Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians sponsored by
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#234, November 19, 2004

SUBJECT INDEX to Past Issues

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Neat New Stuff I Found This Week

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My resume
Or why you might want to hire me for speaking engagements or workshops. To see outlines for previous presentations I've done, click on Handouts

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My Writings
A bibliography of my published articles and columns, with links to those available online.

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Order My Books

Net Effects: How Librarians Can Manage the Unintended Consequences of the Internet, and The Quintessential Searcher: the Wit and Wisdom of Barbara Quint.

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What IS Ex Libris?

The purpose and intended scope of this e-zine

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E-Mail Subscription?

For a combined subscription to Neat New Stuff and ExLibris, please click HERE, complete the form, and click on "subscribe." To unsubscribe, use the same form but click on "unsubscribe." To change addresses for an existing subscription, unsubscribe from that form and return to the page to enter the new address.

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Highlights from Previous Issues:

My Rules of Information

  1. Go where it is
  2. Corollary: Who Cares?
  3. The answer depends on the question
  4. Research is a multi-stage process
  5. Ask a Librarian
  6. Information is meaningless until queried by human intelligence
  7. Information can be true and still wrong
  8. Pay attention to the jokes

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Guru Interviews

  1. Tara Calishain
  2. Jenny Levine, part I
  3. Jenny Levine, Part II
  4. Reva Basch
  5. Sue Feldman
  6. Jessamyn West
  7. Debbie Abilock
  8. Kathy Schrock
  9. Greg Notess
  10. William Hann
  11. Chris Sherman
  12. Gary Price
  13. Barbara Quint
  14. Rory Litwin
  15. John Guscott
  16. Brian Smith
  17. Darlene Fichter
  18. Brenda Bailey-Hainer
  19. Walt Crawford
  20. Molly Williams
  21. Genie Tyburski
  22. Patrice McDermott
  23. Carrie Bickner
  24. Karen G. Schneider
  25. Roddy MacLeod, Part I
  26. Roddy MacLeod, Part II
  27. John Hubbard
  28. Micki McIntyre
  29. Péter Jacsó

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Cool Quotes

The collected quotes from all previous issues are at

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When and How To Search the Net

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Wanna See Your Name in Lights?

Or at least on this page, anyway? I'd like to print here your contributions as well as mine. As you've noticed, articles are brief, somewhere between 750 and 1000 words -- something to jog people's minds and get their own good ideas flowing. I'd also be happy to run other people's contributions to the regular features like Favorite Sites on _____. I'll pay you the same rate I pay me: nothing.

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Drop me a Line

Want to comment, ask questions, submit articles, or invite me to speak or do some training? Write me at: marylaine at

Visit My Other Sites

My page on all things book-related.

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How To Find Out of Print Books
Suggested strategies, resources, and finding tools.

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Best Information on the Net
bestinfo/default.htmThe directory I built for O'Keefe Library, St. Ambrose University, still my favorite pit stop on the information highway.

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My Word's Worth
an occasional column on books, words, libraries, American culture, and whatever happens to interest me.

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Book Proposal

Land of Why Not: an Appreciation of America. Proposal for an anthology of some of my best writing. An outline and sample columns are available here.

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My personal page

PRESS. PROFIT. AND PROVOCATION: Library Promotion for the Over-educated: Part 2

by Tia Dobi, a copywriter and library fanatic in Los Angeles. Reach her now at [email protected]

Simple snapshots you and I understand. Which is why even Einstein kept it down to E=mc2 despite reinventing everything science stood for.

I'm a copywriter. And this is my confession: Librarians make the best marketeurs.

Don't believe me? O.K. Let me ask you this: Who are the best researchers on the planet? Don't librarians study the way content is referenced, organized, and sourced? In fact, once upon a time a university librarian taught me a key difference between librarians and normal people. "Librarians understand the structure of information," she said.

I'll buy that. Describing the 1st cut of Woody Allen's "Annie Hall," film editor Ralph Rosenbloom called it "The product of a chaotic collection of bits and pieces that seemed to defy continuity." "We will be humiliated!" exclaimed co-writer Marshall Brickman. Yet somehow "Annie Hall" went on to win Best Picture and 3 other Academy Awards. So what happened? Stick with me for today's article and you'll see.


My mission: To turn you on, turn on America and turn on the world to the value of this product we call: the library. And how to do that? Start where you do. With the gift of research. Let's flip through some real-life fact-finding examples:

Research Story #1: Alex Hailey: researched and wrote "Roots." For twelve years.

Research Story #2: James A. Michener: didn't publish 'til he was 40 years old. Visited the countries and areas he was interested in writing about, interviewing countless people, as well as reading more than 200 books for background material for each of his books. Result? Careful research created a 50-year publishing career. And Michener winning the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Tales of the South Pacific. It was his 1st novel.

Research Story #3: Mary Kay Hill: suburban housewife with 2 teenagers. A lady who lived her research. Questioning her own life, she wrote about what she knew. Carpool: A Novel of Suburban Frustration," was rejected 9 times. One rewrite later, it was bought by Random House. Becoming a Literary Guild main selection. Then, Viacom bought the rights to turn it into a movie.

Research Story #4: An unknown writer wrote a successful action-adventure film that was released by a major Hollywood studio. The original script featured a number of detailed dramatic rock-climbing scenes. And one of the things that originally interested the producer was the writer's obvious knowledge and passion for his subject. What that producer still doesn't know is that the only climbing this screenwriter ever did was on the shelf of the New York City Public Library. Where he learned absolutely everything he knows about pitons, pickets, hoists, and carabiners.

Research Story #5: Two reporters had a nagging feeling about a burglary at a local apartment complex. They did months of research, pursued every lead, and wound up revealing a scandal called "Watergate." Woodward and Bernstein became national heroes and Nixon resigned from office.

