The library for teacher & researcher development – with an international spin

Flickr: Globe, stevecadman

Flickr: Globe, stevecadman

I was really pleased to be asked by two of our academics in the Education department to present workshops for visiting academics from Kazakhstan, who are here for a bespoke continuing professional development programme.

The sessions I delivered were on Using the Library for Research and E-books at the University, with a talk from me to set the scene and a hands-on activity so they could have a go themselves. The workshops were very interesting to deliver – I particularly enjoyed planning Using the Library for Research – and it was fascinating to hear about libraries at their universities in Kazakhstan: one university library was entirely closed access, in a similar set-up to the British Library, making browsing impossible.

Planning and delivering these workshops was more challenging than my usual information skills sessions, for a number of reasons.

1. English is often their third, if not fourth, language (Kazakh, Russian, Turkish is common pattern). This meant I couldn’t cover as much as I usually would, as I had to consciously slow down my speech even more than usual. We were also advised to use hand-gestures more consciously to emphasise points e.g. distinctions, or linear processes.

Some of my content was complicated material, especially the e-books session, which I was trying to get across in their third language. Striking a balance of making it simple enough, but not patronising, was quite difficult.

2. A lot of preparation went into the e-books session. It’s a subject I only knew a little about, but I got help from Electronic Acquisitions Co-ordinator with the content. I am so glad I was able to exploit her knowledge, and the presentation was much richer as a result of her input.

Additionally, I had to plan so each person had an individual e-book and example search term to use in the hands-on, because the single/multi-user licenses on many of our e-books restrict the number of simultaneous users. I learnt this the hard way in past information skills classes, where students were let loose on e-resources but all want to find the same e-book. When a book only allows three concurrent users, 80% of the class would be disappointed.

3. In the session on the Library for research, it was really hard to emphasise that it wasn’t a Library induction; it was about the Library as a department within the University. Many of those in the sessions had attended a pre-sessional programme with the University to improve their English, so I think they expected my session to cover the same ground as their pre-sessional Library induction.

4. They took place early in Autumn term, my most busy time. Preferably, I would’ve spent longer planning and preparing, but it unfortunately was a little more rushed than I would have liked. However, the sessions themselves went well, and I at no point did I feel underprepared.

I have since been asked to deliver another session for a similar group from Kazakhstan visiting next month. This time, however, it will be with a translator – that should be an interesting experience! This will be on e-books again, and I will adapt my previous work but leaving extra time for the live translation.

To be asked to give these sessions was really gratifying. The Education department here are good at embedding information skills sessions into their courses, and I feel the Library being represented on this CPD programme is evidence to the Library as embedded within the department more widely.

Targeted marketing strategies that work: a CILIP PPRG event

Earlier this month I attended the CILIP Publicity & Public Relations Group (PPRG) event Targeted marketing strategies that work. It was a fantastic event, celebrating great marketing success stories from public and academic libraries.

Mist on the way to Birmingham

Mist on the way to Birmingham

I began my day earlier than usual (though it only seems early now I’m no longer commuting), and headed to my train to Birmingham New Street. I have only been to Birmingham once before, for Library Camp in 2011, so I was pleased there was time in the evening to visit the new, state-of-the-art Library of Birmingham.

The day consisted of several presentations on a variety of marketing campaigns, as well as presentation of the Marketing Excellence Awards. I have created a Storify of the tweets from the day:

[View the story “#PPRG13 Targeted marketing strategies that work” on Storify]

Using social media for promotion and reach

Fifty Shades of Devon Libraries, Lynda Bowler

Social media as a tool for marketing and promotion was a running theme of the day, and most of the questions following the presentations were about this. Lynda Bowler presented how Devon Libraries used social media, in particular Twitter, in a targeted bid to increase membership by 1,000 in the first week, and 3,000 overall in February 2013 as part of their National Libraries Day campaign.

The statistics were really impressive, with their targets far exceeded and over a million ‘impressions’ that month. Lynda emphasised a need not to get hung up on number of followers, or number of retweets, and that instead it is about your reach and engaging. The tweet that created the most buzz, about the number of times Fifty Shades of Grey has been borrowed in Devon, was picked up by BBC Devon radio!

What we can learn from commercial marketing
Enhancing perception and engagement at the University of Manchester Library, Penny Hicks

Before beginning her presentation, Penny, who is Head of Strategic Marketing and Communications at the University of Manchester Library, admitted to the audience she is not a librarian, but is instead from a commercial marketing background. It was refreshing to hear an outsider’s perspective on library marketing, and interesting to hear how her assumptions sometimes clashed with librarians’.

She headed the Eureka Innovation Challenge, which challenged students to come up with an idea to improve the Library, with money set aside to implement the idea and a cash prize of £1000 to the winner. What I really took away from this presentation was not to be limited by traditional ways of doing things, and to approach communications not from top-down but instead from your audience’s perspective (for example, their Library top tips were not that successful, as they were the librarians’ tips, not the students’).

Strategic marketing on a limited budget
Bases loaded: setting up for success, Jo Cornish, Hertfordshire Libraries

Jo set up the Library Youth Consultant Project, a team of young volunteers who order and promote books they think would appeal to their peers. Jo’s demonstration of strategic marketing with a limited budget, using the baseball analogy of loading bases, was really effective. Without big hitters, baseball teams can score runs by loading the bases with players, strategically scoring runs rather than hitting home runs:

  1. With the Youth Consultant Project, materials and time was the first base. The materials were professionally designed, and in plenty of time to ensure professional-looking promotion was available for the author event to promote the stock selected by the volunteers.
  2. Secondly, Herts libraries worked with their partners, such as the Volunteer Centre, school librarians and Youth Connexions, which allowed for marketing they couldn’t have done just by themselves.
  3. Thirdly social media and online promotion were harnessed for free, accessible promotion, but with the caveat that the message must be intriguing and inviting in an onslaught of online information.
  4. Finally, the role we have as ambassadors to ensure people understand what libraries are for.

Jo’s presentation, and approach to marketing, was clear and straight-forward, and to be honest inspirational!

Co-ordinated marketing to raise awareness of resources
Discover the Library! Libraries and learning innovation at Leeds Metropolitan University, Julie Cleverley

Last year, Leeds Metropolitan University library embarked on a targeted marketing strategy to raise awareness and usage of Discover, their resource discovery system. Library staff were involved in the implementation, such as choosing a name for the service, which empowered them to train students in its use. Promotion included training for academic staff both within the library and in departments, and at university events like the Fresher’s festival, along with promotional materials.

Since the campaign, the number of negative comments in the 2013 National Student Survey was down. The library have also found the use of different databases has been shaken up, which is great news for lesser used (and therefore more expensive-per-use) databases.

Wine and bubbly to celebrate the Marketing Excellent Awards

Cake and bubbly to celebrate the Marketing Excellent Awards

After a break for cake and bubbly, the Marketing Excellence Awards were presented, and we heard a little bit from each of the winners. Particularly interesting was Loughborough University Library’s ability to turn the temporary closure of the library building for refurbishment into a real ‘good news story’ and buzz of excitement, through a co-ordinated approach to allay concerns, outline the services available through the closure, and share the benefits of the refurbishment.

The presentations all highlighted the importance of laying the groundwork and preparing in advance. For these projects, it was absolutely vital – as was the need to market in a targeted way to particular groups.