Macke, Barbara. "Roaches, Guerrillas, and 'Librarians on the Loose.'" The Journal of Academic Librarianship 31.6 (November 2005): 586-589.
I read the article via OmniFile.
This short piece is a reminder that librarians need to be swift and mobile in providing service. I think I wrote a draft longer than the article itself, but I have to say that this article inspired a lot of thought for me, so this post may get a bit long. If you just want my recommendation, it is that it is thought provoking and worth a read.
The article opens with a story about Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart was having trouble selling its Ant and Roach Killer spray in Minnesota. After a little research, Wal-Mart learned that women in Minnesota saw roaches as a sign of a poorly tended home. While in Southern states, a can in the pantry is no big deal, up there apparently it is seen as an admission of a problem. Wal-Mart then modified its marketing campaign by removing the pictures of roaches from the cans of bug spray. Sales increased. According to Macke, this story has a lesson for librarians in academia: "the Wal-Mart story teaches us that successful service in the retail world can sometimes depend upon 'taking the time to ask why'" (586).
I will be pointing out some quotes from the article that I found significant with some comments on my part.
- "There is a difference between providing information and providing information in a palatable format, and this difference frequently involves the act of interpretation. In the undergraduate academic library, we may have the illusion that we are dealing with books, articles, and reference materials, all rich with information, but we are really dealing with the immediate and pressing needs of our students, and the accompanying need to tweak those information sources to make them understandable, more accessible, and in many cases, even appealing" (586-587).
Macke goes on to discuss the concept of guerrilla marketing, a concept devised by marketing guru Jay Conrad Levinson. The key ideas are speed and multiple tools when it comes to marketing. This may seem strange in relation to librarianship, but Macke reassures the reader:
- "While it may seem strange to apply such war-like terminology to library services, remember, guerrilla tactics tend to be most useful and effective when you have a small, somewhat invisible force confronting a large one" (587).
Macke goes on to cite thirteen marketing secrets from Levinson's book Guerrilla Marketing. There are four secrets that I highlighted when I was reading the article. See page 587 of Macke's article for the complete list.
- #6: "You must see that marketing is an assortment of weapons." This should be self-explanatory for librarians who know how to wield the weapons of their profession.
- #8: "You must aim to run your firm in a way that makes it convenient for your customers." I think much of the Web 2.0 and L2 memes have this idea at heart (the attitudes often leave a lot to be desired in those memes, but that is not part of this post). However, this is something that libraries strive to work on, even if their paths diverge.
- #9: "Put an element of amazement in your marketing." I just think that line is totally cool, maybe even if one replaces "marketing" for "librarianship." It is certainly I often try to do in my classes. Then again, I am also big on embracing chaos when necessary.
- #13: "You must be skilled with the armament of guerrillas, which means technology." Now, keep in mind that Levinson's book came out in the 1980s, so technology has come a long way. Now, before the ubertech gurus begin frothing at the mouth and chanting "I told you so," we need to consider this: yes, librarians do need to keep up with current developments and thinking. They need to gain familiarity and comfort with various tools. They also need to be selective and somewhat judicious. Just because the latest 2.0 toy is hot, it does not automatically follow we have to implement it. In addition, I would suggest that technology ranges from 2.0 to computers and databases to books and periodicals. What do all these things have in common? They are all tools; some are more high tech than others, but they are just that, tools. The guerrilla librarian knows his/her tools, what they do best, and when to use them.
- "It is important to remember that most of the time we are not marketing the product, but our knowledge of the product, our ability to understand a patron's needs, and our willingness to participate in their research conversation" (588).
On reaching students outside of the library, Macke writes,
- "Library instruction need not always occur in the library in front of a computer. More pertinent locations may be an English Composition classroom, an online library chat session at 10 PM, a course management discussion board, or a library corner in the a campus coffee shop" (588).
- "While technology has made our skills eminently transportable, librarians often seem reluctant to say, 'have information, will travel'"(588).
The article has a few other good points. It is a short piece, but one that sparked a lot of good thoughts and ideas for me. There are some ideas I would like to develop in further writings, but those will come later. If nothing else, it inspired the inner guerrilla warrior in me.