Category Archives: On the Library Cluetrain

Cluetrain Brilliance

“Imagine a world where everyone was constantly learning, a world where what you wondered was more interesting than what you knew, and curiosity counted for more than certain knowledge. Imagine a world where what you gave away was more valuable than what you held back, where joy was not a dirty word, where play was not forbidden after your eleventh birthday.”

Levine, Locke, Searls & Weinberger. (2001). The Cluetrain manifesto: The end of business as usual.

Embrace Your Tribe – A Discussion & Interview with Seth Godin

Note from Michael: This article & interview was originally published last year in Digitale Biblioteek.

Seth Godin has been writing and speaking about marketing, the new landscape of the Web paired with emerging social media and the increasing power of consumer “word of mouth.” His books include The Big Red Fez: How to make Any Web Site Better, Permission Marketing, The Purple Cow, Small is the New Big, The Dip and most recently Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.

I’ve been drawn to his ideas and insights for a long time, while working in public libraries to teaching library school. Librarians, library school students, information architects and anyone working to create online community around digital collections and digital library service will find useful strategies and paradigm shifting insights into what works and what doesn’t in a connected society.

Ideas have to Remarkable

In The Purple Cow, Godin argues that ideas have to be memorable and engaging to grow. Businesses have to stand out from the rest. This thinking is easily applied to libraries and the services they offer: what makes a library unique? What does the library have that no one else does?

One answer might be the strength of digital collections and the brains behind them. Localized or otherwise unique digital collections where the curious might explore and leave comments/interact certainly could make a library stand apart. Library staff professionals are also a unique feature of libraries – knowledge, insight and curiosity are traits of some of the best library workers. Sharing oneself online – via Facebook profiles, answering questions on Twitter, or the like is one way to promote and give presence to our jobs and profession.

What else is unique and remarkable about your library?

Be Authentic

In Godin’s work, I also find sage advice for how we present ourselves as information professionals in the networked world. In a time when snark is so easy, Godin urges readers throughout his works and blogging to be authentic – stressing quality over quantity. “There’s no limit now. No limit to how many clicks, readers, followers and friends you can acquire,” he wrote recently at his blog. “Instead of getting better, you focus obsessively on getting bigger.”

We’re representing our profession – and ourselves in everything we do: participating in social networks, building library presence online and in the physical world at events and meetings. Godin notes what happens to some in the quest to have more: “You’re at a conference, talking to someone who matters to you. Over their shoulder, you see a new, bigger, better networking possibility. So you scamper away. It’s about getting bigger.”

Instead, build a trusted network of colleagues and contacts in the digital library world. Share. Cite them when they inspire you. Pay it forward. The wonderful thing is now, these people can reside all over the world. It’s not unusual to have support from The Netherlands, Australia, the United Sates or England with the click clack of a few keys. Be real in these dealings. Be honest. Be yourself.

Leverage the Online World for Promotion

The online tools offer much opportunity and promise. In Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Godin notes that “Internet companies have taken the original idea behind blogs and amplified it into a set of tools that anyone can use to tighten a tribe.” Facebook, Twitter and others allow interaction and information sharing – with replies built in.

“The biggest shift is going to be that organizations that could never have afforded a national campaign will suddenly have one,” Godin writes in a recent blog post. “The same way that there’s very little correlation between popular websites and big companies, we’ll see that the most popular commercials get done by little shops that have nothing to lose.”

The same could be said about libraries – all shapes, sizes and types. We can take promotion online – make it viral. Recent online initiatives such as the New Jersey State Library’s campaign to share users’ video stories about the transformational qualities of libraries are ways to create low-cost, human, authentic marketing campaigns.

Gather Your Tribe

The most recent book takes a big picture view of the possibilities of social media and gathering people together. Godin argues that businesses fail because “they forgot to embrace their tribe”  and offers a roadmap for creating a tribe, which he defines as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.”

