Customer Loyalty? It don’t enter into it.

Maria Palma over at “Customers are Always” recently posed the question, “What would make you stay loyal to a supermarket?” The question struck me as a bit odd, and my first reaction was to think, “Loyalty? It don’t enter into it.”

I regularly grocery shop at Wegmans, Superfresh, Target, and Costco, and where I lay my green depends on a number of factors. Each store offers me something different.

I get better service at Wegmans, but it’s a longer drive. I love the self-service at Superfresh, and the fact that it’s close to my home. Also, they are one of only a handful of stores that sell Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews   – the most perfect food on the planet.  I love the prices at Target and Costco, as well as the opportunity to browse lots of non-grocery items and spend more money on stuff I don’t need. Why just last week I went into Target to get a box of cereal and a birthday card and wound up with a new IPOD shuffle.

But loyalty? I’m “loyal” to these establishments to the extent that they meet my needs, and not one whit more. Which is to say I’m not at all loyal. I want them, quite simply, to meet my needs. Just give me some combination of:

  • what I want
  • when I want it
  • where I want it
  • how I want it
  • at a cost I find acceptable (Cost includes price, but is not limited to it.)

Making no overt attempt to tie this post to library services. Arf!

Broken signage

I’ve been away from the blog for what feels like a while–but for a good reason! My wife and I met up with some friends that came from the west coast and we did a seven day cruise to the western Caribbean. Lots of rain, no sun, but a good time was still had by all. We swam with dolphins, played with monkeys, ate, slept, read. Who needs the sun anyway?

I never had any desire to vacation on a cruise ship, and while the service and food was generally excellent (with a few notable exceptions), the cruise ship experience is probably just not my bag.

Anyhoo, I’ll get around to getting the monkey and dolphin pics up on flickr, but in the meantime I thought this picture was worth sharing. Yup, that’s the emergency exit door on deck 1 of the Carnival Valor. What message does this sign send to the passengers? I think it should be subtitled, “In case of emergency, good luck!” Hey Carnival, let’s barter: You give me a free seven day cruise and I’ll give you a kick-ass signage audit. 🙂

Library as Place

Note: This piece originally appeared in slightly different form in the NJLA Fall (2006) Newsletter.

We are currently experiencing a unique convergence of three societal trends, and that convergence is creating an unprecedented opportunity for libraries.

The first trend is that people are increasingly using the internet in the privacy of their home for activities that were previously conducted in public spaces. Shopping, banking, conversing, researching, listening to concerts, and watching movies are just a few examples of such activities.

The second trend, pointed out by Robert Putnam in his insightful book, Bowling Alone, is that Americans are experiencing a marked decrease in social interaction as we become increasingly disconnected from our family, from our friends, and from each other.

The third trend is more subtle and presents a threat as well as an opportunity: Businesses are increasingly embracing the value of being a “destination of choice” and modifying their environments and their services accordingly. For example, we used to go to the hardware store to buy grout or drywall; now we go to learn how to tile our bathroom or put up a wall. We used to go to the bank to deposit our checks; now we go to attend a retirement planning seminar. We used to go to the bookstore to buy books; now we go to hear music, drink coffee, and, dare I mention, bring our children to story time…

Our customers have a greater need for shared spaces and social interaction than they ever have before, but they also have more options regarding how, and where, they choose to spend their free time.

Libraries are transformative places. By our very nature we offer people a “third place” (not home, not work) where they can come to explore, imagine, think, learn, play, and reflect. Our function as a “third place” has never been more important to our continued health and relevance. If libraries are to survive and thrive we must redouble our efforts and refocus our energies to ensure that we are not only “third places” but destinations of choice.

Thinking of “library as place” goes to the heart of the matter. It invokes the big question: Why would someone in our community choose to spend their time here rather than somewhere else? Related questions might be: What does the library look like, smell like, feel like, and sound like? What do our signs communicate? What kind of environment are we offering to the community and how do library staff contribute to the creation of a friendly, welcoming environment?

The thriving library of 2010 will have thoroughly considered these questions and be guided by the answers they have discovered. Many NJLA members are probably familiar with Mount Laurel Library’s success with their use of retail merchandising techniques. Those techniques were implemented as part of the “Trading Spaces” project. A do-it-yourself kit, replete with documentation, signage, photos, furniture vendor contacts, prices, and more is available at the project website Taking a look at this resource page is a great place to start if your library is interested in becoming a destination of choice in your community.


