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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Back to Books: Bridging the Physical--Virtual Divide (post updated 4/12)

Today I will be appearing at the Park Ridge Public Library as part of the Reference Librarians Association's Continuing Education program entitled, "Back to Books:"
Librarians have been focused on technology recently and RLA-CE is no different.  We’ve had programs on eReaders, the dot gov websites, and consumer/product evaluations.  But what about books?  Y’know, those things that take up the majority of the space in most libraries?  Made from paper, written from the heart and cataloged with love?  Well, on Tuesday, June 28th, RLA-CE presents workshop highlighting some of the best ways to bring focus back to books and how technology can help us promote books more effectively.
My part of the 3 person panel is about promoting books virtually. I am using my 30 minutes to talk about the importance of using your physical, in library, book promotion in tandem with your virtual work.  I am still surprised by the number of libraries that do not consciously try to use their physical and virtual services in tandem.  My talk is going to focus on how each type of service should be driving patrons to the other.

What follows is a few soundbites from my lecture and the links to all of the examples I will talk about during the presentation.  So, for those of you who attended the event, this post also serves as your paperless handout.


Promoting books in the virtual world is a tricky proposition.  On the one hand, you want to exploit the 2.0 tools of blogs, wikis, and social media to reach more readers, but on the other hand, you do not want to forget about your core brick and mortar customers.

When I co-created the RA department at the BPL in 2000 our goal was to put a spotlight on leisure readers and give them a desk where their needs could be met…and exceeded!  From the start, in our promotion of books to leisure readers, we have made a conscious effort to create a link between our physical and virtual services.

The first step is to think of your virtual work with leisure readers as the other side of the SAME coin you are already using to help the readers who come into your building.  This symbiotic rather than exclusionary relationship is what drives everything we do at the BPL RA desk.  Our goal is to get our patrons to use both services; in fact, we want one to drive them to use the other.  We have built a following in the building and one online, but because we have consciously worked to link the two experiences and make them equally as engaging and interesting, we now have patrons using the physical and virtual services interchangeably.  They have a seamless library experience across every platform.

One last comment that I need to stress.  The one thing the library has in stock that bookstores do not is the backlist.  We try to focus a large portion of our book promotion on the backlist.  That gem of the library; the thousands of great reads just waiting on the shelf to be matched with just the right reader.  For more on my strong feelings about promoting the backlist, click here.
  • Facebook
    • Thursday Book Chat
    • Promote leisure reading events
And the example we are most proud of-- the one which embodies everything we are striving to do as we bridge the physical--virtual divide...
  • The Browsers Corner: Books People Like at the Berwyn Public Library (BPL at the BPL)
    • Physical Corner (see right) with staff suggestions and reading lists, flyers for book clubs, lists of award winners, and resources.
    • Virtual Corner online with same content.

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