Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Libraries Need to Deliver the MOM Factor

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.

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

Terribly clever. Stephen Colbert would be proud. Actually, he would probably include you on Threatdown right below bears for possible threats to his livelihood. I sound sarcastic, but I'm actually being sincere...

Anonymous said...

Paragraph 3 has really helped me understand the AL better. Really, I'm being serious (ask my husband - I have no sense of humor). All this time I've bene applying my corporate mentality to this blog. Now I finally understand why that doesn't work.

David, Library Tech. up North said...

WOW, I mean, MOM!That was beautiful.
Makes me wish you were my mo....
..oh oh. Oh well, back to therapy.

Anonymous said...

Hi, AL,
I know you don't mean we shouldn't throw anything away, that we shouldn't weed the collection. I get the point.
It's tiresome to keep hearing about "merchandising" our collection, too, and this fad continues to have life in places. I'm more interested in merchandising our patrons/users so they can improve their lives in some way, anyway - just so they lose that zombie, walking dead quality one observes too often.
Say what you want, the internet at least has people interested in something, even if it's not stuff in books, even if it's just playing chess on-line.
Good MOMs are hard to find in my library world, good DADs, especially, even rarer.

Thanks,
Feldspar

Anonymous said...

Just in time for the holidays; this is the time of year when we can don our holiday sweaters because, at least, fashion-wise we've got the MOM factor down pat!

Kristen said...

I picture Mom from Futurama when reading this.

lisav@bnkst.edu said...

One of the most wonderful moments in browsing a great bookstore or library is the discovery of something new. just tripping over it. I fell into your blog last night. Who knows why. curious about a posting on a listserv, followed a link that followed a link and voila! there you were my new best friend. Enjoyed trolling through past postings. Sadly I love my job, it is the best one ever and no I am not going to retire and hand it over to some deserving gen y with a pile of library school debt. Thank you for sharing. Now I have to go buy myself an annoyed library association product for the holidays. Lisa

Anonymous said...

A lot of this stems from the asinine requirement for many librarians to publish. Since library science isn't really a science there isn't really much to publish. (Personally, I haven't discovered a new decimal number in years.) But we are Real Professionals and people have to take us Seriously so we Publish. There are only so many ways to break the news that some patrons, speak Spanish, so many mundane library renovations to feature, and only one Second Life. (Well, I've heard rumors of a Second Second Life but I couldn't come up with enough Shrutebucks to get my source to confirm or deny.) Eventually, in order to meet a bogus publication requirement (Because Real Professionals get Tenure, and by God we are Real Professionals)we have to descend into these vaugue rah-rah articles. Honestly, I'm just glad to see an Article that doesn't proclaim that social networking is the Second Coming. (The Coming 2.0 if you will.) At this point I'll take reprioritized viability indexed response tracking groupthink over teh SecundLif Twitterz fo1xonomies mash-up 2.0.

Anonymous said...

Admiring my own handiwork above I realize I may have given the impression that I think that the article in question is a published article. I realize it is just a blog post, but I think this sort of post (and really 95% of the biblioblogosphere, eww, now I feel dirty) stems from the mentality that we should publish but since we really have nothing to say beyond common sense most of the time anything should count. Do chemistry journals publish articles with insights like you should clean your beakers? Do archaeology journals publish amazing breakthroughs like you shouldn't dig for fossils with a jackhammer? Now take a look at the library journal of your choice and die a little inside.

Dances With Books said...

Oh, that is indeed so much nicer. Cozier too. I think the detractors just do not appreciate the qualities that you are describing for MOMs. Helpful but not intrusive. There when needed. Welcoming. Knows what to keep. I mean, are those really bad things for a library to embrace?

And while we are at it about libraries going into arcades, the Shifted Lib has something on Wii and seniors, reassuring us that "libraries won't go the way of the arcade." Yea right. Though I wonder, I think that depends. How many actual arcades are out there? I mean, these days either you play online or on your console. Is that reassuring us libraries, like arcades, will go the way of the dodo bird? Or that libraries will be the living room where we keep the Wii (or your favorite) console?

Anonymous said...

So you would rather call those people who come into the library "patrons?" I prefer customers and another thing, when our budget is cut due falling circulation numbers then I think marketing is an option that we might want to consider. I do agree with you about the Mumsy Factor. Our Patrons are more comfortable with those librarians who wear denim mid-calf length dresses with thermal undershirts and listen to their convoluted requests, and the reasons why this is so very important, with sympathetic attention. Librarians provide an oasis of caring in a heartless cruel world, and that's hard work.

skeptical thomas said...

I was moved, for real... Unfortunately, there are many abused moms out there, and some abusive moms too. Get used to it, some call it life.

Bunny Watson said...