Six things you can do today

Detailing a strategic direction for your library is outside of the scope of this short piece. But in the interest of practicality, here are six things you can do today to enhance your library’s status as a true “third place” in your community:

1. DO A SIGNAGE AUDIT: Have everyone on your staff, and maybe a couple of customers, walk through your library with these questions in mind: What makes it easy to find something? What makes it difficult to find something? Are signs readable from a distance? Are signs jargon-free? Do you use Dewey numbers instead of natural language? (Don’t.) Get rid of ripped signs and visible tape. Eliminate handwritten notes. Use positive, respectful wording and avoid parental tones.

2. OFFER FOOD AND DRINK IN THE LIBRARY: (Notice, I don’t say “permit”.) Having food and drink in your library helps create a welcoming environment. The role of our olfactory senses in creating a positive or negative impression of our environment cannot be underestimated. Translation? Coffee smells like comfort.

3. OFFER A VARIETY OF PROGRAMMING FOR DIFFERENT AGES/INTERESTS: This fits in very well with our traditional role and mission, and many libraries already do a wonderful job with programming. Do more. Take some risks. Ask yourself who’s NOT coming to the library and try to offer a few programs for that demographic. Think of five new places to advertise your programming (bulletin boards in laundromats, the Y, the Rotary Club, the carwash, etc.)

4. MAKE THE COLLECTION THE STAR: Use themed displays of face-out materials to highlight and promote portions of your collection. Tie themes in with current events, pop culture, current library programs, or anything else that seems relevant, playful, or fun. Make your collection browseable and your customers will reward you by circulating materials in record numbers.

5. INVOLVE YOUR CUSTOMERS: Ask your customers what they would like to see in the library. Ask them for help with walk-throughs and signage audits. Ask them for display ideas, or enlist their help in creating displays. Any way you can involve your community directly will pay off tenfold by giving you an inexpensive and highly effective marketing tool: a cadre of invested community members who will promote the library through word of mouth.

6. GO WIRELESS: Wireless Internet access is a must-have infrastructure. If you’re not offering it already, do it now. It’s cheaper than you think, and your wireless customers will come out of the woodwork.


Oldenburg, Ray. The Great Good Place. New York: Marlowe & Company, 1999.

Rippel, Chris, “What Libraries Can Learn from Bookstores”. Webjunction Marketing Forum. Dec 10, 2003>.

Rockwood, P. E. and Koontz, C. M., “Media Center Layout: A Marketing-Based Plan”, School Library Media Annual 1986, Volume Four. Ed. Aaron, S. L. and Scales, P. R. Littleton, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 1986. p. 297-306>.

Stanley, John, “The Third Place: The Library’s Role in Today’s Society”, MLS Marketing Library Services. Nov.- Dec. 2005: 1,8.

Dogmas Are Meant to be Broken: An Interview with Eric Reiss – Boxes and Arrows: The design behind the design

A little Friday lunchtime reading… If you like the Dogma, follow the link and read the interview with Reiss. I’m going to be re-evaluating mpow’s website with these 10 points in mind.
From: Dogmas Are Meant to be Broken: An Interview with Eric Reiss – Boxes and Arrows: The design behind the design:

“Web Dogma ‘06”

  1. Anything that exists only to satisfy the internal politics of the site owner must be eliminated.
  2. Anything that exists only to satisfy the ego of the designer must be eliminated.
  3. Anything that is irrelevant within the context of the page must be eliminated.
  4. Any feature or technique that reduces the visitor’s ability to navigate freely must be reworked or eliminated.
  5. Any interactive object that forces the visitor to guess its meaning must be reworked or eliminated.
  6. No software, apart from the browser itself, must be required to get the site to work correctly.
  7. Content must be readable first, printable second, downloadable third.
  8. Usability must never be sacrificed for the sake of a style guide.
  9. No visitor must be forced to register or surrender personal data unless the site owner is unable to provide a service or complete a transaction without it.
  10. Break any of these rules sooner than do anything outright barbarous. “

Thoughts on ALA Bootcamp: An L20 Manifesto

Some of you may be following the conversation going on concerning ALA’s Library 2.0 Boot Camp. (If you want to catch up, read here, here, here, here (audio here), here, here, here, here and here).

