This week’s module Hyperlinked Communities gave me an opportunity
to reflect on how my institution, the Oceanside Public Library, is doing in respects
to engaging the community and helping the citizens of our city thrive in our
community. Through the readings it is
evident that we as information professionals in libraries play an important role
and it is our responsibility to reach out to those communities and provide them
with the necessary tools to be successful.
One of the biggest challenges we have faced is reaching the non-users in
our city. We have made great strides in
serving the community with essential programming and offering services that are
relevant to the needs of our users but there is a large population of our city
that we are missing. Although we have
made some efforts to reach the non-users, from going out to the community to
perform surveys to social media marketing, our efforts have not been fruitful. The city of Oceanside serves a large
population of Latinos and I feel that we are failing to serve that community to
the best of our ability. I believe one
of the biggest challenges we face is creating an inclusive environment for the
Latino Community being that we are a government institution. Due to the current political climate and
everything that has been happening regarding immigration, there is a definite
fear and distrust in government which we must overcome.
Christian Lauersen’s keynote speech at The UX in Libraries conference
was a very interesting read as it pointed out how we as human beings are born with
certain prejudices, and even though we say we want to create an inclusive
environment, we all have hidden biases that affect us internally. One of his main points that really resonated
was that in order to create an inclusive community we must not just be good people;
we must expose these hidden biases and provide the resources to help people
work together regardless of any differences.
Public libraries should continue to serve as a community hub connecting
people from diverse backgrounds with the tools and resources needed to thrive.
I have been fortunate enough living in San Diego County to take part in a bi-national conference, Seguimos Creando Enlaces, that brings librarians from the U.S. and Mexico together for two days to exchange ideas with the goal of serving the Spanish speaking communities in a more meaningful way. I have attended since its inaugural year in 2012 and I have seen the conference grow in attendance demonstrating the interest of libraries to help support the Latino communities in their cities by providing them with much needed resources. It is workshops like these that can help information professionals create a more inclusive environment and get past some of those biases that Christian Lauersen pointed out in his speech. The exposure to some of the work that librarians are doing south of the border helps us to better understand what we can offer the Latino communities in our cities.
In going through the list of books to explore further for this blog the title Contagious: Why Things Catch On, by Jonah Berger, immediately caught my attention due to the nature of libraries and their need to stay relevant. Finding a way to market the library and create an interest in something they offer that can “catch on” is important to keep libraries as an integral part of the community. After further exploring the content of the book I realized that Jonah Berger’s message could easily be applied to libraries and was relevant to one of the primary goals of public libraries, to reach as many users as possible and provide them with needed programs and services. What can we do as an organization to create a buzz that will keep libraries on the top of people’s minds? Jonah Berger in this book lays out the ingredients to create this buzz and delves into the behavioral science associated with people, and what marketing tools are effective in making things go viral. Effective marketing leads to success in any business and it can do the same for libraries. Jonah Berger has a P.H.D. from Stanford and presently is a marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He has written two bestselling books and has published various articles in some prestigious academic journals. The reasoning behind him writing this book was because of the amount of students that could not get in to his class due to high popularity. He wanted to offer those students an alternative and transmit the information from the course to them by other means.
Jonah Berger in this book identifies six principles
that are key to making something catch on and uses the acronym STEPPS to
identify the six principles which are social currency, triggers, emotion,
public, practical value, and stories. He
brings up an interesting fact that in order for something to go viral or be
contagious word of mouth is the key driver behind it. Jonah states “But word of mouth is not just
frequent, it’s also important. The
things others tell us, e-mail us, and text us have a significant impact on what
we think, read, buy, and do” (Berger, 2013).
Although libraries do a good job of using social media and new
technologies to market their services, word of mouth can be even more beneficial
since people’s words carry more weight amongst their close peers, co-workers,
and family members. This is especially
important in getting the word out to non-users of libraries since they may not
follow the library on social media or through the other means libraries use to
spread their information. Once people
find out about programs and services that are being offered to the community through
their trusted sources, they are more inclined to visit the library and see what
the buzz is all about. This is where
Jonah’s principles can play a big part in creating an interest in what libraries
are doing in the hopes of getting the programs to catch on in order to get
information out to the community. The
following image illustrates John Berger’s Six Steps to Virality.