Research Story #6: On the opening night for the musical "A Chorus Line," co-author and first-time writer Nicholas Dante told a reporter, "What you saw on stage is 90% true; our life stories." The show went on to win a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for best musical. Becoming one of the longest running shows in Broadway history. And a major motion picture.

Research Story #7: Ben Hamper: riveter in a Detroit factory. "I was so bored," he says, "that I started writing just to move the minute hand. I would think of things and as soon as I released the rivet gun, I'd write down a line. I'd take it home at night and try to expand it. Although it was hard because there'd be grease all over it." His work paid off. Rivet Head. Tales from the Assembly Line, was published by Warner books. It became a selection of the Book of the Month Club and Quality Paperback Club. The movie rights were optioned for $100K. He gets $400K more if the movie gets made.

Research Story #8: A library director was handed $40M for a new building. What was the 1st thing Waynn Pearson did? Research. For how long? A year. Only then did his team create this learning destination: "Club Med for the Mind." Just 2 years and 2 months later, the Cerritos "Experience" Library was named America's #1 public library by Reader's Digest. [Check out photos of this amazing library at]

Hmmm. A lot can happen when you research this thing called You.


Cut to Woody Allen's dilemma. What was the movie missing? Meaning. Eventually, 45 minutes of the film were spliced out, more data searching meant new scenes were written in and "Annie Hall" was a smash hit. As Mr. Allen so eloquently put it "Thank God the public only sees the finished product." Let's take a look at what the public sees about your product.

My first research question to market Fortune 500 CEOs and startup micropreneurs is the same, "What's your story?" Here's what happens: nobody has a ten-second martini monologue (you can call it an "elevator speech" if you'd like). It's not an easy question for anybody to answer. Before we can sum it all up for today's audiences' short attention spans, we need to have thought it all through. Like Einstein and Allen, there's a whole lot of unseen effort that goes into the public performance.

I know, too, that no matter I'm called in to do (write a brochure, craft Web content, create a name or promotion to get more people in the door) there's a deeper need. More significant work to be done. And here it is:

Develop a better understanding of who the company is, whom they serve and what it is that binds them together in lasting and profitable relationships.

And that takes: Crafty research. And that's why librarians are the best marketeurs in the world. But the research doesn't end with data. Otherwise you have jagged pieces that end up on the cutting room floor.


Do your visitors see your story? Do they get it? Because there is a story. That unites you to the people you work with. And binds you to the people you serve. It's a special kind of epic - strategic, building on itself chapter by chapter over time. And one that grows as it responds to changing customers, markets and products.

Your story is your key business driver.

Like every great story, the more coherent and compelling, the more it will power the success of your enterprise.

Like every great novel, report, DVD, CD and database within your 4 walls, the more coherent and compelling, the more it will power the success of your enterprise. (I always say that Shakespeare was a great sales writer. Just look at how many people read and perform his works. And for how long.)

Here's how to weave a good tale. (As always, it's in the words, natch!) Clarity. Consistency. Character.

CLARITY. First-up: know what you wish to say. This is the content of your brand: who you are, what you do, who you do it for, why it matters to them, how you interact with them. And how it's all different from anything else in the marketplace.

CONSISTENCY. Then, make sure you say and show it the same way. All the time. This is how your words, actions, employee behaviors, business accomplishments start to work together. Building unity.

CHARACTER. Finally, give it a little oomph, ahhh, flair. And panache. Let your personality shine. That's what brings you to life at an emotional level. Emotions are where people live. It's why they want to connect with you!


Are you ready to rev up your most erotic organ of all - your imagination? Because the moral of a story is the core idea or truth that the story expresses. And impresses. And you gotta dig deep to find it. That's the missing link between understanding the structure of information. And knowing that a message must emote and evoke emotions.

Booming businesses and successful people do this. Take Madonna. And even though she's a creative chameleon, her core story has remained the same for 2 decades. (Radicalism). Madonna found her heart and soul story. And she uses it to sell and serve. Very, very well.

Ultimately, you want your research to unearth mental visions that answer the root question of existence: "Why?"

  • Why do you decide one decision? And not another?
  • Why do your customers need you?
  • Why are you better at meeting their needs than anyone else?
  • Why does your logo, website, interior, catalog look the way it does?
  • Why do your press releases and flyers read like they do? Confidential to managers and marketeurs alike: Why would a customer or money-funder make that critical decision to use your products and services over those of anyone else?


    And the more you tell, the more you sell. The process is a natural one. Once you've done this research, you can go on to create important communications tools. Messages that keep your people on point. Speeches that rally investors. Copy and design that convey your identity to consumers. With the power of clarity. And brevity.


    A-ha. I thought so. And now, gentle reader, I'm going ask you to conduct your research. Answer the questions. And then: distill it down. Simplicity is essential. Your brand image is money in the bank. Don't ever change it. Carry this vision: A tight formation of airplanes streaking through the sky. Take some time out this month to decide your image. Try: a noun and an adjective. This will help you to master the pro-communications industry. And reap its sweet rewards.

    Let me know how it grows.

    Other articles in this series:

  • Part 1
  • Part 3
  • Part 4
  • Part 5
  • Part 6

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    "If there is a heaven, I don't believe it's going to be like that at all...I don't want a mansion or a palace, Della. I want a schoolroom, filled with little children, with readers and crayons and paints and chalk. Little children, all big-eyed and eager to learn. And I'd want a big library. The biggest library you've ever seen. One that's opened all the time, not just half days. That's what I hope heaven's like."

    Maudie Ferguson speaking, in Cassandra King's Making Waves. Hyperion, 2004.

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    Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians and Other Information Junkies.
    Copyright, Marylaine Block, 1999-2004.

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