Marketing for Libraries and Information Centers – first thoughts

Reading notes.

The part of the reading that caught my attention the most was the section on incentives to decrease costs and/or add value.  I have seen incentives and disincentives used, well and poorly, to influence choices and behavior inside an organization.  Sometimes it is tricky, as in the following example.

A governmental organization decided it would offer a program of student loan repayments, initially as a way to increase entry level recruitment.  The “product,” in this case the job and career path being offered was already a big seller, but the new incentive was seen as a way to diversity the demographics of the incoming wave of recruits (this was actually considered, and given a heavy weight, partly as a means of recruiting minority students graduating with a debt burden and entering the job force.  At the time it was assumed that the low pay of entry level government service might be a disincentive to this particular demographic group.  Yet the organization had a stated goal to increase diversification.).

But there was one caveat.  Once in the student loan program, employees had to renew their participation annually.  Three years after the initiation of the program the organization moved the goalposts:  participation required service in countries with a 15% of higher hardship rating (hardship determined by degrees of safety, isolation, availability of consumer goods, medical issues like the possibility of contracting malaria, dengue fever, etc., and non-accompaniment requirements).  Those who entered early saw the loan payment benefit as a type of income augmentation, and desiring to continue it, altered their assignment choice accordingly.  Two years later (five years total), additional restrictions were implemented: service in Iraq, service in Afghanistan, service in Pakistan, or service at an unaccompanied post (where spouses and significant others were not allowed to travel) were required for participation. 

The monetary incentive, dynamic and evolving, both decreased the cost of desired behavior (getting people to go to God-awful places), and, as a disincentive, increased the cost of competing behaviors (service in very nice places like European capitals and Washington).

Eventually, and considered from the start by HR planners, the demand for people at the aforementioned places settled out with the establishment of a core cadre of hardened employees who enjoyed that type of work, coupled with the actual decrease of positions resulting from the build-down that inevitably follows a build-up. 


Product, pricing, and placement

I chose as a familiar library setting the West End branch of DC Public Library.  It is my neighborhood library, and one I used previously for an LSC 553 observation project.

On my way there, it occurred to me that it was a very cold day and that the library would probably be packed with homeless citizens, seeking refuge from the winter elements.  What I discovered when I arrived was a slightly different scenario: of some 15 patrons, half appeared to be homeless, and half seemed to be retirees like me, casually but well-dressed, reading and internet surfing.  The demographic mix I witnessed brought into clear focus the core product of the public library. 

Core product.  The various reasons and purposes why people go to public libraries are, for the most part, to seek actual and augmented products, i.e., computers (actual), computer classes (augmented), wi-fi (actual), internet usage for job search, tax assistance, research), homework assistance and story time for small children and their nannies (actual and augmented), to name a few of the goods and services that public libraries offer.  The core product, I would submit, is very fundamental:  a climate-controlled, secure, and structured environment, and accessibility to information. 

Pricing of product.  As a public good, the core product of the public library is free at the point of delivery, i.e., no admission is charged to enter, and no fee is charged to sit or to avail oneself of the services provided.  OF course, tax-payers pay taxes to the District of Columbia, and that money eventually winds itself into funding for libraries, but no one is required to present a tax payment document to enter the library (24th Amendment, passed and ratified in the 1960’s outlawed that practice).  There are implicit costs.  If one considered the opportunity cost of using the public library, its price would be negative, i.e., the money saved by not using other options, bookstores, private reading rooms, university libraries that require payment of tuition.  Just as the tax burden is distributed across the population, so is the savings benefit.  This affects the well-to-do as well as the homeless. 

Incentives/Disincentives.  City Government provides warm buses during the height of the cold temperature season to provide a warm, controlled environment for homeless citizens who only want to get out of the cold.  One of those buses is actually parked outside the West End library and provides an incentive, in the form of an alternate opportunity, people with that exclusive need.  It demonstrates in clearer focus that homeless citizens, at least a proportion of them, have actual information-seeking needs and are not visiting the library just for relief from the winter cold.

Placement.  Due to upcoming construction plans, the West End branch will move this summer to the Watergate Hotel, where it will operate during the new construction period.  A more exclusive address with a higher level of security present may serve as a disincentive to library usage by homeless citizens.  And when the library re-locates after construction has finished, it will serve as the ground floor for a medium-rise apartment building which will surely be a more exclusive location than it is at present.  

And it became, what? Yes, a poem:

January 23, 2014 #smallstones
Posted on January 23, 2014 | Leave a comment

neighborhood public library patrons –

half wandering homeless:
seeking refuge from environmental elements,
seeking refuge from boredom/ignorance,

reading books –

half wandering retirees like me:
seeking refuge from boredom/ignorance,

reading books –

both have rights to public space

first assignment: Modern European Mysticism and Psychological Thought

Hebrew University of Jerusalem/Coursera
January 19, 2014

The lectures and readings reveal several ways in which mystical experience, mystical practices and proximity to the sacred may grant abilities not previously possessed in the subject undergoing these experiences.

