Magazine article Information Today

Appealing to Mass (Transit) Markets

Magazine article Information Today

Appealing to Mass (Transit) Markets

Article excerpt

If you have ever checked out The New York Times best-seller lists, you might have noticed the Mass-Market Fiction category. Well, if a trend debuting last April in Philadelphia (and highlighted in the July/August issue of MLS) catches on, there might be a new category soon called Mass-Transit Fiction. And in the same MLS issue, a dynamic Dutch marketing maven shares some of what has made his library so appealing to its patrons.

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Philadelphia is known worldwide as the birthplace of freedom, the spot where the Declaration of Independence debuted 237 years ago. Now the City of Brotherly Love can add another feather to its cap as the first U.S. city to have a library in its underground train station. In "Philadelphia Places the First Virtual Library in a U.S. Transit Station" (pp. 1-3), Ruth Auslander, director of corporate relations at the Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP), shares how this virtual library started at a speed that nearly rivaled the fastest rail travel.

When the FLP discovered that its customers were not as familiar with the library's vast digital offerings as with the books on its shelves, library staff wondered what to do. When Auslander found out about a Bucharest, Romania, transit station that was home to a virtual library, she and her team wanted to try the same thing in Philadelphia, which has an extensive subway system of its own. When approached with the proposal, managers at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority--better known as SEPTA --saw it as a win-win for the city and a way to offer additional service to its commuters.

The FLP wanted to branch out into the SEPTA system in April in conjunction with National Library Week and its own Philadelphia Book Festival; however, the library needed a sponsor to keep the project on track. Coincidentally, Dunkin' Donuts, which had two locations in Suburban Station (one of SEPTA's busiest stations), was looking for ways to promote a new app. In early March, the FLP scored a hole-in-one when Dunkin' Donuts agreed to come on board.

The FLP team members had already been working on the details, such as how to handle multiple library card sign-ups and how to create a mobile site. They already knew the technology that would be employed: QR codes, which are basically bar codes that can be scanned by smartphones. SEPTA riders would simply go to the platform signage, scan a QR code, and download what content they wanted. Two versions were used on 76 platforms to showcase the different books and podcasts available. The team also made the decision to use the word "hold" in all creative copy, recognizing that many of the best-sellers had long wait times and not wanting customers to think all material would be available immediately. …

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