Outreach for law librarians


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Slide for talk given at Chicago Association of Law Libraries meeting, April 17, 2010.

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  • Question I’ve gotten a lot: what does an outreach librarian do?

    My answer initially: “I’m still figuring it out.”

    This talk will cover some of the things I’ve figured out, what I do and am thinking about doing for outreach, and how I approach it.
  • I didn’t plan to open with something along this line, but I happened across this tweet and thought it was fantastic.

    Kathy Sierra is a programming instructor and game developer whose thoughts are applicable to a wide range of fields, including libraries. (Her blog Creating Passionate Users is no longer updated, but is still available and a great source of inspiration for how and why to help users be their best.)

    Whatever type of library we work at, whether we’re instructing law students to help them write kick-ass LRW assignments or helping lawyers find what they need to make kick-ass arguments, what we do helps others be their best.

    There are lots of other sources of information that we compete with now, but none of them provide the service, expertise, and experience that librarians do.

  • This is the image I was looking for when I found the last one.

    There is supposed to be some controversy about marketing and libraries--we’re not supposed to sully our hands with such an endeavor, or something like that. I don’t pay much attention to that because it’s pretty obvious that we need to compete with new information sources.

    In library school, I had to read How to Win Friends and Influence People...remember that when we are engaging in marketing/outreach, we are doing so not to puff up ourselves about how great we are, but to remind our users that we are their best resource for kicking ass.

  • Our patrons are out there finding and using information in new ways. They’re not going to wait for us. We should be out there with them, and we should also remind them that we’re still one of their best resources wherever they are. If we don’t do it, no one else will.

  • By reminding patrons that we’re a resource for them, we extend the reach of our awesomeness and theirs
  • Here’s what I’m going to talk about...
    1. How to plan, get your team together, be efficient
    2. Some social media ideas
    3. How presentation and personality can enhance your efforts
  • Planning is an important first step.
    It will help you be consistent.
    It will help you create goals that you can aspire to and assess your efforts.
    It will also help you be more efficient.
  • My plan has six components. (Please note, it is in need of an update at this point!)
  • Each component has multiple tasks associated with it that I’ve broken down with timelines for when they will get done, as well as priority and difficulty levels for each one. I’ve also noted who else I will need to work with to get them done.

    I’m going to talk about a couple of larger components of my plan--branding, promoting library staff, and planning different activities--as well as what’s missing from it.
  • Not many law libraries have logos--as far as I know, Georgetown and Texas are the only two--but we’re trying to come up with one. We have a small group working on the project.
  • Our logo group has decided we don’t want:
    * a book logo, even a nice stylized one like Haverhill’s, because we provide more than books
    * a building logo, as iconic as our columns are and as nice as this Bodleian one is, because people don’t have to come to the building to use our resources
    * a computer in the logo because any representation of a computer looks out of date almost immediately.

    These parameters rule out almost everything except for something simple based on a nice typeface. (Though I also love MIT’s logo, which is a stylization of their famous domed building.)

    Some principles to keep in mind if you develop a logo: it should look good in black and white or color, shouldn’t be too busy, and should scale to various sizes.
  • We are still brainstorming, and it’s going slower than we wanted. We’ve asked our school graphic designer to have a go at it, and we might also hold a contest for local graphic design or art students.
  • Once you have a logo, you can use it on all your materials, to give them a consistent look and feel. You could extend this to your library signage as well for a polished look.

    You can also make templates for different types of materials, which will make creating new ones very easy. MIT has a great set of brochures that follow the same template and are differentiated by color.
  • Another important aspect of outreach is promoting your library staff’s expertise--since this is the real value of the library over Google or a database.

    Our library staff directory is a plain list of names and contact info that we posted just after our re-organization.

    Valparaiso also has a list like this, but their list links to...
  • ...staff profile pages that detail education, publications and professional activities, and include a photo. I think the publications and professional activities are important whether or not your librarians have faculty status. Some of the librarians at Yale also have Google voice and Meebo widgets, public calendars, and maps to their offices.

