Last year while working with a group of public library marketing specialists we started discussing recent programming that failed to meet expectations. These unsuccessful programs either had low attendance, poor performance, or did not meet patron expectations. One program that was discussed in detail had been created and managed by a library's Youth Services department. The program, aimed at Kindergarten readiness, was named something along the lines of "1,000 Books Before Kindergarten." It was designed based off of literature written by educational experts that essentially proved that ready at that rate will put students ahead in school at a very young age.
As much as we would like them to, parents don't care about the library. Parents care about their children. Changing the name of the program to something like Scholar Tots or Little Einsteins will change the focus of the program from being about books and the library to being about their children and their education. This program will be very beneficial to their children, which parents will immediately identify, but is sponsored by the library, which will be the secondary appeal.
This occurs regularly in academic settings as well. A continual frustration of mine is the link on our website that says "citation management." While we, as librarians, know exactly what that means and how helpful it is - students have no idea that link has value, and will help them create a bibliography. Titling workshops with a very library focused name ("Learn to Use Databases," "Avoiding Plagiarism," "Social Explorer 101," etc.) does not engage students because they do not know what benefit those workshops offer. Re-framing the context of the program to reflect a student research need could prove to be a more effective recruiting strategy in the future. Some examples of re-framed titles include:
- Change "Learn to Use Academic Search Complete" to "Find 5 Scholarly Articles in 5 Minutes." Why? Students don't know what Academic Search Complete is, or how it will help them (unless a librarian has already been to their class). They will, however, know how many scholarly articles are required for their next research paper, and have perhaps already experienced difficulty finding them on their own. This workshop title helps them identify the task they need to accomplish, and shows that it will reduce the time it takes to successfully achieve their research need.
- Change "Learn to Use RefWorks" to "Works Cited Made Easy." Why? RefWorks is a specific tool. Much like our previous example, students are unlikely to know it by name. However, every student knows they have to include a bibliography or works cited page with their assignment, but may not know there is a tool designed to make it easier.
- Change "Library Research for Business Students" to "Data Driven Decision Making" or "Free Target Market Research." Why? This one hits home for me, as I am a business librarian. Most of the business resources are extraordinarily costly, so students may have uncovered a Mintel Report or HitWise analysis through Google and know they'd like to use it in their papers, but are unable or unwilling to pay the associated thousands of dollars to do so. Business students don't always know they need the library, because there is rarely a book on Target Market research that will actually help them, and they may not understand the nature of our digital collections. They may not know which database they need, or even that a database is the appropriate resource; they will know what type of questions they have for their business plan, or what type of data their professors are asking them to use.
Remember these types of program names when you're considering advertising programs and services. Students and Faculty do not care about the library in the same way librarians care about the library. This doesn't mean we have to create new programs from scratch; we just have to change the way we talk about them. Librarians are currently offering library programs and expecting students to see the value, when we should be offering student (research) programs that have value because of the library.