Browsing Perception

Mr. Rochester sent me an article from Tom’s Hardware this morning that discusses a marketer’s ability to make you love or hate a product for reasons not grounded in either fact or reality. Rob Enderle uses the Coke v Pepsi and the recent Vista v Mac commercials as examples to prove that we humans are just waiting to be told what we love/hate.

The educated marketer knows this as a fact and the term I use to describe this is that “perception is 100% of reality”, meaning that it generally doesn’t matter what actually is true. It only matters what you and I believe is true.

Perception is everything. We talk a lot about the perception of libraries and librarians as a whole. We are just books in moldy buildings and spinsters with buns, sensible shoes, and an unhealthy love of quiet spaces.

What about the perception of our particular libraries and librarians? For some of us,this discussion would go much better than if we stuck with generalities. For others, this discussion would sound the same or, sadly, worse. I am not sure whose job it is to help the perception of libraries in general (ALA perhaps? Lord, preserve us.) but we can influence how we market ourselves.

I think it would be worthwhile to ask some questions of our patrons to see how they view their particular library. Sure they may think libraries are old and boring, but their library may be doing something great. If we knew what our users really thought of us, maybe we could embark on a marketing campaign to make people love us. It worked for Macs. (Put an “i” in front of anything and suddenly everyone is willing to shell out money for it.)

For example: The perception is that everything is available on the Internet. People do not need anything else. We know this is not true, but people believe it and we are not going to change this idea. Sorry, Reference Staff, it is just not going to happen. The perception that all information is on the Internet has made some people question the need for libraries.

We have to create a perception that we are needed for something else besides just information because libraries are more than information. I know it and you know it. Our patrons should know it too. Your library could be a gateway for accessing information. A space to meet with community groups. A place to play games. A place where you can access different formats of books for free. A warehouse of technology. Better than Kinko’s. A bathroom. (only slightly joking on the last two)

Information is important. I do not think we should leave it behind. Information gathering happens in every part of the above list; it just may not look like someone browsing the shelves.

Find out what your users think about you. Choose one hate perception and change it or replace it with a love. Start small but think big. Bigger than your own perceptions.

–Jane, is marketed as a Geek

One thought on “Browsing Perception

  • July 30, 2008 at 3:06 pm
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    This also makes me think of those surveys in which people have very poor opinions of “the education system” or “politicians” but think their own schools or members of Congress are doing a pretty good job. I think the general vs. particular part of this issue is important and interesting.

    Your post also makes me consider the difference between creating a “perception” and creating a “reality.” Hmm, must because I’m the philosophy librarian.

    -Miranda (who wears sensible shoes because she’s pregnant, not because she’s a librarian)

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