Friday, 26 November 2010

Beyond the echo chamber

Complaining or commenting about something in an enclosed space acts like an echo chamber with the same things being heard over and over again. No matter whether it's in the social media sphere or a trade journal, airing the issues may be reassuring for those involved but has little impact outside the space. This is particularly true in the library world where there is an awful lot of chatter about the forthcoming cuts in services but little that makes it into the mainstream media. It was with this in mind, that SLA Europe organised Marketing Libraries Outside the Echo Chamber, a seminar that aimed to show information professionals how to reach beyond the converted.

Held at the City Business Library, one part of the the evening was taken up with Escaping the Echo Chamber, a talk by Ned Potter and Laura Woods. Using a series of examples they built up a strong case for the need to challenge inaccurate reporting in areas where non-librarians and opinion formers will take notice. A good case in point is that of a blog post by the influential marketing guru Seth Godin who wrote, amongst a number of things, that 'information is free now'. Naturally there was a huge response but it was Toby Greenwalt's response on the Huffington Post that was probably read by the most. Another point made was to use a popular medium to get the message across as illustrated by this very funny film on YouTube. There are lots more useful links on their respective blogs and presentation (which, incidentally was a brilliant demonstration of Prezi.)

How to go about putting all this into practice had been demonstrated by two of the organisers behind Voices for the Library, a campaign that "seeks to highlight everyone who loves libraries to share their stories and experiences of the value of public libraries". Bethan Ruddock and Jo Anderson gave a truly inspiring talk, describing how they they were getting (and encouraging others) a positive library message across through stories in the local press, commenting on popular blogs and writing on forums such as Comment is Free.

There was no doubting the enthusiaism of all of the speakers. However, Ned seemed to suggest it was an information professional's duty to promote libraries. As he put it,
"if people don't know how we can help them, they won't come to us for help."

This was an evening that challenged all those present to do something. Thanks to SLA Europe and also the City Business Library staff for hosting the event.

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