel utterly despondent at the current plight of public libraries. Along with the NHS and the BBC, our libraries are some of the few truly remarkable British institutions left.
“So often absolutely ordinary in appearance, a good library should offer escape routes down the most extraordinary avenues, pathways into different worlds from the one you’ve left outside.
“Ridding our villages, towns and cities of libraries, which are essential in shaping a nation’s consciousness, seems like a direct attack on the soul of the country.”
Nicky Wire, Manic Street Preachers – writing for the guardian. http://www.contactmusic.com/news.nsf/story/wire-slams-british-library-closures_1199486

With many thoughts

Lorraine