Online outreach tips from the Librarian in Black

Sarah Houghton-Jan, Senior Librarian for Digital Futures, San Jose Public Library

Online marketing has been blossoming in libraries “which is great, because our other techniques sort of stink”.  (said fondly, of course.)  “Put out little teasers all over the web” to bring the users back to the services we provide and to connect users with staff.

When we are online, everybody’s patrons are our patrons — jurisdictional boundaries don’t apply on the internet, simply because you cannot identify only your users without putting onerous barriers in place.

  • Make sure you’re in the online ready reference sources.  Can your library be found through Google, Google Maps, Yahoo Local, AskCity?
  • Get listed in library directories — and be sure that your information stays current.  it’s worse to be inaccurate than to be hard to find.
  • Consider your search engine optimization.  Be sure that you’re the first search result for a search for you.
  • Do you have human-readable URLs?  If the answer is no, shame on you!  Fix that!  Domain names are really cheap, and really easy to use — point your junky URL to the good URL, and poof! people can remember your URL.  Also, try to buy the variations that users might randomly try (.org, .com, .net), to reduce confusion and maximize the success of the users in finding your site.
  • Use online calendars — not just yours, but the community-spawned ones.
  • Don’t forget the power of link love.  Find local sites where a library link would be valuable, and ask to put a link on their page.
  • Make sure you’re in Wikipedia. ‘Nuff said.
  • iGoogle Gadgets : create a search gadget for your catalog, and promote it on your website.
  • If you have a blog, get yourself into blog-specific search engines.
  • Use social review websites — to publicize, and to stay aware of what’s being said.
  • Social networking sites: not the work of demons, but of real people who might be your users.  Figure out where your users are, and go there.
  • Flickr!
  • IM, blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, email lists!  Whatever your users want.
  • Advertise everything you do, in all the places that could possibly seem relevant.  You MUST tell people what you do.
  • “Please be real.  Please?”  Wherever you are, be a person, not a library – but be a person who cares about the library.  (authenticity!)  Don’t be defensive, don’t be impersonal, don’t shut down the conversation.  Be real, be gentle, be fair.

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