    I’m hoping to talk my colleagues into doing something like this. Note: not everyone is comfortable having their picture on the Internet, so you will want to respect people’s preferences. The University at Buffalo has a group photo of library staff, which is another option.
  • Keep in mind that some of the things you plan will be on-going through the year--things like blogging or offering research consultations by appointment--while others like classes and tours will be one-time or once-a-year events. A checklist can keep you from forgetting an outreach option and will help keep you efficient, because you’re not starting from scratch every time.

    This communication plan is another work in progress that will be a central part of my revised Outreach plan. I’m just starting to use it for things and realized last Friday during our summer bootcamp that I’m missing an option--writing on classroom boards the morning of the event.
  • Your plan can also include ideas for things you want to investigate in the future.

    One of my things is to start a library friends group, and investigate other academic libraries that have them--Georgetown is one.

    One thing that’s missing from my plan and will be in the next draft is assessment. It’s hard to know where to concentrate your outreach efforts if you don’t know what’s most effective. I’m still working on how to do that, but I’m starting to track numbers of people who show up to events like our annual Library Fest, as well as followers and fans on our social media sites.
  • For more ideas, you can look around the Internet. There aren’t a lot of law library marketing plans online, but there are a number of academic library plans you can crib from.

    Here are a few I’ve found--you’ll notice some of them link the plan goals to the library mission or strategic plan--a great strategy, if you have one of those. And one lucky library has a 5-figure budget for materials in their marketing plan!
  • Another valuable part of planning is finding a team, whether it be formal or informal.

    Before our re-org, my title was Outreach & Community Relations Specialist. My initial post-re-org title still had specialist in it, but I don’t feel like a specialist, so I was happy my suggestion of coordinator was accepted.

    Not everyone is good at every task. There are some things I’m really good at, some I want second opinions on all the time, and some I don’t feel good at and thus don’t enjoy. So it’s helpful to call on those in my library who are good at and like doing the things I don’t.
  • One thing I’m generally good at but sometimes struggle with is graphic design. One of our associate directors also has a great eye for design, so I run most things I’m working on by her.

    A few weeks ago I was working on a poster for our National Library Week activities. The colors and image combinations were problematic and it was just a mess, so I took it to Kim, who agreed that it was ugly. After talking to her for just a few minutes, I knew how to fix it.

    Whether it’s design or writing copy or new activities you’re considering, figure out who in your organization can best help you make it work.
  • There might be people outside the library who can help you make it work. I’ve learned a lot from talking to people at the Berkman Center about how they do their communications, how they built up their mailing lists, how they contact the press and keep up with people who are interested in their projects. Not all of it is directly applicable to the kinds of things we’re doing in the library, but I’ve gotten some great ideas. (The extensive combination checklist earlier emerged after a chat with one of them.)

    We’re also lucky to be in great terms with our school communications office. So you might consider talking to your school communications department or an institute or center that does work you admire, or your firm marketing department.

    Another thing to keep in mind with your experts is to collaborate with people inside or outside of your library with overlapping interests. Over the next couple months, our research & student services librarian George and I will work on experimenting with roving reference and developing a student advisory group.
  • Social media is popular way for communicating on the web. Many companies and institutions are using it to communicate with their customers. Many libraries are too. Getting started can be daunting if you haven’t explored web 2.0 before--and can be even if you have. Here are some suggestions for getting a good start. Most of what I have to say will be about blogging, Facebook, and Twitter, but should be applicable to any new media that comes along.
  • The great thing about many social media tools is that they are free. Technically. There’s no charge to use them, but there is the cost of your time, and that can be extensive. So think of them more like free as in free kittens--to keep them healthy and growing, you’ll have to feed and care for them regularly.
  • The more you can automate, the less time social media will take. My preferred tool at the moment is Hootsuite. There are a number of reasons I love Hootsuite:

    * I can update both Twitter and our Facebook page at the same time.
    * It has a built-in URL shortener, useful for fitting the 140-character limit on Twitter.
    * I can schedule tweets in advance, which is AMAZING. If I’m promoting an event, I can automatically schedule tweets every few days at once--I don’t have to remember to do it.
    * Scheduling is also useful for timing tweets and status updates for when people are most likely to be reading--I usually go for mid-morning, lunchtime, and mid-afternoon. Not much after 5 or on weekends.
  • Hootsuite also allows you to track the number of hits on links in your tweets, which can be useful for assessment.
  • Facebook also has some built in tracking tools.

    The built-in tools are a start, but remember to record some basic info periodically about your social media accounts--number of followers/fans and so forth. I wish I had done that when we started our accounts. If you have a blog, see if it has a built-in hit tracking feature and if it doesn’t, check out sitemeter or statcounter to add one.

    This Facebook chart also brings me to the next note: does anybody notice anything weird about the top cities my libraries fans are in?
  • I delete a lot odd stuff from our Facebook wall. Most of the posts are from people overseas or aspirational/cheerleading fans, or people trying to sell books or law-related stuff. And the crackpots. Most people who comment on our posts are also overseas. I remove the worst without guilt.

    This is why I don’t spend much time on our Facebook account, though we’re experimenting with a promotion for students during National Library Week to see if that improves our student fan base.
  • Another reason why I don’t stress out over Facebook: the Creepy Treehouse Effect.

    Creepy Treehouse is a term used in educational technology to describe:
    “institutional use of a technology/tool that emulates or mimics pre-existing technologies or tools that may already be in use by the learners. . . .Though such systems may be seen as innovative or problem-solving. . .they may repulse some users who see them as infringement on the sanctity of their peer groups.” (Jared Stein, Director of Instructional Design Services, Utah Valley University)

    Our National Library Week Facebook activity is a little bit creepy treehouse, so I won’t be surprised if that one doesn’t take off.

    It’s a good rule of thumb not to repulse your users!
  • One way to avoid Creepy Treehouse is to spend some time studying the social media tool you want to try: observe how other institutions use it and read up on suggested best practices. The best way of all is to dive in and make yourself a personal account and use it for a few weeks.

    There’s a big crowd of law librarians who can be found at nearly any social media site, so you will not be alone. (The latest craze is Foursquare.)
  • Another way to learn about social media/web 2.0 tools is from librarians.

    The past two summer, the AALL Computing Services SIS offered the Web 2.0 Challenge, an online course geared specifically for law librarians to learn about web 2.0 tools. We are planning to produce an online only edition in the near future, but until then you can still access the materials from the previous challenges--the only aspect you will miss are the small group discussions.
  • Once you’re using a social media tool, be prepared to engage the unexpected.

    A few weeks ago we got a question about the condoms that the Law Students for Reproductive Justice had put in the bathrooms. So, I replied that they were likely only there for a limited time and we would stick to providing free pencils and earplugs.
  • Develop your own conventions in using social media.

    If I’m posting something just for our students on Twitter, Facebook, or our blog, it always starts with HLS Students. Sometimes HLS Students Only, in hopes of intriguing them.

    This was inspired by the Harvard Nieman Journalism Lab--the person who runs their Twitter account starts the first post of every day with good morning.

    If you’re writing a series in your blog, you can also use a subject series title for them.
  • There are a lot of social media experts and wannabe gurus out there making pronouncements about how you MUST use social media THIS WAY. There are even librarians getting into the act claiming that if you don’t use X tool, you’re no longer relevant.