All it takes for a tribe to form, Godin writes, “is a shared interest and a way to communicate.” Social Web sites break down geographic  barriers. A tribe can be global or simply based in your community. Godin warns, however, that some organizations are stuck: bound by archaic rules or not only avoiding change but fighting against it.

Fear is also a driving factor: what will boss say? Will everyone get in trouble?

In this Facebooked, Twiiter-ized, RSS-fed world, Godin notes, individuals have more leverage than ever before to create change and build inter-connected groups of supporters around a common idea or cause. Godin offers principles and steps to create a movement – publish a manifesto, make it easy for followers to connect, track progress based on transparency, nurture the group along the way and be mindful not to tear others down in the process.

The promise of gathering your tribe – for your library, your community, your online collection presence? Godin notes that everyone in an organization can lead. The market rewards those organizations that change things.

Godin says: “People are waiting for you to connect them.”  How will you lead?

The Interview

Michael Stephens: I read Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us with great interest and with a focus on libraries, the people they serve, and what librarians might learn about shaping future services to involve users online and in physical spaces. What would you want library people to take away from Tribes?

Seth Godin: Libraries are no longer places for obscure books. The web is that. Libraries are places to organize the community.

MS: Your recent works have addressed marketing, message, and media.  You also write about true fans and the “depth of commitment and interconnection that true fans deliver.” As libraries go forward with broadening the library brand – “Books” to most folks – how should we be crafting the message about libraries? How can we reach our true fans?

SG: Your true fans, I think, are the curious. The library is the house for the curious. And I want to meet other curious people.

MS: You write about curiosity. I’ve used your quote in my talks for some time: “To be curious means to explore first.” What’s to be gained from exploring? Have you known librarians to be explorers?

SG: A few, but not many. Not that librarians aren’t good at seeking things out… they are. They’re great at it. I am talking about finding things you weren’t look for in the first place. What a skill that is. Teaching it to kids is essential.

MS: You write that “the timid leave a vacuum” in Tribes. I worry that our profession has been too timid for too long. How can we overcome timidity and be more visible?

SG: Once you become a leader, you will cease to be invisible, I promise.

MS: I asked my followers on Twitter if they had any questions for you as well. One person asked: What’s the best way to market change to those who are resistant to it or too comfortable in what they do?

SG: By leading. By doing. Start making waves and watch what happens!

Article Sidebar: Michael’s Ten Ways to Encourage the Tribe

  • Connect around a cause, a community or a concept.
  • Use Stories
  • Be Transparent
  • Leverage the Social Tools
  • Remember the Mission
  • The Little Things count…a lot
  • Listen & Talk (like a human)
  • Create a Culture of Caring
  • Trust them
  • Value EVERY Member

See the full post at


Infinity, They Keep Making More of It:

Making Commercials for the Web:

New Jersey Transforming Lives Site:


Set’s Blog:

Seth Godin’s Books:

Seth Godin at Wikipedia:

Photo of Seth Godin: (Creative Commons)

On Kindness, Libraries & the Big Picture – A TTW Guest Post by Kate Sheehan

Corporations have The No A**hole Rule, but the motivation and measurement in a for-profit is always the bottom line. The a**hole in the office makes a lot of money, but holds everyone else back with toxic behavior. Fire him, and everyone else steps up their game and increases earnings. Profit provides a reason to hire, fire and take action. Libraries, like most non-profits, deal more in intangibles and don’t look to the balance sheet for guidance.

Michael Stephens has used the phrase “kindness audit” most publicly, and several other people have proposed the idea to me recently as well. I love the oxymoronic feel of it – the mental image of IRS agents with felt hearts pinned to their lapels, clutching clipboards and red pens.

Kindness may seem soft and fuzzy and a silly thing to be talking about with respect to the workplace. But that’s the point of The No A**hole Rule. A jerk who does his job well still hurts the whole company. We’re in the kindness business – public service. It’s not a switch we can just flip. If our organizational culture is unkind, how well are we really serving our patrons?