Sorry, AL, but all I could think of when reading this was the tattoo joke, the punchline of which is "WOW MOM! WOW MOM!"

Anonymous said...

The MOM factor could help explain many wardrobe choices as well.

Dahlia E.

Anonymous said...

"WOW OXO MOM!!!"

Anonymous said...

I tried the MOM factor, but coming to work dressed in a pleasant denim jumper and peasant blouse got me into a lot of hot water. It just might be the DAD in me that got their ire up.

Publicus said...

" How many actual arcades are out there? "

Please see "King of Kong"
http://www.billyvssteve.com/

As some wise wag said here before the WOW factor is what infects the baseball world and has driven many from the ballparks to the big screen TV detachment. You go to the park to watch baseball, not to have stuffed animals thrown at you or to hear crappy arena rock blasted in an unending bombardment of the senses. Real, enduring library people/patrons don't come to the library to pound their puds at the porn pumps or play Doom ad nauseum. WOW factor, like "nordstrom attitude" is just a library administrators excuse for spending the entire day reading the business section of the Times and trying not to be seen with that Baker and Taylor tote bag. The WOW has always been there in the libraries but you actually have to dig for it a wee bit. This caving into the immediate gratification demands of petulant youth is a sickness that hopefully will go away on its own. We do need more MOM and way less WOW. My dear late Mom taught me invaluable lessons like to pour the whiskey in first and then ease in the soda.

Anonymous said...

I waited patiently, like an angler hoping for a rise. Calmly waiting, sensing we were close but as the shadow of the fish turns away from the lure, so too have AL's commenters turned away from anything resembling a MILF joke. Well I never.

--Taupey

(David and Bunny, you were on the path, but diverged).

Anonymous said...

I swear I was really close to posting something about how sex sells. It's time for the Hooterization of libraries! You have to make patrons want to bed you.

Kevin Musgrove said...

I'd be happy for our library to be a cossetting facility. My favourite-ever pub was a cosy corner where we'd be cossetted and fussed-over and force-fed chocolate biscuits. Alas, all good things must come to an end and my God, do I miss it. (And me being teetotal!) If we could lavish even a quarter of the love on our customers I dare say they'd close us down tomorrow.

The punchline to that tattoo gag is: "Ludo? But we had our honeymoon in Llandudno!"

Kevin Musgrove said...

MILF is, of course, an entry-level library course for mature students.

contrarian said...

I think the Jewish MOM factor would be great for libraries: "Oy, what kind of a hairdo is that, and enough with the eating already!"

Anonymous said...

Brilliant.

farkas is willin' said...

"I think the Jewish MOM factor would be great for libraries:"

Then there could be Chabad Hora Hora Dance Revolution parties in teenschlep.

Marc said...

Can we have grilled cheese sandwiches? Cause that would be pretty nice.

brianmathews said...

Sorry AL, have to disagree with you here. I like the WOW and the marketing and all that "business" stuff. I've seen it work first hand in my library.

Anonymous said...

I like the WOW and the marketing and all that "business" stuff. I've seen it work first hand in my library.

Sure, some promotion is better than none, but at the end of the day, most GA Tech students (like most college students) have other pressing concerns. Now, if you start hosting Dirty South parties, you may really get somewhere! So, go learn that new dance the "Soulja Boy"!

Which all leads me to my next superfluous point: Perhaps librarians need to deliver the bartender factor. This means you deliver services on demand, provide resources of varying quality (to be determined by your patrons, of course), listen to your patron's personal problems and give a few platitudes without any real meaningful advice, and send them on their merry way. Oh yeah, and it doesn't hurt to bring on the sexy either.

il library student said...

Speaking of bartender...

My grad school has a reference desk that isn't staffed after 7 p.m. on weeknights. I've half-joked that they should turn it into a martini bar for us grad students that are there for class at night. Would certainly make for some interesting class discussions.

Anonymous said...

I thought I was the only one to recognize how similar working at the Circulation desk is to the classic bartender stereotype! But if I learned to mix martinis, I'd get tipped, and at a better rate than we charge the fines people are always so angry about...

Brent said...

I thought part of being a librarian is hearing all the problems of students.

stevenb said...

Actually the Mom Factor is not that different from the Wow Factor. If you took the time to read the blog post or the original article, you'd discover that what we're talking about is giving your library user something unexpected - and that would likely impress them and make them want to come back. You do want people to come back to your library, don't you? If I want into a library or any store, and someone treated me as well as my own mother would - that would be both unexpected and impressive. You might even wipe my nose if it was running. Even my mom knows it's a good idea to read things and think them through before reacting to it. Good luck with the Mom or Wow approach at your library - whichever one works for you.

Anonymous said...

