Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians sponsored by
our bulk mail

#263, September 23, 2005

SUBJECT INDEX to Past Issues

* * *

Neat New Stuff I Found This Week

* * *

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

* * *

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

* * *

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.

* * *

What IS Ex Libris?

The purpose and intended scope of this e-zine

* * *

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.

* * *

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

* * *

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
  30. the "It's All Good" bloggers
  31. the "It's All Good" bloggers, part 2

* * *

Cool Quotes

The collected quotes from all previous issues are at

* * *

When and How To Search the Net

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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

* * *

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.

* * *

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

* * *

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.

* * *

My personal page


by Tia Dobi

His value as a writer are his stories, the humour and the sympathies he has for his people-for the characters-and we're drawn to it because we feel that we need that empathy ourselves." - Arthur miller, playwright, speaking on Mark Twain.

I'm a copywriter. And this is my confession:

Now what on earth could thinking like Mark Twain have to do with selling more of your services? Today, gentle reader, I'm going to show you a formula to help you have empathy with your prospects (patrons-to-be). Which, in turn, gets you more foot traffic.

But first, how did Mark Twain think? Well, he took the first, then the deepest, dip into the vernacular of Americans. The result is summed up in these advertising blurbs (from the 1800's) used to sell his work:

"By the peoples' author"

"He sees with our eyes"

Twain gave us our representative voice. Simply by caring about the way common people talked, he used those currents and rhythms in his work and created a worldwide audience that couldn't get enough of him.

You can do the same thing.


Many of you want to get more people into your library. Some want more usage from their business services. Others want more teen visitors. No doubt your branch has so many exciting things going on under one roof. Only the masses need to know you exist.

The first way to get people thinking about your services is: collaborate with your audience - get them involved even before you put pen to paper. Before you write that next brochure, flyer, website entry, promotion or poster, think about: what's going on in your prospect's mind.

And then, show empathy.

The first step: WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?

Before Twain was writing best-selling tomes, he worked as a typesetter, then writer, for newspapers. And yes, he was a member of that group of people who like to 'create pranks' (see this column July 1, 2005, <>). His first headline depicted a disaster. That hadn't happened yet. Is this effective? Let's see.

Take your eyes off this computer screen and get your hands on a newspaper. Circle what catches your eye with a red pen. Which was it - the advertising or editorial that hooked your attention?

All newspaper advertising has the same style headers. Maybe yours has something like:

Enjoy amazing harbour views - Restaurant
Get the word out about your event - Public Relations
Create your own web site - Web Training
Enjoy a career in piloting - Private Pilot's School

Well. Do these ads get you excited? Are you compelled to find out more?

Like most people, you probably didn't even see these ads.


Editorial perhaps? All that doom and gloom about the tax hike? Or the child that's missing? What this tells us is that we tend to skip all the nice benefit advertising and go straight for the jugular. The human brain is trained to go directly to the topics that are blatantly filled with pain.

Pain and problems are a natural magnet for the brain. Isn't it true that when you drive, you hardly notice the cars next to you? You're lost in your own reverie, listening to your radio.

Then suddenly, you see flashing orbs in the distance. The glitter of police car lights signals instant "Danger Roy Roger. Danger." to your brain.

What's happening here? The problem on the road catches your attention. Problems in headers do the same thing. And the advertisements for the evening news? Ditto. Problems of the day. Front and center, please. Like Mark Twain, these people are teaching you something.

And if it works so well for them time after time, isn't it time for you to listen?


Maybe you like to people-watch. Just look at passers-by walking down the street. Is there zippittydodah spring in their step? Watch carefully. Notice that everyone walks around with some sort of consistent worry worry worry on their mind.

John Doe is a good example. Lately, John's department hasn't been getting as many sales as it should. It's not a big deal-yet. He's got a half dozen other things that rank higher on his problem list.

He's on his way to pick little Suzie up from school, when out of the blue he sees a sign on the bulletin board that says: Not getting as many sales as you'd like at the office? It could be because your competition has an access to instant data that you don't.


That's the sound of John's Nike's against the waxed floor. Ah. Now we have John's full and instant attention. He can picture the pain. He can see the lost sales in dollar amounts out of his paycheck. He can feel the loom of dog-eat-dog competition at his heels. He's not even sure what data the sign means, only that he knows that data is a good thing and now he's not feeling so good.

