7 Challenges for Librarians from SXSW

We need to bring our best IT people and enterprise-level vendors out to conferences like SXSW to tell the story of what multi-institutional resource sharing really means. We are better at it than we think.

#7 Libraries are "big data" companies masquerading as public anchor institutions.

We need to bring our best IT people and enterprise-level vendors out to conferences like SXSW to tell the story of what multi-institutional resource sharing really means. We are better at it than we think. And networked libraries, systems, co-ops, vendors have a lot to teach big data companies from our experiences. Showing up to conferences like SXSW as a peer will go a long way to shaping a new image of library work.

#6 Business reference and support for entrepreneurs is as common in libraries as story time, but no one knows about it.*

When you want to say "we have amazing databases for local businesses", instead try saying we "provide actionable intelligence" around "business analytics", "supply chain effectiveness", and "market characteristics".  We need to use their terms to fit their needs.

#5 We need to go to them. They will never come to us.

Tech entrepreneurs think that they are the smartest person in the room. And they may actually be. But they will not follow a traditional path to the library. They are curious and are always looking for efficiencies. We need to contact them, either through their networks, incubators, or accelerators, and provide onsite librarian "office hours" in their space. We need to jump over the reference desk because they won't approach it. And if we don't support the generators of the 2.0 economy, we will be forgotten in their success.

#4 Venture capitalists lose more money on failed startups because of poor market exposure and bad intelligence than from broken code.

Your local startup community needs access to users. Libraries are the original showroom.* How can you make the library a testing ground, a beta site for the next generation of business development in your community? Go ahead and contact your nearest incubator or accelerator and offer to convene a focus group or beta test panel for their companies at the library. Your role is as a connector and a recommender.

#3 Librarians are ridiculously early adopters; emerging tech companies need feedback early in their development cycles.

EveryLibrary is considering opening up a side business that will match certified librarian beta testers with tech companies in need of high quality, professional feedback quickly. Unfortunately, we don't think anyone will hire us because the perception of librarians by the tech community is so out of date. We need to start showing up and contributing at tech conferences, in user groups, and on product forums - as librarians. Maybe starting our posts or presentations with "as a librarian, I think..." could be a good place to begin.

#2 We are about to get hammered by wearables.

Whether you loved or dreaded the post-holiday rush of people coming in with e-readers looking for tech support, you should anticipate this Dec 26th kicking off your Season of the Wearables. Keep an eye on the consumer press to see which ones you're more likely to have come through your door. Take notes on the brands. And then email the companies to tell them how many people you helped with their products. Keep reading for more on what to do next with that email....

#1 Because librarians are the most trusted recommenders in society, we should get paid for it. Or at least funded.

What we have done for books and media we will be doing for apps, wearables, networked devices, and emerging technologies. But we need to do it better than we did with publishers. Libraries are, fundamentally, a marketing channel. We drive sales and awareness every day based on our power to recommend. People buy because they first got exposure to the item at the library. We need to start building visibility with companies developing the things we accidentally sell for them. And we need to get funded for that fact. This channel needs to stay open.

*We want to acknowledge Oli Sanidas at Arapahoe County Library for coining the "Library as Showroom/Beta Site" term, and Lisa Waithe Bunker at Pima County for the "Business Reference/Story Time" analogy. To connect with more librarians who care about these topics, join us on the Lib*Interactive and Business Librarians groups on Facebook.

This week’s Lib Elections News

There were some town elections in New Hampshire last week. Residents in Milford voted against a $5.46 million library building project last Tuesday. Residents in the town of Lee voted against a warrant article for $2.25 million to design and build a new public library.   Voters in Gilmanton passed the annual levy for operating expenses 548 to 454. We covered this in last week’s Rodeo.

One new election came across our radar this week. Residents of Warwick and Chester (NY) will be asked to approve a levy increase to fund the operating costs of the Albert Wisner Public Library. The increase would make a total annual levy of about $1.3 million or 86% of the library’s operating budget.

Other Happenings

If you will be in Portland (OR) for ACRL next week we would love to see you at the EveryLibrary meetup on March 26. We will be meeting at the Deschutes Brew Pub at 8pm. Great beer and even greater company. RSVP and details on FB. We are kicking off our April series of Political and Community Advocacy webinars on April 2 with Political Advocacy and Campaign Basics. If you are considering a ballot measure for your library or aren’t sure if that is your next step, don’t miss this webinar. Sign up today.