    The person who knows your patrons best is you. Take what you hear from the experts and gurus with a grain of salt. (And if I’ve accidentally made any absolutes in this presentation, do the same!) Be out there exploring new things and investigating if your community might be there, but come to your own conclusions and talk to other librarians in your field. For example, there are people who say you that if you can’t be on Twitter 24/7, you shouldn’t use it at all. Maybe that’s true for representatives of major corporations, but that doesn’t mean it’s true for law libraries. I look at replies to our Twitter account about once a day and check the email address where the new follower notifications go to about once a week and that works for us. We’re building an audience slowly and in the meantime, if our students need to reach us urgently, they now how to do it and they know it’s not via Twitter.
  • The only hard and fast rule I’m going to suggest is to follow the right people and seek out the right fans. If you have a library twitter account, and it’s mostly following other libraries and librarians, you’re doing it wrong. You should be following your own community--students, alumni, faculty, attorneys.

    For instance, there are over 3400 potential law students findable on the Twellow directory. Some of them are probably yours. You can narrow it down by adding the name of your school, its initials, your city, or zipcode.

    By following students, you’ll read a lot of innane chatter that won’t interest you. Scan for the information opportunities. You never know what will come up. A few weeks ago I called on my library’s sci-fi club to answer a law student’s question about Vulcan apologies.
  • Twitter also has some built-in organization tools you can use--I have a number of lists set up in the HLSL account, some public, most private. I also have saved searches so I can see what people are saying about us. Mostly it’s Foursquare checkins and retweets. You can check these periodically on Twitter, or you can subscribe to RSS alerts for them through your reader as yet another way of reputation monitoring. It’s probably a good idea to monitor Twitter for mentions of your library even if it’s not on Twitter.
  • If a tool doesn’t work for your audience, that’s okay. Hopefully you’ve learned something from it.

    For National Library Week, we’re experimenting with a few things, one of which is Foursquare, a location based game that you use by “checking in” with an app on your mobile device when you visit a place of business. You get points and badges for certain amounts and types of checkins, and the person who has the most checkins in a location is deemed the mayor. We’re giving a $25 gift card to a local bookstore to whomever is our mayor tomorrow at 4pm.

    Foursquare is unlikely to be the most useful social media tool ever, but it’s low maintenance, fun, and you can add tips about your location--and so can your users. I was ridiculously excited when someone who was not me or my director wrote one about the coffee. Before our NLW posters went up 3 weeks ago, we had 77 checkins and 27 unique visitors, so the event has made a small impact.

  • Finally, one last thing you can do to get the most out of your social media and outreach efforts is to recycle. Write a newsletter article that will interest your patrons? Put it in your blog. Then link to your blog post via Twitter and Facebook status. Chances are, not everyone is reading your content in every venue, so you’ll get more mileage out of it for less work.
  • For example, when I was at Nova Southeastern University Law Library, I turned our blog posts into a quick newsletter every week or two and sent it out to our Townhall email list, and every Friday our blog stats spiked as a result.
  • First impressions count. But most of us librarians have minimal marketing training, and likewise minimal resources in our libraries. How can we design eye-catching marketing materials?
  • There are lots of tools you can use to make outreach materials.

    MS Word is fine if that’s what you have. It’s not the easiest tool to use, but it can get the job done. If you have the time and opportunity to learn and can afford a graphic design program like MS Publisher or Adobe InDesign, I highly recommend it. It provides a lot of finely grained control over the elements of a design and its layout. Take a look at Adobe’s packages, because you can get it with different combinations of 4 programs including the full Photoshop, the full Acrobat, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, or Flash. The academic price for those packages is $199, which is a great deal if you look at the non-academic and individual program pricing.

    Likewise, Photoshop. If you can’t afford it the full version, the scaled down Photoshop Elements is a great alternative, and does almost everything the full version does. It’s what I use at home and sells for around $85.

    See if your university or local community college offers any continuing education courses.
  • One way to make your material look good is with sharp images.

    Would anyone like to comment on the image in this slide?

    Use the pre-installed clipart in Word sparingly--a lot of it is like this image: overused, cartoonish, and dull.
  • There is good clipart available from Microsoft--when you’re in the insert clipart dialog, choose the option to go to the online gallery and see what’s there. This photograph is an improvement over the previous cartoon guy.