So, yes, a kindness audit asks us to do a little self reflection, to think about how we interact with people. It’s more personal, but it could make for a better workplace and improved service to our users. But what’s in a kindness audit? How to quantify the unquantifiable? What’s on that clipboard?

Here’s where I’d start, but I’m looking for input:

  • Listen. Even to the people who drive you crazy
  • Open door policies are great, but not only do they have to be meaningful, we have to meet each other where we are. Just like our patrons, our coworkers don’t always communicate in exactly the way we’d like them to. Hearing those who operate differently is hard, but worth it.

    Double X recently posted a short article with a scenario that’s supposed to indicate how angry the reader is. If you have a meeting scheduled on a Wednesday and you are told that the meeting has been moved up two days, is the meeting now on Monday or Friday? I’m not sure I buy the anger aspect of this exercise (wait, does that make me sound angry?) but what struck me about the piece, the comments and the responses of everyone I’ve posed the question to is the initial inability to see how anyone could think the meeting is on the other day. Monday people can’t imagine anyone would think the meeting is now on Friday and Friday people are just as gobsmacked by the Monday people.

    What’s the lesson? First of all, just say what day you’re moving meetings to when you do it. Secondly, everyone approaches life (and the workplace) in their own way and those differing perspectives have value and meaning. It’s awfully tempting to dismiss the people who would have missed your moved meeting, but teaming up with people whose minds work differently can be powerfully effective.

  • Focus on the positive
  • Management experts suggest this one frequently, but it applies to patron interactions, projects with coworkers and really, just about everything. We’re all bad at things, we all have our own foibles and faults. That’s not the whole of anyone’s being, though. Personally, I’m very fortunate to work with someone who is brilliant at extracting the silver lining from the cloudiest of situations. I turn to her when I’m struggling to see the bright side.

  • Create safe spaces
  • This probably sounds silly, but as anyone who has spent time working with the public can attest, one of the biggest differences between an office job and a public facing job is the different levels of professionalism. Librarians have a public face that they need a break from when they get into the back office. The occasional flip comment or frustrated exclamation are inevitable and forgivable.

  • Keep looking at the big picture
  • This one goes for everyone. Front lines staff can get absorbed in the daily grind and forget about the view from the top. Big picture people can forget that the crisis they just caught wind of might not be such a big deal just because they know about it. Ultimately, we’re running libraries. It’s not rocket surgery and our mistakes and problems are aggravating, but generally speaking, no kittens will die.

  • Respect boundaries
  • When people come in looking for help learning to use the mouse, we don’t try to teach them to use Facebook. This goes hand in hand with focusing on the positive. We don’t need everyone to be good at everything and while it’s good for people to push their boundaries and learn new things, they should be able to do it on their own terms. We come to work as whole people and very few of us are able to divest our personalities when we walk through the door.

    I don’t think this is a complete list, by any stretch of the imagination. I’m looking for input. What would you audit, if you were working for the kindness IRS? Comment here or at Loose Cannon Librarian or send me an email (kate at loosecannonlibrarian dot net). I want to create something useful for our libraries; a tool we can use to push our organizations and ourselves. This should be a group effort, so send me your ideas!

    Kate Sheehan writes at Loose Cannon Librarian and ALA TechSource | Cross posted here:

    Hyperlinked Libraries, Org Charts & the Human Voice: Ten Years of the Cluetrain Manifesto

    bookcover50. Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.

    Today, bloggers from all over the world are responding to the 95 points of the Cluetrain Manifesto, which is ten years old: “Cluetrainplus10 is a project to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the manifesto. On Tuesday April 28, 95 bloggers around the world will each write a blog post on one of the 95 theses.”

    I chose #50, above, as one I might comment on because it speaks to the model I’ve been working on in my talks “The Hyperlinked Library” and because it makes me question how we staff and manage our libraries. In fact, it also speaks to LIS education.