His problem is out of the bag. And staring him right in the face.


Yikes! A typical solution-based header for business library services would be Free Business Databases at your local library or something similar. Without an IF factor, the likelihood of John stopping for something like that is almost nil.

You can stop your customers in their tracks and say Hey! Look at me! This is your pain. We can fix it. And the good news gets better. Customers in pain will turn to the first source they find.


Because THAT supplier has taken the effort to identify the customer's problem.

Like Mark Twain, see with your customer's eyes. This stops him from focusing on 10 kazillion issues occupying his attention. Now let's keep moving.

Learn how to create the problem.


Find one thing that frustrates the heck out of your customers in relation to the product, service, seminar, or offer at hand. Brainstorm for a one thing scenario. If there's more than one, pick the one that gets the majority vote. Remember, this has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the customer. To find this problem, concentrate on what really hurts the customer.

It could be a personal hurt they're feeling. A bone to pick within an industry. What hassles a sales rep or business person that would use a business library's services? Ask your patrons what bugs them. By doing this, you'll create a hook to hang the most important part of your marketing message. (That's you.)

It takes time to get the problem right. Make a list of potential issues. For a computer repair shop, those could include:

1) Speed of computers
2) Networking hassles
3) Quick 'n easy fix-it service
4) Genuine spare parts
5) High cost of peripherals

Once you've stated the problem, create an attention getting problem statement.

Put the turbo boost back into your Pentium (problem = Pentium) Take the messiness out of computer networking (problem = cables) 50% cheaper computer parts = 100% nuisance ((problem = wrong spare part)


People are inclined to buy services or products when marketers tap into their thinking, see things the way they do, and relieve their problems. Problems are the most powerful attention getter in your customers' brains. Because it cuts through the information clutter. Snagging their attention.

Magazines, newspapers, radio and TV get your attention by using this factor very skillfully.

News uses problems to get your attention. Most advertising (how's yours?) does the opposite. It uses solutions. Problems are more exciting.

We are naturally attracted to problems. Watch how many people are watching that building burn down (if you're not watching it burn yourself).

By communicating with problem-naming, you quickly capture the right attention of the right customers for your product. Problems make people stop. To think. That thought process usually takes them into the future, where the problem may occur. Urgency is created.

Your customer's biggest frustration is what you need to uncover. Highlight the message further (a little more brain pain). In turn, s/he will be interested in your message. So they can get rid of their pain. Voila!

Now you are the empathetic problem-solver.


The homework this month readers, is for me to be like Mark Twain. By engaging the people in what's important to them. Send me one service you'd like to promote, the material you're using to do that, and I'll audit it for you. Circle back next month and read the results. Meanwhile, create a problem, state it, and be the empathetic solution.

Let me know how it grows.

Tia Dobi is a copywriter and library fanatic living in Los Angeles. Reach her now at [email protected] Mail your entries to: 8850 Cattaraugus Avenue No. 7 Los Angeles, CA 90034-2500.

Previous articles in this series:

  1. Press, Profit, and Provocation: Library Promotion for the Over-Educated, Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3
  4. Part 4
  5. Part 5
  6. Part 6
  7. Part 7
  8. Part 8

* * * * *


If I have an apple and you have an orange. We each have one piece of fruit. I give you my apple and you give me your orange, we each still have one piece of fruit. Now, in another scenario, I have an idea and you also have a good idea. I share my idea with you and you share your idea with me. We each now have TWO good ideas. See the difference?

Now put this on a global scale, speed it up with better idea and information storage and distribution, and you see the power of the idea storehouses of our culture. Libraries. Hmmmmm.

Stephen Abram. "Things That Make You Say Hmm. Stephen's Lighthouse, July 28, 2005.

* * *

You are welcome to copy and forward any of my own articles (but not those by my guest writers) for noncommercial purposes as long as you credit ExLibris and cite the permanent URL for the article. Please do NOT copy and post my articles to your own web sites, however. Instead, please copy a brief excerpt and link to the URL for the remainder of the article.

Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians and Other Information Junkies.
Copyright, Marylaine Block, 1999-2005.

[Publishers may license the content for a reasonable fee.]