    MS is now working with iStockphoto and some other sites to provide even better clipart.
  • Creative Commons images on Flickr: the source of most images in this presentation.

    Flickr Commons: images from cultural institutions including LOC, Smithsonian, NYPL.

    If I really want a particular image and can’t find one on Flickr, I’ll pay a few dollars for one from iStockphoto.

    You can also search public domain clipart, which is the source of the owl in the Gen X/Gen Y Caucus design.

    If you’re at a university, see if your school has a subscription to ArtStor, which is done by the same company as JSTOR and is a great resource for fine art/museum collections.

    Finally, maybe you have an artist on your staff or your own photographs that might work. The Library Fest squirrel was drawn by one of our talented circulation staffers.
  • Good use of fonts can also improve your materials. As with the clipart, try to avoid overused default fonts.

    In particular, be careful with the much-mocked comic sans, except in cases of extreme irony. For one thing, it’s not terribly professional. Any font that has websites devoted to banning it is trouble.
  • Most font websites are selling them. If you decide you want to use a certain font for all your library publications for branding purposes, it’s probably a good idea to buy a professionally designed font. For most other purposes, free will do.

    My go-to font site is dafont.com. It has thousands of searchable fonts with some great themes. The fun part about dafont is that you can type in some text to preview on the site while you’re browsing them. If I were doing a Halloween event, I might use one of the fonts on this page. Most of the fonts here are shareware, free, or free for personal use.
  • There are sources of inspiration everywhere.

    For our summer success/bootcamp teaser poster, I decided I wanted to do Rocky. Of course, I couldn’t use the real Rocky poster without copyright issues, so I found a great black and white Flickr CC image of the statue in Philadelphia with lots of white space around it for the text.
  • Here’s another poster for the same event--it might be the one we use next year. This time I used the iconic Uncle Sam, found a close font, and used the capabilities of InDesign to mimic the original lettering style.
  • Here are two more posters I’ve done--if you look closely, you’ll figure out that in both cases, I took my inspiration from logos of the things we’re promoting.

    Refworks’s logo is based on a wonderful typewriter font, so I simply used that for the whole flyer.

    I struggled with our NLW poster until I decided to copy the Foursquare logo font and color palette. There’s a color dropper tool in InDesign and Photoshop that I used to copy the colors exactly--you can also use the Firefox color dropper add-on to get the codes for colors on any website.

    For extra polish, you can add a frame to your images or matte a flyer with construction paper. Almost any design in almost any media will be improved with a frame to hold it together. You may have noticed all the images in this presentation have a narrow stroke framing them. It’s light grey, so easy to miss, but it’s there.

    Right now, I’m addicted to the rounded corners that are easy to do in InDesign, but Word has some fancy options too.

    Most of our posters are just 8.5 x 11 flyers. You might want to do a large scale poster for events you have every year. One cost-saving trick you can do is to get a large poster advertising your event printed at Kinko’s. Leave out the dates and leave a space for a sheet of paper to attach to it with each year’s details. I got this idea from Meg Garton and Margaret Hall at SEAALL 2007.
  • As I wrap up, a reminder that you are the person who knows your community and its quirks.

    One thing everyone at HLS quickly learns is that if you want to entice students to come to events with food, you need to specify non-pizza lunch or, if you are having pizza, that it’s from a certain favored spot in town. It’s funny, but there’s no getting around it.
  • The physical set up of your institution can also have an affect an how you do outreach. If your school and library are all in one building, you’ve got a built-in advantage. We’re spread out over quite a number of buildings, so opportunities to just run into faculty, for example, are rare.

    We also have an enormous new building that will be opening in Fall 2011 and we’re already starting to talk about how that will affect where students hang out, and how we might reach them there.
  • Face time is invaluable. Anything you can do into get people to the library is excellent. Our annual Love Your Library Fest has been running 5 years and brings 200-300 students in--the reference desk gets even busier than Lexis/Westlaw password time. We also make sure to send a personalized invitation to our Dean.