    Way back in 2006 (years ago in Internet time), I wrote about the Cluetrain often. I was usually commenting on using The Cluetrain Manifesto in my teaching at Dominican and in presentations. I’m still using my “Cluetrain slides” in long versions of “The Hyperlinked Library.”  Looking at the worn volume next to me, it strikes me as funny and brilliant that ten years ago Levine, Locke, Searles and Weinberger locked on to a perfect vision of the future – of where we were headed because of the Internet. The impact on business rings so true these days. And words like transparency, conversation, community, communication and the like were here long before a line up of bloggers at CIL. Flipping through the pages, with multi-colored highlights and scribbled notes to self (oh Lord, can my students even read what I write on their papers?), it strikes me how much this book has influenced my path and lead me to folks like Rheingold, Godin and further works by Weinberger.

    The emphasis in the Cluetrain on being human sticks with me as well. “The human voice sounds human.” Stories and storytelling are extensions of this. Sharing is part as well. These things create connections and brings people closer.  Godin says in Tribes that people WANT to belong. People want to connect. I want to hear the story of the lady sitting next to me having tea at Hermit’s Rest at Grand Canyon who strikes up conversation. Turns out her son, who joins us, is director of the Sedona Public Library. The world is tiny, sometimes flat and is full of human stories and human connections.


    Thesis #50 has been with me for sometime too. A post I revisited for this anniversary is one of mine at ALA TechSource called “The Hyperlinked Organization: Radical Transparency, Crummy Meetings & Micromanagement” where I urged librarians to do this:

    Flatten that Chart Folks

    One of my favorite quotes from this chapter is “The company org chart… is a map of whom to avoid.” I worked in the public library a long time and soon realized who you went to in order to get things done and who could take care of something that needed to be fixed. Sometimes, we adapt and seek out those people, and then when they transfer or leave the organization, everyone realizes all the knowledge went out the door with them. 

    The best libraries will flatten their organizational charts, break down the layers of “permission” and “channels” to get things done, and look for ways to streamline processes, procedures, and the dreaded policies. These libraries will also have a plan for succession management and knowledge transfer—and not just use these terms as buzzwords to hide behind.

    I’m anxious to see more libraries flatten the chart and move toward a more team-based structure. In the model, people might work out of a certain area – reference, technology – but might move to teams or groups, or even locations, as projects demand. The pyramid shape of the org chart would be different – probably still pointy because someone has to ultimately be in charge – but do we really need layers and layers of managers, coordinators, and director positions between our front liners and the decision makers. In this model – very much related to what Michael Casey and I have done in “The Transparent Library” – admin types are hands-on involved not just issuing edicts from an office somewhere in the library. 

    networkedconversationsCommunication flows up and down, via all the methods you’ve seen discussed here and in our literature, including good old face to face. Conversations flows in and out of the library space, involving all staff, users, non-users and everyone else. Meetings WORK, they don’t just exist to give the higher ups something to do. Admit it to yourself only: have you ever let the meeting drone on because it’s almost 5pm?

    And – experts and specialists thrive and work hand in hand with librarians. They learn from each other via knowledge exchange and planning. Alan Gray of the Darien library wrote a TTW guest post, including this insight into the library’s structure: “We need great people to make our library a success — we just don’t have any preconditions about who they are, or what degree they do or do not have, just what they stand for, and what they can do.”

    What scares me is my JOB is to teach people to be librarians – to get the degree so they can go off and work in libraries. Job security is good right? Libraries without librarians is a scary proposition for many of us!  The model – and I think Darien is a good example of it in the field – has space for all not just librarians. We’ll need coders, marketing gurus, customer service stars and business managers, not just a bunch of folks who went to library school. 

    Does this de-value the degree? I think not. Librarians will carry the core values and ethics of the profession. They will convey the mission of what we’ve done in libraries forever to all: staff, user, supporters, governing bodies. But they will also understand that nothing stays the same and innovation should be part of this library’s mission. What’s been called “my mantra” I guess is truly that: Learn to Learn, Adapt to Change, Scan the Horizon, Be Curious, & Bring your Heart with You.