How does this come about? The subject may detect a subtle awareness of changes body language, facial expression, voice tone and/or even word or narrative repetition that provides a subtext to thoughts people may be thinking but not explicitly saying. Though not mentioned, this may be especially valuable, and valid, if the expression is at great variance to a normal baseline one may have perceived in the past. Perception may be transformed, such that the subject sees more deeply into a situation that what may appear from a more superficial view. Dreams were mentioned in the lecture, such as dream yoga, where a subject has dreams of future events or even dreams of other people’s thoughts and dreams.

In mystical transformation, we understand that awareness is heightened, sensitivity is raised, and mental/intellectual faculties sharply tuned or focused, such that the person undergoing the transformation achieves a much higher state of mental acuity than before or outside the transforming experience. And it may not be a conscious awareness. In Rollenback, we have four examples of such an experience, with an Alaskan shaman, a modern Hindu, Paul on the road to Damascus, and St. Augustine. In a closer example, the subject was not consciously aware of the transformative experience while undergoing it, but he kept a detailed log of his experiences in the form of daily journaling. Then, reviewing those journal entries, after the fact, he was able to detect patterns of an increased awareness and the resulting calmness of mind that were perhaps inexplicable given the circumstances at hand.


Information Architecture and Web Design: first thoughts

First assignment, January 18, 2014

Dan Brown’s article, Eight Principles of Information Architecture, does a fairly thorough job of laying out the definitions, assumptions and principles of information architecture (Brown, 2010). He also provides a useful framework for how one might use the principles in an actual information setting.

I will come back to the Brown article in a moment.

Morville and Rosenfeld provide a crisp, clean set of definitions for information architecture, before proceeding to deconstruct it, thereby revealing its true “architecture.” Information architecture, according to Morville and Rosenfeld, is four “things.” It is structural design of shared information spaces, it is the aggregation of several functions (organization, identification, search, navigation and possibly many others) inside websites and intranets, it is the “art and science” of designing elements for usability and findability, and it is the developing discipline and community of practice for utilizing design and architectural principles to understand and use digital space (Morville&Rosenfeld, 2007). And, they counter, information architecture is NOT graphic design, software development, usability engineering, and a number of specific areas/disciplines related to internet and web technology and design. Glad we cleared that up!

Information architecture is necessary because, as alluded to by Morville&Rosenfeld, by Brown, by Parandjuk, and by our class notes, we live in an information environment, one that requires order and harmony, with dwelling units that are well-constructed, consistently and uniformly arranged, with proper navigation so we can move around from place to place with ease, comfort, confidence, trust, and a sense of well-being. That, in a word explains why we need information architecture.

Now, getting back to Brown’s article, I sensed an immediate connection between Brown’s eight principles of information architecture and Ranganathan’s five laws of Library Science that we covered in LSC 557, a correspondence between the eight and the five. I will have to save the full exposition of another occasion.

Comment: I also sensed Morville&Rosenfeld’s sort of deconstruction with reference to the IA profesionals at a conference. And I found a slight contradiction in Parandjuk’s top-down use of controlled vocabularies (taxonomy) and bottom-up user-generated metadata to ensure multiple findability. In a way it is sort of post-modern, I guess, a sort of simultaneous effort to dismantle the elements of modern librarianship and information hierarchy coupled with the celebration of counter-principles of networked, gap management facing a constant process of information expansion and transformation.

Comment: One may even argue that having lots of options is often problematic across the board, as alluded to by Brown’s mention of Schwartz’ paradox of choice. There is, on the one hand, analysis paralysis from actually attempting to choose between too many options, unsuccessfully, and, on the other hand, inaction inertia (I think that is how Schwartz describes it) as the inclination to avoid regret from the wrong choice results in no action at all. But that sort of takes us off the subject… Sorry.

Blast off!


Tomorrow is day one of class.  Here is the lineup so far:  

LSC 610: Information Architecture and Web Design.  Here is the syllabus:

LSC 772: Marketing Libraries and information Systems:  Link to the syllabus

But that’s not all! There are two MOOCs.

One, Modern European Mysticism and Modern Psychological Thought, is best accessed here (maybe):
and here:


Rhizomatic Learning (Blogged about here by a ModPo’er) here: and here:

Add to that library positions applied for at CUA, AU, and DCPL. Gotta be fun!

New Semester, New Opportunities

Starting to focus on new classes starting next week.  I am taking LSC 610, Information Architecture and Web Design, and LSC 772, Marketing for Libraries and Information Centers. Hope to find a part time library job to supplement and complement my studies. Got applications in with local universities and pubic libraries.  Signed up for the CUA Symposium January 31, 2014. Presenting project from last summer’s Art and Museum Librarianship Institute course. Beat the year-end deadline and registered for the SLA conference in Vancouver, June 8-10, 2014.  Planning two classes and comps in the second summer session.

At the same time, I am being bombarded by job opportunities from my former life.  Ghana, Angola, Mozambique, Haiti, Brazil, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Oman, UAE, there is no shortage of demand for projects and project managers overseas.  Maybe I should go into the placement business!  But the priority has to be CUA and completing the MSLIS right now,  Everything else must wait until August.  

And there is poetry!  Poetry continues to motivate us.  DC Poetica is formed and christened. The January Mindful Writing Challenge is well underway.  Before we know it, it will be April and NaPoWriMo!  

Retirement is definitely all it is cracked up to be!