Friday, November 17, 2006

Moment of need

I used to go to conferences and bring back (or ship back) lots of brochures and other paper materials. In recent years, I've gotten a little better at not accepting so much paper, but still I seem to acquire brochures, case studies, etc., that are useless to me because they are on paper. I tend to look for materials online first (even if I've met the company) and often forget to check through my paper files. In my moment of need, I go to my computer and to the Internet first to check for the information these vendors want me to have.

And so here I sit with a small stack of paper in front of me, wondering if I should keep any of it. Will life end if I throw it all out? No.

And what do we likely do to our users? We either give them too much paper or not enough. If we give them too much, it is likely that they won't read it and will throw it out. If they do keep the paper, will they be able to find it when they need it? Do they have a filing system that will help them retrieve the info at their moment of need?

And if we give them too little paper, have we at least given them something that will point them towards the information when that moment of need occurs?

So here is a plea for using one tool more creatively -- the business card. The lowly business card allows us to remember who we have met. But what if you created business cards as a way of allowing people to remember your projects/programs? Create a business card for your digital collection that contains its name, location (URL), brief description, and a way to obtain more information (perhaps another URL). If you use the MiniCards, then you can incorporate photos from your digital collection on the cards. (Paul at Idea Sandbox blogs here about how he is using them.)

Or maybe you create a playing card (a la the Librarian Trading Cards) for your program. Again think about using a photo from the digital collection and adding the pertinent information to the cards. I had a librarian give me her trading card at a conference and I haven't thrown it out! It is so unique that it is a "keeper."

Now your mind might begin to consider creating magnets. Stop. Magnets passé and you can only use one side for what you are trying to say.

Okay...bookmarks. Bookmarks seem to never be passé, but people expect libraries to give out bookmarks, so why not do something different?

So think creatively about how you can provide information to your patrons in their moments of need. Can you give them something that will point them to the info the need? Something they will hold on to and that they will be able to find? I think the answer is definitely "yes."


Anonymous said...

Excellent idea Jill - thank you! This reminds me of the old Victorian ad cards shopkeepers used to hand out.

Anonymous said...

You make a very good point here, because I came back from my conference in Scottsdale with three bags full of flyers, brochures, and folders (along with a cactus and some candy). I put all that paper in a pile, saying I was going to go through all of it, and three weeks later it all went out with the trash because I just didn't have the time. It would have been nice if it had all been scanned in some way and we'd been given CDs of everything, as they do with all the presentations, but I guess they're just not ready to do things like that. In essence, I guess they figure what would be the point in inviting vendors to spend hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars if they couldn't give something away during the conference. Too bad all that paper goes to waste later on.