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CIL2011 Day 1: Stories Not Statistics

The only problem with Computers in Libraries is that I can only attend one session at a time. There were so many sessions I wanted to be at today, and those I did attend were exactly what I look for in conference sessions: interesting, idea-generating learning events.

What keeps conference organizers awake at night? The nightmare that a keynote speaker may not arrive on time to address several hundred attendees. Although this happened this morning, Jane, Tom Hogan and other Information Today organizers handled the situation gracefully quickly creating a panel with Roy Tennant, Stephen Abram, Marshall Breeding and Dick Kaiser who discussed the issue of e-books-publishers-lending-libraries. My takeaways from this session:

  • Although many in the library sector have been challenging Harper-Collins, the sector should focusing on Simon and Schuster who won’t license e-books to libraries at all
  • Overdrive has been doing their best with e-books in the library environment
  • Google’s agreement for every library to have “one Google terminal” for Google-digitized content does not include downloading or printing rights.

Madeline Barratt, Strategy & Performance Manager for Enfield Libraries in the UK spoke of London’s Libraries Consortium. Growing from 3 members to 15 in a couple of short years, the Consortium is yielding real benefits for all the boroughs. Madeline’s articulate, humourous delivery was engaging. My takeaways:

  • “Challenges grow like weeds” even for those who fiercely believe in public libraries, collaboration & consortia
  • One challenge is to maintain a collaborative model as membership grows; they are developing their governance model and considering options from a charitable trust to a legal entity
  • as they grapple with bringing members to consensus on issues they remind members that “acceptance IS an option”
  • Despite initial staff resistance, the benefits have helped ease staff concerns
  • This is a consortia model to watch — and I will.

Cindy Hart of Virgina Beach Public Library brought positive passion to how they are “Measuring the Soft Stuff” of showing the ROI of social media marketing. Key points:

  • the public thinks our brand is books, so don’t fight it, embrace it & build on it
  • put measures in context; without context measures are meaningless
  • “if what you’re doing doesn’t bring results, why are you doing it?”
  • to measure the soft stuff – or, in their case, measure the value of social media including Facebook and Twitter:
  1. establish goals; the library should have strategies, so establish goals towards these strategies; their goals are to build awareness, increase customer satisfaction  &  lower costs
  2. Create a listening post; use Google alerts and other ways to find and listen to what people are saying about the library
  3. Decide what segment or market you want to reach; look at those who mention the library, comment or just look at the library
  4. Identify possible influencers — those who are key influencers, social influencers (they like to comment) andknown peer influencers (this is the most powerful group for their library as their opinions are important to others)
  5. Recognize sentiment; what do people like/not like? ignore the dislikers & complainers and always take the high road when/if you respond to them
  6. Trigger actions; when people hit a button to access you the “button” you’ve provided is the trigger; what you are aiming for is “Recommends” – you want people to “recommend” Library tweets and Facebook comments/items

    Cindy Hart Trigger Actions

Mike Crandall and Samantha Becker from the University of Washington Information School reported on the results of the IMPACT Survey, the first large-scale study of who uses public computers and internet access in US public libraries and how this access benefits their lives and communities.  This is a survey that needs to be replicated in all communities, countries and post-secondary environments.  Public libraries are encouraged to participate, using the tools (including powerpoints & reports automatically generated for them using their data).  I talked with Mike briefly after their presentation about the possibility of leveraging this survey in the post-secondary environment. Highlights:

And then it was my turn (gulp).  In Performance Measures: Illustrating Value for Your Community I reinforced Cindy Hart’s points:

  • value is in the eyes of your influencers, decision-makers or stakeholders (those who can put a stake of support under the library or a stake through its heart)
  • statistics without stories that paint context and meaning are numbers; stories eat statistics for breakfast
  • in many cases libraries aren’t at the decision-making table because they didn’t enter the restaurant — they didn’t have lunch with influencers to understand the influencers’ context and what they are trying to accomplish — they didn’t build relationships with decision-makers to understand what measures those decision-makers WILL value; there’s no sense in managing measures that decision-makers won’t believe
  • OCLC’s finding that “Libraries that are seen as transformational, instead of informational, are more likely to be funded” is so true; use stories with a few, very few validating statistics, to demonstrate how the library is transforming or impact students’ achievement, people’s ability to find jobs, seniors’ ability to use e-government, etc.
  • we have long asked “what library is doing, how much is it doing, how well is it doing it, and who is using it? We should be asking “What difference did the library make?”
  • determining what is of value to your community, and illustrating that value begins with conversations and ends with conversations

The steps in an effective performance measurement system are:

  1. understand the context of your decision-makers
  2. align your strategies and goals
  3. identify programs and services that support those strategies and goals
  4. define the measures
  5. manage the collection of those measures
  6. interpret the data (in fact, get others outside the library to help interpret the data –  those who don’t have “the library lens”)
  7. communicate the value

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