Thursday, June 12, 2008

2.0 or f2f?

In the world of marketing public libraries, or any library for that matter, here is the question that I keep coming back to: What is more efficient, social media/2.0 stuff or face to face interactions?

My bias is towards f2f, for the following reasons. One of the biggest -- THE biggest? -- assets that libraries have over the general online world is giving people the ability to pick up a phone (or, horrors, their feet) and contact a real, live human being who gives a damn about their question. Being out in the community in person helps hammer this home. I view a lot of the library 2.0 mania as an online extension of the same model that got us into the bind we are in: staying comfortably within the four walls of our buildings and not having those messy interactions with real, live people.

But wait, you say, isn't the point of 2.0 interactions that we are interacting with those we don't normally reach? Yes, but I come back to the original question: is the online or the personal, physical presence more effective? For a quick, unscientific case study I have had a library blog for about six months without a single interaction of significance. Does the blog stink? Maybe... the format is surely lousy. But in contrast, in the same span of time I've done a number of personal presentations and have had dozens of people sign up for library cards, answered scores of questions and developed a nice cadre of library cheerleaders who hadn't used the library in years. And these cheerleaders are local. That is another beef that I have with the 2.0 stuff: a lot of the strategies seem to be for much larger libraries. It's great to have blog subscribers in the Dakotas but that doesn't do much for me when it comes time to vote on bond measures and such.

I realize this doesn't have to be an either/or situation of 2.0 vs. f2f, indeed I flog the blog whenever I do a presentation, but from my meager experience the personal touch is just that: a personal touch and connection that can't be replicated online. Except here on this blog, dear reader. You are the world to me.

Thoughts? Other experiences?


Alexandria said...

This is a great post. I think the use of 2.0 technology is fast becoming one of our sacred cows - don't suggest giving up anything that smacks of Library 2.0 or you are a baaad, Luddite librarian. 2.0 technology has it's place, but it's not the way to reach all patrons, and I think we need to remember that.

Librarian Man said...

Thanks, Alexandria.

And guilty as charged, I am a baaad, Luddite of a librarian. Speaking of Luddites, there is a fabulous book by Kirkpatrick Sale entitled "Rebels Against the Future" which chronicles the original Luddite movement. It turns out the original Luddites weren't against technology per se, they just didn't like how particular technologies were disrupting and rearranging their lives.