Magazine article Computers in Libraries

The Library Promotion Side of ALA Annual 2007

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

The Library Promotion Side of ALA Annual 2007

Article excerpt

This year I built my ALA conference schedule around the numerous events that had to do with promoting and marketing libraries. When I'm wearing my other hat, that of editor of Marketing Library Services newsletter, those topics are my main concern. But more and more that's spilling over into the Computers in Libraries side of my work, because, frankly, libraries need to attract more funding and more advocates or risk losing their status in the information world.


How many of you CIL readers have as much technology money as you need? How many get upset when people try to do all their research using the top five hits from their Google searches? How many feel that your expensive online resources are underused? I'll bet that I got at least one "yes" from every single reader. What's the solution? One large part of it is doing serious, strategic marketing and promotion. Many library conferences have more sessions on these topics lately; I'll share some that I attended in Washington, D.C., this past June.

Lil' Help From Hollywood?

I started my official ALA activities the way many others did this year, by donning a fancy dress and attending the Friday-night, black-tie screening of the much-anticipated new movie, The Hollywood Librarian. Creator Ann Seidl included some industry history and mixed clips of movie librarians with interviews of current ones who explained the difference between then and now. Some of the interviews were gripping and heartwarming.


While waiting for the film's release over the past year or so, I'd been hoping it would be the vehicle that would carry the message of libraries' importance, grand history, and bright future to the masses. But as an independent filmmaker, Seidl has limited distribution choices. Her marketing plan is to give copies to librarians and ask them to show the movie to the public (for a fee!) during Banned Books Week this fall. According to the plans on Seidl's blog ( sept-27-in-libraries-nationwide), more people will see the film this way, because if she sold it to a distribution company, she'd have no control over how--or if--it would market or release the movie. Still, I'm left to wonder how many "nonbelievers" will see it, and to me, they're the most beneficial target audience. I hope that, after all of Seidl's hard work, her documentary reaches people and updates their impressions about libraries.

A Keynote and Some Key Advice

After a Saturday packed with presentations, the next big all-conference event was the Opening General Session, with its awards and addresses. President Leslie Burger read remarks, introduced the incoming ALA officers, and bestowed a number of awards. Then she gave the stage to Vartan Gregorian, former president of the New York Public Library. In his heartfelt speech, he cautioned that librarians are too often in "passive receiving mode" and that they allow for-profit corporations "to marginalize" them. He gently scolded the crowd, "I think highly of you, but you are too modest." I couldn't agree more!

Keynoter Bill Bradley's remarks focused largely on economics. Bradley got libraries into the discussion when he touted the importance of citizens being truly informed about issues and candidates before voting. "There's no place better in America to stay informed than in the library," he claimed.

Sunday I attended the annual PR Forum for library public relations people. I believe strongly that librarians need to get their message out, especially about how much technology they employ today. It was lucky, then, that Stephen Abram, Sirsi-Dynix's VP of innovation, was there to tell the overcrowded room full of listeners how to take better advantage of libraries' best qualities.

Abram referred often to a book called Purple Cow, which, according to author Seth Godin's Web site (www. …

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