    We’re working on reminding faculty that the library is a logical host for book release parties.

    A number of us make a point to attend events in our community, like our annual public interest auction last week.
  • If you have a suggestion box or do focus groups, act on the information you are given. We’re in the middle of an ongoing update to our website as a result of focus groups we had with students last year. We have a difficult to use CMS, but we’re trying to implement as many changes as possible in response to some of their observations.

    Engage with any suggestion you get, no matter how silly. Duke Law Library sets a great example here.

    I also hope this has been evident throughout, but you should show your personality. It’s one of the things that sets us apart from the competition.
  • The ultimate goal of all our outreach activities is getting more opportunities to provide kick-ass library service, especially if it leads to the kind of outreach you can’t plan for, word of mouth marketing. Patrons telling each other how much the library helped them kick ass is the best outreach of all.
  • There are tons of resources...
  • Thank you for listening and thank you once again for inviting me to Chicago!

  • Outreach for law librarians

    2. 2. http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/
    3. 3. Pon and Zi by Jeff Thomas aka Azuzephre http://www.azuzephre.net
    4. 4. Lanet-vi program of I. Alvarez-Hamelin et al.
    5. 5. 1. Planning 2. Social Media 3. Presentation
    6. 6. Plan of Chicago, 1909 1. Planning Daniel Burnham
    7. 7. My Plan Branding Promote staff and message Ongoing and one-time events Communication & social media Coordinate Library Fest Future endeavors
    8. 8. Branding: Logos
    9. 9. ! Branding: Logos !
    10. 10. Branding: Logos
    11. 11. Branding: Consistency
    12. 12. Promoting Library Staff
    13. 13. Promoting Library Staff
    14. 14. On-going and ad-hoc activities
    15. 15. Future planning Photo by @darkmatter on Flickr
    16. 16. Other Library Plans Bowling Green State University College of DuPage University of Illinois University of Nevada-Las Vegas
    17. 17. Finding Your Team
    18. 18. Make it work.
    19. 19. Who else can you talk to?
    20. 20. 2. Social Media Photo by @noluck on Flickr aka Web 2.0
    21. 21. Social Media: Free?
    22. 22. http://hootsuite.com
    23. 23. Photo by @tompp on Flickr
    24. 24. Photo by @extremeboh on Flickr
    25. 25. http://cssis.org/w2c2009
    26. 26. HLS Students Only: Good morning! EVENT: Resource Spotlight:
    27. 27. Photo by @koolaird on Flickr
    28. 28. http://twellow.com
    29. 29. Photo by @pascalbovet on Flickr
    30. 30. Photo by @bukowsky18 on Flickr
    31. 31. Photo by @crysb on Flickr 3. Presentation
    32. 32. Design Tools
    33. 33. Image Sources
    34. 34. Image Sources Microsoft Clipart Online
    35. 35. More Image Sources Flickr.com/creativecommons Flickr Commons istockphoto.com Public domain clipart ArtStor Artists on your staff Your photographs
    36. 36. Fonts http://bancomicsans.com
    37. 37. Fonts dafont.com
    38. 38. Inspiration Movies Propaganda Advertising Logos
    39. 39. Inspiration Movies Propaganda Advertising Logos
    40. 40. Know Your Community
    41. 41. Know Your Community
    42. 42. Getting to Your Community
    43. 43. Be Responsive
    44. 44. • AALL Spectrum columns • AALL Excellence in Marketing winners • Federal Law Libraries Caucus Bibliography: http://bit.ly/9i7wYF More Books • The Accidental Library Marketer Resources • Bite-Sized Marketing: Realistic Solutions for the Overworked Librarian • Blueprint for Your Library Marketing Plan • Building a Buzz: Libraries & Word of Mouth Marketing • The Visible Librarian
    45. 45. Thank you mkribble@law.harvard.edu | http://slideshare.net/mak506