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Feature #34: User engagement – reaching the remote, the afraid and the disinterested

As for many professional services, one of the biggest challenges for libraries is engaging those who have ceased to engage with services and those who we have never attracted. Public libraries have long had a problem maintaining the interest of adolescents, while all libraries face the challenge of engaging both the overconfident who believe their skills are sufficient to their needs or that Google Scholar will find everything they need and those who are unwilling to ask for help, particularly a problem with academic libraries trying to engage young men, while engaging professionals in every sector.

Engaging non-users involves packaging intangible services into obviously beneficial products that speak to both existing users and those who are not yet engaged. New messages and approaches are needed to engage new audiences.  Many libraries are launching new activities that broaden the library’s scope of activity, including Maker Spaces, and code clubs (CILIP have offered advice on setting up and running code clubs) while remaining true to its core functions to inform, develop and entertain its membership.  Gamification can also help make service engagement more attractive and fun.  This study shows how gamification has been used to engage students in university libraries.

Some academic libraries have leveraged social and relationship marketing by recruiting student library ambassadors and elected course representatives to promote the benefit of library services to other students, leveraging students’ extensive social media networks and word-of-mouth marketing, which takes advantage of the human tendency more readily to trust advice from those we already know.  Other institutions have encouraged elected course representatives to promote service developments, making use of the large online social networks they develop during their election campaigns to reach as many clients as possible.  Still others have pioneered the use of anthropomorphic brand mascots in libraries to provide a friendly and attractive role model for students that are anxious and unwilling to engage with an otherwise largely faceless professional service, can offer a third person perspective on disagreements between users and the professional service and diffuse tensions through gentle humour while informally mentoring users from the perspective of a more experienced user.

In other sectors, such as healthcare, services have moved out from traditional centres to where non-users frequent.  Part of the solution for libraries might be to relocate their offering to where non-users are (although this example might be a little fanciful in the UK).  Libraries may also have be able to repackage their existing skills and services to offer new services, such as helping people find reliable reviews, and training sessions that serve non-users needs and attract new clients, offering a relationship where augmented services, products and other offers can then be offered through direct selling techniques and targeted promotions, while methods used in the commercial sector may offer new lessons in how libraries can attract and pursue new marketing leads, build email lists of potential users and encourage their engagement with online promotions, target audience segments with promotions and encourage them to join the library and use those services most relevant to them.

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About philoslibris

I am a chartered librarian currently employed as the Assistant Librarian (Promotions) managing the promotional communications of the University of Portsmouth.

One comment on “Feature #34: User engagement – reaching the remote, the afraid and the disinterested

  1. Pingback: #uklibchat Tuesday 3 May 2016, 18:30 – 20:30: User engagement | #uklibchat

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This entry was posted on April 26, 2016 by in Feature and tagged , , , , , , .

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