    So I guess part of the charge is also back on me – to teach the best I can, to point out the changes in our world since the Cluetrain was published, and to work with my colleagues in LIS edu to change curriculum to create more nimble, flexible learning environments for the librarians who will guide projects and manage collections in this model library.

    But the charge is also on you, dear readers. What can you do today to start flattening and changing the chart? What can you do via your long range plan to realign services and people to better serve the interests and needs of your communities?

    If you haven’t read The Cluetrain Manifesto – take a look. Or re-read it in 2009 with a new lens. Use it for staff book discussion or your strategic plan. LIS Students, please read it before you graduate. I’m counting on you.


    Further Reading:

    The Cluetrain is Leaving the Station: A TTW Guest Post by Kay Jacobson

    Into a New World of Librarianship

    TTW posts tagged Cluetrain 

    TechSource Post

    Screenshots from “The Hyperlinked Library”  Creative Commons License

    The Hyperlinked Library by Michael Stephens is licensed under a
    Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

    An Answer. Converged Devices, Barcodes & the Future


    On Friday, I asked a question:

    Made with

    I wanted to see what type of response I might get putting it into the form above. Three events in three weeks lead to this post. This kind of synchronicity always makes my trendspotting radar go off.

    First, I met some great folks from Pasco Libraries in Florida when I spoke at the TBLC Annual Meeting. They shared with me a promotion for their Battle of the Bands event: the intial announcement was made via a 2D code. Not a flier, not a blog post, not a Facebook alert —  but a two dimensional barcode. Take a look at the screenshot above: the library’s MySpace page displayed the 2D code for the young people to find and decodewith their phones.

    So what is 2D code? explains it well:

    2D Codes are almost like 1D Barcodes – They identify an object uniquely. The big difference is that 2D Codes can be used to virtually identify anything!

    Just create a 2D Code and put it on something – Like a shirt, a flyer or a business card.

    You now have your own ‘barcode’! Anybody can scan this code and get to the information you decided to put in when you created the Code. If you registered with Snappr you can also come back to the site later and change the content of your Code to something completely different. So one day your T-Shirt links to a simple text and the other day directly to your Flickr profile. Just try creating a code on the ‘Create Code‘ site. It is really easy.

    I asked the folks from Pasco to send me more details for TTW. I hope they do!

    Second, right after my trip to Florida, TTW Contributor Lee LeBlanc went to DevLearn and found 2D Codes used to promote and share info about events as well. I’m hoping he’ll post about that conference here as well.

    Third, just a few days later, I spoke to a group of librarian locally in Illinois and had an interesting response about the cell phone banning signs I use in my talks. I told the questioning librarian that I appreciated her feedback and candor. It was a little difficult to be called out like that in the Q & A but I am glad she did. The group responded with various ideas about friendly signage and policies and the message we send to our users.*

    And I do understand that dealing with difficult patrons – loud, rude, etc – as she described, can be a daunting task. BUT. Banning cell phones (and the converged devices they’ve become) is no longer an option for libraries. That sign on your door with a cell phone and a red circle/line through it simply has got to go. Go take it down. I’ll wait.

    I think both Michael Casey and I feel very strongly about this particular signpost toward transparency: “Focus on user-driven policy, not driving users away. Usage patterns, user needs, and the grim reality of tough economic times mean we must steadily reevaluate our mission, our services, and our policies.” This means trying to control your users and their technology might not be a good idea as we go forward with libraries in an uncertain and fluid age.

    Why you ask?

    We should be guiding user behavior in our spaces with simply stated codes of conduct (not unfriendly lists of rules) instead of focusing on banning technology to control behavior. Teens out of control? Block Facebook! Person talking too loud on phone? Ban the cellphone.

    That’s broken.

    I just downloaded the Snapper application and I can now access, scan and search for barcode information with my phone and you never know – I may want to scan materials in your library. Other people might want to do that too. People are already using these devices to find all sorts of things on their own, even while standing in your big beautiful library with lovely reference desk. The device connects me – us – them to the world.