Social currency speaks to how people will share information with their peers in order to make themselves look good. If information is shared that is interesting or has a cool factor to it, the person sharing the information looks smart and it builds some sort of credibility. In this step it is up to the organization such as the library to create a message that is going to empower the people to share the information to gain social currency and create that buzz that is much desired. And why shouldn’t the library be one of the places to receive information and services from? These types of encounters can be used to give a message that will carry a high value of social currency. The second step in Berger’s principles involves the use of triggers, which help to remind people of the product or message that is being shared and it keeps it on people’s minds. This in turn helps people to talk about the product or message because it is always on their mind. One trigger that Jonah used to explain this principle was peanut butter. Peanut butter serves as a trigger for jelly since we have come to associate those two. The challenge is to create triggers and use them effectively to keep the product or message circulating. Berger says, “Top of mind leads to tip of tongue” (Berger, 2013). The third principle, and probably one of the most important one for the community, is emotion. It boils down to the fact that people share something when there is a “high arousal” (Berger, 2013) of emotions. Getting the community emotionally charged over the positive things they are doing for them will ultimately get the community sharing all the good things about the services offered. Just recently at the Oceanside Public Library we had our first set of graduates from our Career Online High School where students can earn their actual high school diploma. The amount of exposure from students’ success, and all the support they received from the library, created a buzz for the program and we have had many prospective students inquiring about it. Berger goes on to explain that the six STEPPS can be viewed as ingredients to a recipe of success to make things go viral or catch on, but not all are required to guarantee it. Of course, the more steps that can be covered, the better your chances are. I see the great value in using people’s words to generate interest for the library among the community. Like reviews in a participatory model, what people are saying about the library can help to encourage those non-users to reconsider visiting the library and making good use of the wonderful services and programming they offer. Berger reminds us that we must not forget about our oldest form of communication as it can be effective in reaching a multitude of people when used correctly.
Berger, J. (2013). Contagious: Why things catch on. New York: Simon & Schuster
Public libraries continue to be an integral part of communities
throughout the world and they must continue to adapt to the changing needs of
the people they serve. In Library 2.0 by
Michael Casey and Laura Savastinuk (2007) they stress that change needs to be
constant and purposeful in order to continue to provide its users with relevant
services, but more importantly to reach non-users and provide them with
services as well. I found the reading to
be of great importance and relevant to public libraries to this day even though
it was written in 2007 and one of the most important ideas that resonated to me
was that change needs to happen with a purpose and not just for the sake of
change. It is important to include the
community we serve and the staff at all levels in order create change that will
be meaningful and fruitful for that institution and the people it serves.
The material made me start thinking deeply about how the Oceanside Public Library, the public library I have worked at for about 21 years, has followed the Library 2.0 method of change throughout my years of employment. There are definitely some methods that we have adopted such as creating a participatory environment among the library staff and the customers we serve. Through community focus groups that we have hosted and an online platform for feedback, we have created programming and services tailored to the diverse communities we serve. One of our biggest challenges has been reaching the “Long Tail” of potential users being that our two branches and two mobile libraries are not equipped to serve the growing population of roughly 176,000 people.
One of the biggest changes I have been a part of at the Oceanside Public Library has been a major renovation that took nearly half of the staff space of our main branch and converted it into public space in order to accommodate the growing user base we serve. Major changes like these as well as automation have been received with mix feelings from staff, especially those employees that have been a part of the organization for many years. Prior to the renovation decisions that affected the library were not openly discussed and were very conservative in nature. This time around the changes were well thought out and planned by getting both staff and community input through town hall meetings with stakeholders participating. The renovation was a big success with both the community and the staff, and it gave the library new life that was missing prior to the major changes. Since the renovation which occurred roughly 8 years ago, our library administration has been more receptive of change as discussed by Casey and Savastinuk which creates a better atmosphere both with the community and the staff. With the success of our changes it has made change easier for the staff and we as an organization feel valued when our input is taken into consideration by senior management.
The blueprint of change that Casey and Savastinuk have laid out in Library 2.0, should be the standard for any decisions that are to be made by public libraries. The idea of having three vertical teams (Investigative, Planning, and Review Team), which serve to include all levels of staff, is of great importance in order to get buy in from the organization. And as the authors state, it helps staff be more receptive to change knowing their input is being valued.
Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library
2.0: A guide to participatory library service. Medford, NJ:
Information Today, Inc.