Suddenly I’m a little less embarrassed and a little more proud of my physical library, or, more properly, Information Centre.
For those of you that know the lengths I go to in order to avoid showing the physical library to new members of the business school you will realise this is quite a reversal. It’s not that the physical space we have is SO awful, more that its just not what I want it to be. To my mind it screams ‘cosy’, ‘books’ and perhaps worst of all ‘pine’. Most problematically it doesn’t reflect or enhance the overall service we offer and instead detracts from it by emphasising traditional library values and components. What I think is needed is a benefactor with fairly deep pockets to pay for me to make the major changes needed – a complete re-fit of the ground floor with less space-heavy shelving, more study desks and comfy seating.
Up until the last few weeks the continued absence of Mr Deep Pockets had made me more negative about the space we have to work with, especially as the the wait has seemed more and more destined to be a long one. However, two simple and relatively inexpensive changes have turned out to make a world of difference.
Change Number 1: Removal of the display case at the entrance.
Change Number 2: Installation of plasma screens running adverts 24/7 in and outside of the Info Centre.
The first change made the entrance more welcoming by virtue of allowing longer (and therefore better) sight-lines into our space, including sight of PCs rather than just books. It also allows more freedom of choice for the users as they can now decide where to go after they arrive rather than being herded by the once awkwardly placed security gates towards the Issue Desk. Finally it just feels more spacious and there’s more light. Light is good.
Change number two saw the installation, just yesterday, of plasma screens to optimise usage of both our resources and services. And wow have they made a difference, in fact “Wow” is precisely the vocal reaction they’ve been evoking. For one thing they’re a nice size and look quite sexy (there I said it, frankly amazed it took me this long to use the word), for another the PPT adverts that run on them are colourful, image-heavy and eye-catching. Yes they’re PPT but I still feel it has its place and this is very definitely it.
We had a great and fruitful discussion about content a few weeks ago and concluded that the possibilities were pretty endless. The adverts could – and do – promote databases, ebooks, stats, business quotes, our twitter, our fb, our Library Thing, our Delicious, our service points, our willingness to help, why they should go beyond Google, the fact that the FT and Economist and WSJ are all available in full-text, and well, us as helpful librarians. In fact we have the feeling that we’ve only just scratched the surface in terms of what we can do. As Ange said to me yesterday: “the only limiting factor is our imagination”. Come to think about it, that quote is taken out of context, but it works here so it’s staying. The other limiting factor is of course: time. We need time to create the slides, as we plan to create 10 decks of 20+ slides , so that we can have a new deck every day for two weeks. That’s quite a bit of work and one of the reasons why the whole team are contributing.
That one of the plasmas is by our entrance by a lift to all 6 floors of the business school is a deliberate strategic marketing decision. This also informed decisions on content. It made it important that the slides were clearly delineated as ours and that they gave clear direction to anyone who was not a regular library user. Watching the slides run by in the Info Centre was quite different to watching them run by while in the business school foyer. They have to make complete sense in both locations and after some minor edits I think they now do.
The plasma at the Issue Desk improves the physical space no end as it has continuity with the outside screen and impresses upon the user that the space is about information and data not just about books and, er… it looks sexy. Did I use that word already?
So what of reaction? Well apart from the “Wow’s” they’ve already provoked a number of conversations with students and faculty that wouldn’t have taken place otherwise (including a great discussion with a marketing lecturer about our market databases – which were on screen as we talked) and they’re just the exchanges that have occured because I was stood at the exterior screen for a few short minutes. I sense there’s a much wider buzz across the building and this is just Day One. The current and first slide deck is below:
Unfortunately the buzz hasn’t been all good. It has been fed back to me that support staff are wondering about the cost of these screens in austerity times. Well I can tell them is that it amounts to less than 1% of my annual database budget, so as money spent on optimising database usage I’d count that as money very well spent. There’s also been confusion as to why we’ve put up these screens at all. I mean after all we just stamp books and shelve them don’t we? Which has once again reminded me not to underestimate the continued lack of understanding as to what it is we do. A depressing reality.
Like the kids in South Park “I learnt something today”: relatively inexpensive changes can make a huge impact and increase our visbility. And impact and visibility are right at the top of my strategic agenda, an agenda which is even more important if there are people out there who can’t for the life of them understand why we put up these screens in the first place.