Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians

#25, September 10, 1999. Published every Friday.


September 10: air travel complaints, book closeouts, word games, avoiding repetitive strain injuries, and more.

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What IS Ex Libris?

The purpose and intended scope of this e-zine -- always keeping in mind that in response to readers, I may add, subtract, and change features.

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Archive of Previous Issues

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Part 2: What's the Best Search Engine?
Part 1: Clever Government Tricks

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My Favorite Sites on___:

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My Rules of Information

  1. Go where it is
  2. The answer depends on the question
  3. Research is a multi-stage process
  4. Ask a Librarian
  5. Information is meaningless until queried by human intelligence

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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

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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, the articles are brief, somewhere between 200 and 500 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: RE:SEARCHING and Favorite Sites on _____. I'll pay you the same rate I pay me: nothing.

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E-Mail Subscription?

To subscribe to 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 then return to the page to enter the new address.
PRIVACY POLICY: I don't collect or reveal information about subscribers.

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Drop me a Line

Want to comment, ask questions, submit articles, or invite me to speak or do some training? Contact me at: marylaine at netexpress.net.

Visit My Other Sites

My Word's Worth

a weekly column on books, words, libraries, American culture, and whatever happens to interest me. For the subject index, click HERE.

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My page on all things book-related. NEW STUFF ADDED in September!

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Best Information on the Net

Still my favorite pit stop on the information Highway. This is a mirror of the real site, which has moved to http://www.sau.edu/bestinfo/.

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My personal page

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My resume

or, why you might want to hire me to speak at internet or library workshops or conferences, or have me consult on building your library page.

Notes: I'll be in Chicago next week, so the next edition will be September 24.


by Keith Hart, author of Putting Marketing Ideas into Action, published by Library Association Publishing (London, England) 1998, distributed in North America by Bernan Associates. Keith can be reached at

For any organisation to succeed it must provide answers to the following questions:

  • Who are the customers for my product or service?
  • What do these customers want (or need)?
  • How will these goods be delivered to the customer?

    It is my contention that library schools concentrate on answering the last question and pays scant regard to the first two. This is a great shame, because the process of asking and answering these questions in a continuous and systematic way describes the management term known as 'marketing' and has great value for managers of libraries.

    Many librarians leave library school mistakenly thinking that marketing is the same as marketing communications. So they embark on a programme of publicity, sending out mailshots, designing newsletters and brochures, putting information on websites and intranet pages, without ever stepping back to consider who their customers really are (or should be) and what these individuals are looking for from their library or information service.

    If librarians do not invest time in getting to know their customers (and 'prospects') they cannot know what their true requirements are. For example, we all know that the first question asked at the enquiry desk seldom accurately reflects the real information need, and a short reference interview allows us to use our skills to elicit the true need. This is basic enquiry work and well taught at library school.

    But when do we use our skills to identify the true information needs of a whole market segment? How good are we at finding out the needs of one type of customer? For example, as a public library we might survey local businesses about their information needs. Do we check their answers by conducting random interviews by telephone? Do we attempt to find out how they use the information they require, so we can recommend information strategies for them? Can we demonstrate the added value we can bring to their lives?

    This groundwork gets us closer to customers so we can manage their expectations of us and provide tailored solutions to specific segments of customers.

    Better knowledge of customers will also help us choose the most appropriate marketing media for our different customer groups, and tailor the precise messages we send them, maximising the effectiveness of our communications. We can set objectives for specific campaigns, measure response rates and show senior managers that our budget for promotional activities is spent wisely.

    If the whole marketing process was taught at library school maybe fewer librarians would be given responsibility over marketing as an add-on job expected to take just a few hours a week! It would be recognised that marketing is a vital management task requiring senior management support and commitment just like other key management tasks like recruiting, budgeting, or learning new IT skills.



    A scholar is a library's way of making another library.
    Daniel Dennett

    Thanks to reader Kevin McKern.



    by Kathy Leeds, Assistant Director, Wilton Library, Wilton CT e-mail:

    The Wilton Library serves a suburban town of 17,000 residents about an hour north of New York City in Fairfield County, CT. The Library celebrated its centennial in 1995, and one result of the "look back, look forward" thinking that took place during the celebration was the suggestion that the Library undertake an index of one of our local weekly newspapers, The Wilton Bulletin.

    The resources and collaboration for the project came together almost magically about a year later: partial funding from the newspaper itself allowed purchase of the InMagic software and, as a graduate student from the Syracuse University Independent Study Degree Program I researched, designed, and launched the project (I joined the professional Library staff when I obtained my MLS from Syracuse in 1997).

    Fortunately, the neighboring town of Norwalk had published an index of the area's daily paper for some years and I was able to get pointers on subject heading assignment from one of their librarians in charge of indexing. The Wilton Bulletin and Wilton Library staffs were helpful as well, in alerting me to the kind of questions they were asked daily by subscribers and patrons about information from past issues. And finally, the Wilton Systems Librarian, Sandy Clockedile, taught me to use the software and customized the database to suit our needs.

    The Wilton Bulletin Index has recently been taken over by another member of our staff, Laura Schwemm, who works weekly to keep the database up to date. Until just a short time ago, we were preparing paper copies of the Index for the Bulletin staff and for our First Selectman (the New England equivalent of a mayor). We are now providing the updates to both on disc - though we have encountered the unexpected problem that InMagic works only with PCs and the newspaper just redid their office network with brand new Macs! Because we anticipate that access to the Wilton Bulletin Index will be provided to everyone via our web site (http://www.wiltonlibrary.org) in the very near future, this wrinkle will be ironed out.

    Funding for the InMagic web interface is included in our technology plan for this fiscal year so our "virtual" patrons will soon be able to discover with the click of a mouse on just what page of just which issue that article on Jessica's lacrosse triumph or John's wedding appeared. The database used to create the disc and paper copies of the Index is currently available to staff and patrons on the LAN at the Library - the prototype for three additional community databases that were developed using the same software and now are available to patrons in the same way. An icon on the Library LAN screen leads to a screen offering patrons the option to choose:

  • Wilton Bulletin Index (from 10/97-present)
  • Wilton Obituary Index (from 1/43-present)
  • Wilton Community Groups & Organizations (more than 100 groups described and categorized with full contact information)
  • Wilton Business Directory (more than 1,000 businesses in Wilton with phone, fax, address, e-mail, web address, contact name, size, SIC code (line of business), Chamber of Commerce membership status, citations for articles about them in local papers)

    Clearly, a sizable amount of professional, non-professional, and occasionally, volunteer time goes into creating and maintaining these databases. We feel the payoff warrants the effort.

    Not only are our reference librarians able to access information about the community easily (community group and business information had previously been kept in some fashion, but was nowhere near this easily used or complete and up-to-date), but municipal officials, businesses and other interested parties are able to view an accurate portrait of the town in print and electronic format. Businesses thinking about moving to town are beneficiaries as well, since information about the existence of business competitors or customers is now readily accessible. Families considering a move to our community can discover instantly what activities and resources are available here in Wilton. Needless-to-say, the newspaper staff feels that its initial funding was well rewarded as they no longer have to rely on clippings files to retrieve articles for readers and their own research.

    Public libraries have long served as access points for local information. Thanks to the development of our electronic capabilities via InMagic software, our LAN, and soon the Web, the Wilton Library has made community information more readily and completely accessible.

    You are welcome to copy and distribute or e-mail any of my own articles (but not those by my guest writers) as long as you retain this copyright statement:

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