Sunday, October 23, 2005

Read. This. Now.

I've had this post sitting in the draft box for several days waiting for the web site of the magazine Fast Company to reflect the latest print issue so I could point you to the article I talk about below, but it is still showing the October one. So, either find a print copy or you might have to wait until the November issue shows up on the Web site.

Get those library glasses out and read this Fast Company essay with them on. It's a mere two pages long but should have you shifting uneasily in your chair, or bouncing up and down, yelling, "yes! yes!! yess-ss!!" The title is "Back in the Box" and it's by Douglas Rushkoff. [spelling corrected, thanks]

"In their endless rush to embrace the next big thing, too many businesses have forgotten what they are and what they really do. The fashionable compulsion to break with the past has, bizarrely, come to mean abandoning the true value they once offered customers."

And this, for me, resonanted with something I read last week, in a source few of you will be able to lay hands on--nyse magazine (oct/nov 2005) which is published by the New York Stock Exchange. (It was on Jay Jordan's desk and it was, um, borrowed). The article was about McDonald's.

"Back at the turn of the new century...a variety of cost-cutting measures had derailed the company. 'Ultimately,' says CFO Matt Paull, "we think we hurt the brand."

As Alice has noted, we are thinking a lot about brand in our part of OCLC (George probably is not thinking do much about this) because of the survey I tiresomely keep referring to that you can't see yet because we haven't released it (I tell you proofreading umpty dozen tables full of numbers takes a long long time). The survey results show that for the respondents--3300+ in 6 countries--the overwhelming top-of-mind association with "library" is "books". So, "books" is the brand of The Library.

Perhaps you are not surprised. Perhaps you are happy that this strong association exists. But, it is then a bit odd, I think, that for all the e-resources we've added, for all the portals and web sites that have been built, for all the classes academic librarians have held on using non-print resources, for all the computers that people use in public libraries.....that the brand is still books.

So, this is what we have to work with when we promote our libraries and their resources. Like it or not, it is not possible to change peoples' associations with a strong brand by telling them something different. BIG questions: what is the value of The Library and what does it do?


caleb tr said...

right on. rhetorical or not, i'm answering you.

the purpose of libraries is to further education (the purpose of education is to further freedom and democracy).

collecting, cataloging and sharing books has been, and still is, the most effecient and effective way for libraries to achieve this.

it is not the only way, and if it were, we might be out of business.

for one, many public libraries' funding is directly related to circulation statistics, which are as driven by the use of books as they are by the use of periodicals, cds, dvds, and audio books.

for public libraries that aren't funded this way, $$ is often related to local government's confidence and knowledge of what the library does and how well we do it.

for two, an increasing number of voters and taxpayers (no stats: conjecture! experience!) find the library irrelevant, and have found even easier and more effecient ways to get books and other information, ie the internet.

i believe that though books be our brand, without embracing other formats, media and downloads, and without embracing /good/ internet services and creative outreach programs, it won't be enough to last much longer. some cities and library districts excepted.

the plan: promote the heck out of ourselves, our books, our services, embrace technology as a business tool.

Thomas said...

If books are the brand of libraries. Maybe we should look at what other things are branded with books. Try Knowledge, Wisdom, Reliability, Information etc. Maybe not so bad brand after all? And when the "Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy" comes out for real, then Books will be a very good brand identity indeed!

Anonymous said...

It's available through ProQuest -
the author's name has two Fs, Rushkoff

Bruce Newell said...

Perhaps "books" are not necessarily bound between two covers, just as we know churches are not buildings and libraries are not warehouses full of books.

Perhaps "books" include a wider array of media than first comes to mind, and perhaps this is what we librarians understand and many of our users intuit.

Or perhaps not.