In this issue:
Strategy+Business • Spring 2009
Redefining relevance. Public libraries are morphing into community gathering spots and even rarified research libraries are opening up their collections to online viewing. Read the seven imperatives for library leadership to plot out your path to future relevance.
Does the Internet make libraries obsolete? It's a threat, of course, but libraries can redefine their mission by capitalizing on unique strengths. Maybe libraries won't always be the go-to place for books, magazines, or even the most reliable information on many subjects. But they have more to offer. Public libraries know their users personally and can respond to their needs by providing specially tailored facilities for group study or nontraditional modes of learning. Research libraries will have a harder time because their core mission is to provide raw material for intellectual inquiry. The Internet is becoming more convenient and more comprehensive as projects such as Google Books achieve maturity. Yet research libraries can remain relevant by digitizing their unique collections and building virtual communities of scholars. ( Godby)
The Hub Magazine • March 1, 2009
Reach for higher ground in serving your constituents. The recent election results remind us that many Americans are looking for more meaning in their lives and more social consciousness in their brands. Marketing consultant Dori Molitor says, "It's time to recognize that serving your consumers should include also serving a larger purpose, possibly the same kind of community or national service that Barack Obama has made a signature of his political brand." The question is, how do we expand the ways we serve our communities with the limited resources at hand.
The essence of this article is in Obama's quote: "When you choose to serve—whether it's your nation, your community or simply your neighborhood—you are connected to that fundamental American ideal that we want life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness not just for ourselves, but for all Americans." This is a message that resonates with our profession, and which may offer opportunities for libraries. What can we do as professionals, and in our own libraries, to support the return to the enduring values of our culture? Libraries have the opportunity to be on the front lines of the recovery, through the support of job-seekers, hosting of community-oriented activities and charities, and supporting community information needs in a time of crisis and scarcity. ( Weibel)
BusinessWeek • February 17, 2009
What do consumers really want? Products and services that are personal, smaller, more efficient. Take a look at your business operations—do they reflect those characteristics?
It's not often that an article with a serious message opens with a Pee Wee Herman quote, but Harry West manages it in this short commentary from BusinessWeek. West argues that economic downturns are good for at least one thing: revealing what consumers really want. As economic prosperity recedes, consumers are forced to re-examine their priorities, and ultimately, their spending decisions. The result is spending behaviors that offer much more effective signals of true consumer wants than those distorted by prosperous times and elastic budgets. Businesses can leverage this information to align their products and services more closely with what consumers really want. West predicts that businesses will see a qualitative shift in consumer expectations, reflecting these reconfigured priorities. In response, firms will need to demonstrate the genuine relevance and value of their products and services more effectively than before. Much of this resonates with the situation of libraries and other cultural heritage institutions in today's economic environment. Tighter budgets mean institutions will need to intensify their efforts to refocus their services on those that most directly support the needs of emerging research and learning practice, and find better ways to communicate the value and relevance of these services to users. ( Lavoie)
The New York Observer • February 24, 2009
Reaching out to readers. Newspapers and libraries have something in common—their constituents are avid readers who expect to get their (online) content for free. The authors make some suggestions to newspapers on how to connect with those readers that could apply to libraries as well.
An interesting old-media-must-become-new-media-or-perish article. Aside from some "big brand" papers, like The Wall Street Journal, print newspapers seem to be facing an inexorable decline as readers and advertisers flee to online outlets. For libraries and archives, newspapers have been essential historical records. Programs like the United States Newspaper Program have been effective in helping to systematically inventory the collective collection of newspapers, and microfilming and digitization programs have been helping us preserve and make this content available. Going forward, if the local newspaper as we've known it disappears, what content should be collected to assure that an authoritative record of local day-to-day life will be available to future generations? ( Childress)
Ere.net • February 27, 2009
Pay attention to the canary in the coal mine. Your Gen Y workers are the best indicator of employee satisfaction—when they're unhappy, they'll either speak up, or they're out the door. Even great managers can benefit from these pointers on how to treat people, and help inoculate your work environment against ROAD (Retired On Active Duty) Warriors—workers who come to the office every day, but have no intention of working.
Wouldn't we all benefit from a canary in our own cage? David Lee believes we do and encourages us to use our Gen Y employees to do just that. We have learned a lot about the characteristics of the Gen Y in our research and have discussed how to attract them to our library resources and services. However, shouldn't we also make an effort to attract and retain them as workers? Gen Y colleagues could help us create services that would attract more young people to our institutions. These young employees are eager to be involved in decision making and planning. By mentoring or coaching Gen Y employees, we can help them become more independent while enabling them to make valuable contributions to our organizations. ( Connaway)
ReadWriteWeb • March 2, 2009
Slouching toward Web 3.0. We're not there yet, but smart developers are inching their way toward a more intelligent Web.
DEMO 09 (March 1-3, 2009) showed a slew of Web 2.0+ tools to improve searching and reading the Web. Some of them watch how you act such as Ensembli, a smart RSS reader; others rate sites based on harvested bookmarks ( Xmarks) and several try to understand what the pages are actually about ( Gazaro, Evri). The tag lines are ones we've been hearing for years: "This Is Only the Beginning" and "Getting Smarter...Little by Little." Some of these services have promise, and while they aren't quite ready to replace Google, they might just make your life on the Web a little more enjoyable. See Part 2 of this series here. ( Hickey)