    So that’s a big reason to go to the table, re-do your “No Cell Phone” policy to something more friendly, and think about ways to incorporate these technologies into your own services. 

    How about a 2D code scavenger hunt? How about library materials labeled with the codes sharing details and little known facts about the work or similar items? 

    I was fiddling with the Snapper app while thinking about this post. To test the barcode finder, I keyed in the code on the new Shanachie Tour book. The shot above is what came up. It was that easy. I need to play more to find out if I can customize where the results come from – wouldn’t it be nice if it could be my local library?

    (Here’s the rest of the story.)

    How to Drive Traffic to Your Website

    Don’t miss this article from Sarah Houghton-Jan and Aaron Schmidt:

    While there are many quick, one-time things you can do to make your content findable, we’ll address those later. First, we have to make sure that there’s a reason to promote your library and its website. If you’re not offering relevant services or interesting content on your site, there’s really nothing to promote.

    The most important and effective thing you can do to make your content findable and to draw people back is the most difficult: Make a good website. Creating a website is ridiculously easy, and it takes about 5 minutes to start a blog. Filling such sites with interesting content, however, takes skill, effort, and inspiration. Anyone can hit the “publish” button, but to learn about the interests of your community and to systematically present relevant content takes time. This is what you must do.

    One way to approach the issue of content is to use the strengths of your library’s staff. Perhaps you have employees who are passionate about romance novels or get wired about fixing computers. This excitement will show through if you have them talk about their interests online. One great thing about public libraries is that almost anything in the world is within their scope of interest. Highlighting the expertise of individuals in your library not only can produce interesting content, but it can also illuminate the humans in your facility. This helps build relationships, one of the most important things librarians can do to promote themselves. Good content makes your website more findable because the better your content is, the more people will talk about it and link to it. These links are the lifeblood of Google’s PageRank. And you want links. Badly.

    I’ll be adding this to course readings!

    Thanks for the Feedback!

    Frank Haulgren commented here and I just had to make it a post:

    Western Washington Univ.s “14 Days To Have Your Say” project was directly inspired by the Starbuck’s campaign.  I had read a newspaper article (quaint, no?) about this project one day while having lunch and immediately thought to myself, “We can do this!  We should do this!”

    The 14 Days blog has closed has closed for comment.  A final post has been made by me for the libraries and we are now beginning to analyze the comments and see what we can undertake over the summer.

    Bu far the most commented on issues were library noise, longer hours, and an interesting divide on the question of a library cafe.

    It was a very, very worth while project!

    New WWU Dean of Libraries Chris Cox responds on the site:

    I just wanted to say thank you to all of you who have taken the time to offer your ideas and feedback about The Western Libraries. I’ve been eagerly reading these and am looking forward to working with all of you to answer your needs, whether they be quiet in the library, the construction of a cafe, installing a book drop on the south side of campus or investigating the feasability of longer library hours and/or a 24 hour study space. I’m very excited to be coming to a place where the students, faculty and staff care so much about their library.

    Gathering feedback for planning from stakeholders in the academic library should be a top priority. Using mechanisms inspired by good ole Starbucks in our 2.0 world is inspired. Well done WWU!

    Cell Phone Lounge

    Leigh Anne Vrabel discusses articles on urban nomadism at Library Alchemy:

    And comes to an interesting conclusion:

    Cell phone lounge.

    This lounge accomplishes two things:

    1. Acknowledges that cell phones have permeated the culture and meets patron expectations for new nomadic spaces.
    2. Gives the library more control over how those nomadic spaces are governed.

    Our current cell phone policy asks users to take their calls in the hallway.  While this is respectful to patrons who desire quiet, it’s kind of like asking your adult relatives to sit at the kids’ table for Thanksgiving dinner.  Why not create a situation that’s win-win, as opposed to “some people win, some people lose?”  It’s also beneficial for staff in that security guards–and reference librarians–will be able to enforce policies more easily when there’s a designated space that’s just as nice as the spaces everybody else gets to use. If somebody’s using a cell phone anywhere other than the lounge, we can point to the lounge and say, “We respected your needs. Please respect ours.”

