I recently ordered a birthday gift online for a family member. When I sat down and decided that I would get cupcakes delivered to her on her birthday, I started my Google search for the best cupcake-maker in town. After sifting through many websites, menus and options, I finally decided on one place that looked great to me. I had never ordered from them before, nor had I heard from a friend that they were good. I based my decision, in most part, on their website– How was their site organized? Was it easy and intuitive to navigate? Was their logo professional? Did they show pictures of their products with clear pricing and shipping details? Did they offer secure and straight-forward online payment? etc. I asked these questions and then chose what I thought was the best business for me and my needs. I figured that if they took the time and effort to put together a good, customer-friendly and professional site, then they probably take the same time and effort to produce a yummy product. And I was right. The cupcakes were delivered on time, in the lovely packaging that they stipulated, and they were delicious and fresh! Did I mention that I ordered these cupcakes less than 24 hours before they were to be delivered?
Being the good librarian that I am, I immediately thought of libraries and their websites. I have seen way too many library sites that suck– they’re not organized in a clear and simple way, they use convoluted terms that only librarians understand and appreciate, and they post way too much information that overloads the average user. If I can choose a company based on a website, then it’s not a far stretch to think that many library customers and non-customers will choose to visit the library and/or use their virtual services based on their website and it’s ease of use. Marketing library services is vital today, in a time when we must justify our existence and relevancy. Why would you ignore or under-value you’re online presence? It’s a fantastic channel in which to reach people when and where they are, and it’s great way to showcase the library and its services to the community that supports it.
To get back to my online cupcake ordering experience, a few days after the order was completed and my very grateful mother-in-law received her birthday gift, I got a friendly e-mail from the company thanking me for choosing them and asking if I had any feedback… all this just for a simple, inexpensive order of cupcakes. And that got me thinking: why can’t libraries, an important community building tool, do the same thing? Maybe not after every transaction, but say, once a year? I’d love to get an e-mail from my library system taking the time to thank me for using their services and asking for feedback. Why not? The library is not a business in the same way that my now favourite cupcake company is, but we’re all after the same thing– success. How else can you definitively justify your existence? As a librarian, I can talk until I’m blue in the face about how important the library is, but the bottom line is this: a library’s strength lies in its community’s opinion.
By the way, the fabulous cupcake company that I used is Crumbs & Co. See what a satisfied customer can do? Spread the word…