Over at LIS News I read about some blogger saying we need to deliver the "Wow factor" in libraries. LIS News seemed excited, but you know me well enough by now to tell that I wasn't. I didn't click through to see if there were any exclamation points used, but obviously there should be. The WOW! Factor! Etc.
Here's the excerpt from LIS News: "As in so many other areas of our profession that need change, another critically important one is to change our own ways of thinking about how to do business. We absolutely must pay more attention to how we can impress our user communities, and what must be done to leverage that to increase our visibility, community buzz and word of mouth about the library."
Whenever I hear words like "business" or "leverage" in a discussion of libraries I usually lose interest. Next thing you know we're talking about "customers," "selling," "synergy," "marketing," "availability floats," "margin accounts" and all the other things that sensitive, cerebral, non-commercial types like myself got into librarianship to escape. I know some librarians get all excited when they think about the latest insipid management fad or marketing technique, but I do wish they would just go work for the Man out in the business world and save the rest of us from this drivel. Apparently they haven't realized that this stuff doesn't work in libraries, because libraries lack things found out in the business world such as profit margins and financial incentives. Perhaps you've heard of them. We can all work ourselves to death delivering the WOW Factor! and we still won't get rewarded for it. Oh, I know, there's the reward of a job well done. Try telling that to a sales manager or an investment banker and see what kind of laugh you'll get. Besides, I don't want to work myself to death. That's why I became a librarian.
No, we'll have to do better than silly phrases like "WOW Factor!," and I think we can. Librarians need to turn such silly phrases on their head, and if you turn WOW on its head, you know what you get? MOM. Isn't that sweet. It's true, too. Just try it and see. What libraries can deliver is the MOM Factor.
And what is the MOM Factor? It's all the stuff good moms should be. Let's explore this for a moment. First, good moms are boring. By that I don't mean they have no interests and have nothing to say. I mean they don't disrupt things too much. Good moms don't get thrown in jail for peddling drugs, nor do they suddenly run off to Acapulco with the gardener. They don't get so obsessed with their latest hobby (tennis, golf, whatever) that they can speak of nothing else, and they don't throw out all your old books and stuff to make room for Dance Dance Revolution parties. They keep your stuff because they know it'll be important to you someday, and that just because something isn't used every day doesn't mean it's not important.
Good moms are there for you, always ready with a cup of tea and a cheering word. They help you when you need help, and that knowledge is like a warm throw on a winter evening. However, they know to let you have your privacy. They aren't always invading your life to tell you how great they are and how much they could do for you if you'd just recognize that greatness. They also don't spend all their time fretting about whether the rise of Google means that moms aren't necessary anymore. Moms don't market or sell themselves. Why should they? They're your mom. Moms are there when you need them and happy to help. They want you to succeed on your own, but they want you to know that you can always come to them if you're having trouble. And when you're grown up and not around all the time, they go about their business because they have lives, too.
Doesn't this sound more cozy and comfortable and useful than that silly old "WOW Factor"? Most of us don't want to be wowed. We want the MOM Factor, and libraries can provide that. Librarians should be welcoming but not too pushy, helpful but not too invasive. Librarians should say, come on in, sit down, have a cuppa, and tell mom what you're looking for.