[WEB4LIB] Re: Re: library marketing (long, but with an on-topic point)

Mr. Brian Collier collierb at marist.com
Tue Feb 15 15:49:10 EST 2005

Well, I'm going to respond one last time and then stop beating this
particular horse. If anyone else wants to contribute, that's fine. I am
glad we've stirred up this conversation though. It says a lot about the
different perspectives that librarians have as to our mission, and I
hate to admit it, but it seems that even librarians have succumbed to
the "libraries are dead" claims. I can't imagine why anyone would want
to work in a library with such a negative view on librarianship. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating we sit on our past and shake our
canes at the whippersnappers, we do have to adapt, but we are not
irrelevant, and we are not dead. 

C.S. Durfee wrote:
>What I'm trying to get at is that you may think these are silly
questions, or outside of 
>the scope of the library's mission, but a lot
>of library patrons -- the people who pay our salaries -- don't.   Our
>home turf isn't to give people free email addresses or places to share
photos or shop 
>for toasters, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty that we can't
learn from 
>Yahoo!/Amazon/Google/del.icio.us/et. al.

Those are all great questions, and you re-stated my point. We are here
as a public service, not as a corporate entity. We can't search inside
our books because we don't have the money to make it happen. We can't do
what Google does because we are not Google. No point trying to be. We
can learn from Google, we can work with Google, but we will not be

By the way, I have to take issue with your description of Amazon's
catalog interface, it's great if you're just looking for the latest
Grisham novel, or you're content to get the store's list of popular
recommendations in mystery DVDs. However, when it comes to those
esoteric searches that our patrons have the most trouble with, Amazon
hits the same limitations we do when it comes to subject headings and
keyword searches: people use different words to mean the same things.
The trouble is, Amazon has no straightforward way for the average user
to finesse their catalog. (You can fiddle with hacks and such if you
know about them, but most home users aren't going to stray beyond the
search box on the front page.)   

On Tuesday, February 15, 2005 12:54 PM, William Melody wrote:

>This is factually wrong.  Google has many advanced systems in place to
learn what 
>customers want.  Some comments on this from Marissa Mayer were
plastered all over the 
>web a month ago: http://alan.blog-city.com/read/1003011.htm
>They are far, far beyond libraries in usability because they are far,
far beyond 
>libraries in developing tools to understand what their users need in an
online service.

I still stand behind my statement. (And this is answers Kevin's similar
comment.) Google may have many advanced systems for data analysis in
place, but when was the last time someone from Google actually asked you
how they are doing? I do this on a regular basis. Comment cards? No
thanks. I ask my patrons. If a librarian can't do that, then he or she
needs to find another job.

My point is, Google is a business and its primary concern is revenue.
Libraries are not a business and our primary concern should be service.
Besides, Google has the resources and the freedom to pursue that sort of
data mining, libraries typically can't afford it and, if we are guarding
the privacy or our patrons as we should, we have to give a lot of
consideration before we open up that box.

Before anyone comes tearing back with a response about how we're not
using technology to it's fullest potential to track and mine our data
etc. etc. I agree. We could learn from Google's use of data tracking,
but we need to be careful about it. (I'm not proposing waiting 10 years,
but using some judgment is prudent.)

>Well, with Google I can type in New York Times and get it as the first
result, but not 
>with most library catalogs.

I don't see how that's relevant. I can walk into most libraries and pick
up a copy of the NYT from a week ago and read the article for free. I
can also go into a ProQuest database and search articles going back to
the first issue of the NYT. If I hit that link from Google, I can get
today's articles for free and that's it. We each have our strengths.
Apples and oranges.

>>We are not Google and Google is already doing the online thing better 
>>than we can because that's Google's mission and it's all Google does. 
>>If we try to be Google, then we water down our purpose as libraries.

>I'll have to strongly disagree, and I think Ross Singer and the others
involved with the 
>WAG the Dog project are 100% on the right track.  Integrating library
services with 
>other online services is vitally important.

I'm not sure what you're disagreeing with. I've have no problem with
integrating online services, if you read the rest of my post, you'll
notice that I am all for integration. I applaud Ross on his WAG the Dog
project. It's innovative and integrates current technology in a way that
helps libraries do what they are meant to do, but it is not competing
with Google in any way, shape or form.

>>At 11:02 AM 2/15/2005, Karen A. Coombs wrote:
>>Not all library's have staff that
>>possess these abilities which puts them at a certain disadvantages
>>trying to create more ubiquitous and integrated services.

>That may be so, but I've also seen and heard about a lot of wasted
talent in the staff 
>when they aren't in organizations with a culture of participation.
>That's actually probably the chief thing libraries need to focus on: 
>developing a culture of participation, focused both on staff and patron
>and technological innovation.  It's actually pretty mind-blowing that
the community as a 
>whole hasn't adopted it as a priority.  The future (heck, current)
academic library is 
>largely a web application from the POV of users.  Without internal
innovation, libraries 
>will fail in their primary duties.

I just can't agree with the statement that we're a Web app, even
metaphorically, but I do agree that internal and external participation,
and technological innovation are necessary for the survival of

Do we have to adapt? YES! Do we have to latch onto every new trend just
because it's popular among the 13-24 year-old crowd? Not necessarily.
Just because something is hot, new, and technological does not mean it's
going to last, even if it is a "better" technology (anyone remember
Betamax? Laserdisc?), and just because it's popular doesn't mean it's
going to help us. Should we be aware of new technology and examine we
can put it to use? YES! Should we compete with Google or Amazon or other
commercial ventures? No. Should we look at what makes them successful
and emulate their strategies, even partner with them to provide access
to information? If it furthers our mission as librarians, yes.   

Brian Collier

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