Hey, AL

For the first time in your blog I got the sense that there is a real librarian inside yourself! :)

I love the MOM factor and agree that's what's libraries should be. Although I have to do all the business and marketing stuff to keep my job!

Eraserhead said...

"something unexpected"

...um you mean like the sum total of human wisdom going back to our exit from cave one. We may be in a cycle of stupidity but someday people may want to look into Plato or Raymond Chandler or Darwin's voyages.
Making WOW the focus of a centuries old treasure chest filled with miracles is like going to the grand canyon and spending your time admiring the new styrofoam cups from Starbucks they give out at the entrance gate.

AL said...

"Actually the Mom Factor is not that different from the Wow Factor.If you took the time to read the blog post or the original article, you'd discover that what we're talking about is giving your library user something unexpected"

But I never say Wow when my mom makes me a cup of tea. And if she did anything too unexpected, I wouldn't like it. I wouldn't say "wow"; I'd say, "mom, what's gotten into you? Are you feeling okay?"

brian said...

Soulja Boy? That's so last spring. Maybe the rest of you are just finding out about that. What's next... pop, lock, and drop it?

skeptical thomas said...

"For the first time in your blog I got the sense that there is a real librarian inside yourself! :)"

What took you so long, anon @@ 7:47 PM?

Anonymous said...

Soulja Boy? That's so last spring. Maybe the rest of you are just finding out about that. What's next... pop, lock, and drop it?

But can YOOUUUUUUU crank that soulja boy?

That dude is still all the rage on BET. So are you saying that BET (based out of DC which is higher on the hipness food chain than the ATL) is behind the times? :)

I thought part of being a librarian is hearing all the problems of students.

Yeah. I think I give pretty good advice on how to deal with boys. I also get some great fashion ideas from watching our students. I now know where to buy killer boots at a reasonable price.

Brian said...

The rap/hip hop scene in the A is a thousand times better than in DC.

bbots said...

AL--it was... it was an actual constructive sort of post!

I agree, that it's not "giving them what they don't expect." It's giving them exactly what they expect. It's not something that's based on technology and gosh-wow stuff, it's your basic library-as-service thing.

On "patrons" vs. "customers"--patrons. Always. Unless, under the MOM rules, we're to start referring to them as our precious little snookemses, which would have the bonus of looking very silly in our library science journals.

Of course, being in youth services, I would like the authority to ground them and give them time outs, and say, "OOO...you just WAIT until the school gets home!"

Anon 9:52, I agree that a lot of problems are caused by pressure to publish in a field that has no compelling reason to have publishing.

Anonymous said...

The rap/hip hop scene in the A is a thousand times better than in DC.

True enough. I love Bubba Sparxxx.

I'm feeling a bit vulgar today, so I'll throw this out there: There's nothing more maternal than breastfeeding.

How about the Italian Mama factor? We can chase patrons around with rolling pins and feed them meatballs.

Anonymous said...

The MOM factor sounds scary, I wouldn't hurt a fly either but the possibility of being over-MOMmed underwhelms me.

AL said...

"we're to start referring to them as our precious little snookemses"

My mother would never refer to me that way.

Anonymous said...

You forgot the rest of the MOM factor.

We provide a place to watch the little Kiddies, may the kiddies by 4 or 40, just barely walking to just barely waking, just showered to Shower meter expired three months ago, hence, we are the glorified MOMs!

Which means we need to take time out of our schedule and pass each of the computers with a bottle of Windex and mist the keyboards and the mice and the table tops so our little children don't get sick!!

And the nagging and reminding about their books being over due, but because we're cool MOM now, we don’t nag about food or drink. Hey, if we did, then they would tell us we couldn’t eat or drink on the job either, so really, this is a better compromise!

I'm going back to my huge greasy Philly cheesesteak, let’s hope the keyboard brought a rubber because otherwise things are staying wet for a long Time around here…

Nice work, AL. Martini proof.

Merc Kat

Anonymous said...

well MOM, here's what DAD brings to the table:

hus·band (noun)
Middle English husbonde, from Old English hūsbonda master of a house, from Old Norse hūsbōndi, from hūs house + bōndi householder; akin to Old Norse būa to inhabit; akin to Old English būan to dwell — more at bower
(13th century)

1: a male partner in a marriage
2 British : manager, steward
3: a frugal manager

husband (transitive verb)
(15th century)
1 a: to manage prudently and economically
b: to use sparingly

AL said...

So is "dad" the equivalent of "husband"? "Husband" certainly isn't the opposite of "mom." There may be a DAD factor, but I don't think this is it.

Anonymous said...

DAD:
1. The one who growls and complains using loud language.
2. The one in charge of disciplin including spankings and more loud language.
3. The One who goes to work at 5 and comes home at 11 after being out at the bars all night.


Merc Kat