I am a participant in the workshop, and I see the conversation that’s playing out as one big, (public) demonstration of the power and value of L20. There are both positive and negative examples for us to learn from here. My working group in L20 Bootcamp has been charged with answering the question: “How can Library 2.0 be used to enhance [ALA] membership?” What follows is my response.

First, a few thoughts:

I understand the Otter Group’s motivation to defend themselves against perceived attacks. I believe they set out to do good with this workshop. I’ll grant that their motivations are pure. I imagine they must be feeling a bit like “no good deed goes unpunished.” Having said that, I think their evolving response to the criticisms being levied at them could have been plucked whole-cloth from the ClueTrain Manifesto, under the heading, “What not to do” or “Example of corporation 1.0 in its’ death throes.” That is to say, while running a course that is, at its heart, about having conversations, they are investing time and energy and (allegedly) using the language of intimidation and threats of legal action to stamp out conversation because they don’t like what’s being said.

This is great!!! It’s great because it offers us a real-time, unfolding case-study, ripe with lessons we can sink our teeth into. I do not see this as a simple case of the big bad corporation versus the noble defenders of good. It’s a little more nuanced than that (most things are, right?). To the extent that we can resist our impulses to cast this as a drama of good v. evil, we can extract some useful lessons.

That I am getting value from my Bootcamp experience and the conversations that have sprung up around it is unquestionable. As far as I’m concerned, the fact that ALA is doing anything is a huge overriding value. I’m aware that much of the value I’m extracting as a participant is because of Otter’s (and Jenny Levine’s and Michael Stephens’) contributions. And some of it is in spite of their contributions. Right now people are talking about the “in spite” part. That’s ok. That’s natural. That’s healthy. But it’s not the whole story. What follows is my attempt to frame what I’m seeing, hearing, reading, and experiencing in a way that will help me learn and extract value from this experience. Nothing more, nothing less.

El Tuo’s L20 Manifesto: (Thoughts on using L20 to enhance membership in ALA

  1. L20 is a conversation.
  2. Don’t try to put the conversation in a box.
  3. Conversations do not occur in boxes.
  4. Conversations are organic. They go where they go. They grow where they grow.
  5. The further a conversation goes the better. The wider it grows the better.
  6. Go where the conversation goes or you will cease to be a part of it.
  7. No one controls the conversation.
  8. If you try to control the conversation, it will affect how others perceive you in spite of anything or everything else you are doing.
  9. If you try to control the conversation, you will lose credibility (at best).
  10. Credibility is the coin of the web 2.0 realm.
  11. If you try to control the conversation, you will ignite and draw peoples’ anger or ridicule or both (if you’re lucky).
  12. Your response to anger and ridicule can be a part of the conversation or separate from it, in which case it is simply prologue to your epitaph.
  13. If you try to control the conversation you will be ignored as irrelevant (at worst).
  14. Irrelevance is worse than death. People say nice things about the dead, but the irrelevant are seldom mentioned.
  15. Anyone can participate in the conversation.
  16. We add value by participating in the conversation.
  17. It is the quality of our participation, not the quantity, that determines how much value we bring to the conversation.
  18. We extract value by listening to the conversation.
  19. The best listeners extract the most value.
  20. The organization that listens best extracts the most value.
  21. Organizations can’t just listen… They must participate.
  22. ALL feedback is good.
  23. Conversations flourish when ALL feedback is seen as good.
  24. All feedback is useful.
  25. Conversations flourish when ALL feedback is seen as useful.
  26. The appropriate response to feedback is to say thank you.
  27. Find another way to say thank you.
  28. Repeat.
  29. Now offer a thoughtful response to feedback.
  30. Congratulations, we are now having a conversation.

(This manifesto has been cross-posted to: I encourage fellow boot camp participants and anyone else interested in growing the manifesto to jump in and edit. The pwd is eltuo.)


EDIT: This was written and posted before reading Michael Stephen’s latest post at Tame the Web–really! A little bit of sychronicity…