We’re too close to our libraries

14 07 2007

How can that be possible? Well, when speaking of marketing, librarians have far too much invested in the institution of “library” to be able to effectively step back and call themselves “patron.”

We can’t rely on our experiences as patrons (or even as a customer) when deciding on policy, collection development, program development, or marketing, simply because we’re not the average consumer of library services. Advergirl’s latest post,The Worst Focus Group is You, really drove this home for me.  I’m the worst about saying “Well, when I use the library, I do x, y, and z” or “I use X product, and I think…”  I needed to be reminded that I am not a normal consumer.  I have blinders on for some things, and I’m too critical of others.  I do pick apart direct mail advertisements, and packaging and signage (help me!). I can’t help myself.

This is something I hope to remember when it really matters most. Focus groups are a necessary and worthy expense.  Perhaps some of that expense can be lessened if we pooled resources and did a national focus group, but that won’t represent our individual communities and the local lives of our particular patrons. So that’s something that must be budgeted for. We can’t simply put on our Patron hat for the afternoon and try and represent our users.  We need to ask them what they think. Keep taking their pulse…don’t try to put yourself in their shoes…just ask them what its like for them, being a patron of your library. Equally important to include in these focus groups would be those individuals who don’t use library services.

I need to learn more about focus groups!  Has anyone out there conducted one? What was the process like? Did you find it beneficial or disheartening? Any experiences with Web 2.0 based focus groups (if there is such a thing)?

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