    Fascinating! I would agree with her thinking – why can’t there be spaces for various folks? Just like the quiet reading room at Loyola where technology was not to be used. Good stuff!

    Do You Trust your Staff? – A TTW Guest Post from Darien Library’s Alan Gray

    Darien logoMaybe most libraries think about it differently, but Darien Library is sending more staff members to Los Angeles for BookExpo America, the majority of whom will be Circulation staff, two of them part-time, than to any other conference this year. It’s a major commitment on our part, but for nearly all our staff, this is the most important event of the year. They love it! Now I wouldn’t expect many east coast libraries to follow suit, but how many libraries out there will be sending part-time OR even full-time Circ staff to BookExpo, and when it comes east next year, how many from here will do that? Many libraries will say they can’t, don’t have the resources (though that’s just another way of saying they have different priorities) but nearly all of them will still be sending the same people to attend ALA again and sit in the same tired old meetings, where nothing gets done that has the LEAST amount of impact on the central core of what happens in a successful library: the in-the-moment, one-to-one relationship between an engaged staff member and a committed patron.

    We need great people to make our library a success — we just don’t have any preconditions about who they are, or what degree they do or do not have, just what they stand for, and what they can do.

    And we don’t limit them in what they can do. We trust our Circulation staff with the responsibility of buying all our adult fiction – they have the budget and it’s their choice. Who knows better what our patrons would like, or is in a better position to react to their needs than the people on the front lines? And who better to “hand sell” an item than someone who participated in the decision to acquire it?

    The Library 2.0 question is “Do you trust your patron?” The Library Eternal question is, “Do you trust your staff – all of them?”

    Alan Gray, Darien Library

    A note from Michael: I’ve blogged about Darien Library a lot because I truly believe in the models they are creating. This guest post comes from some emailing Alan and I did these past few days while I’m prepping my Australia talks. I appreciate his candor, viewpoint and willingness to write this.

    Customer Service as Community

    Great post at “The M Word:” 

    Andy Sernovitz on Damn! I Wish I’d Thought of That! posted a neat list of ideas he compiled from the panel “Customer service as community, community as customer service” at the Customer Service is the New Marketing Conference. Sounds like it was an all star panel: Gina Bianchini, Ning; Matt Mullenweg, WordPress ; Tara Huntl, Citizen Agency ; Patti Roll, Timbuk2; Brian Oberkirch, Small Good Thing.

    It has some good stuff for libraries to consider when we creating our campaigns.

    1. When you open up to customer participation, your brand belongs to your customers, not you.
    2. Use your product every day. It aligns your interests with your customers’. It lets you fix problems as they happen. It lets you see things as a user, which is always more helpful than seeing it as a marketer.
    3. Turn the bullhorn around. Stop talking. Give the community a chance to speak.
    4. There is no such thing as a “community strategy”. The community will do what it wants. Go with it.
    5. Join conversations early. Negative gets worse if you don’t respond. Positive grows when you do.
    6. Why pay for product photos? Encourage your community to share their product photos. They may even blog about the fact that you chose their photos.
    7. Sounding “professional” does not require you to sound like an ass. You don’t need formal language or big words. Talk like a human being. Talk to people online like you talk to your friends.
    8. The great thing about communities is that you can hear from everyone. The bad thing about communities is that you can hear from everyone.
    9. It’s ok to moderate and set rules of civil discourse. You can politely refuse to engage with ranters who don’t want to have a civil conversation.
    10. Your community will support you if you enable them. When a critic gets vocal, let your fans reply instead of you.
    11. Listen to experts but design for novices.

    Of course, I really like #7. Many of these also speak to the self-correcting nature of some of the communities that have sprung up around libraries and other institutions.