Is your library in the souvenir business? If not, they should be…

November 11, 2011

Photo by Robby van Moor


I was struck by this insight in Seth Godin’s “Small is the New Big”.  The section was entitled “Souvenirs–Real Compared to What?”  He is discussing the differences between CD versus live performances, digital photos compared to the experience, and a Power Bar replacing a meal.  He says:

An email doesn’t communicate as much information as a meeting…a PowerBar…(is) just not as good as a real meal…

This phemonenon creates a big opportunity.  The opportunity to provide sensory richness (my emphasis), to deliver experiences that don’t pale in comparison to the old stuff.  It’s not just baby-boomer nostalgia (though that helps)–it’s a human desire for texture. (my emphasis).

I think this is something that libraries should/can do particularly well.  A great example of how this happened recently is a children’s program I attended at my local public library on Wednesday.  Our library (where I am a Trustee) won $10,000 worth of books from JetBlue and PBS in a contest.  A great program was put on, and included characters and performers from PBS, and an author reading.  There were dozens of children at this program, and the wonderment on their faces seeing these characters live, receiving a free book, and participating in the music was definitely a “souvenir” that they will be sure to remember for a long time to come.

Other “souvenirs” that libraries create regularly are experiences such as the young adult/teen clubs, computer classes for older or disadvantaged adults, and “meet the author” programs.

To take this one step further, does your library create “souvenirs” everyday?  Is your staff helpful, authentic, enthusiastic in every transaction?  Do they provide a positive experience for every patron every time?  Will your patrons support your library when levy time comes, because you have created a “rich” experience?

I agree with Godin that “sensory richness” and “desire for texture” is something that is often missing from transactions today.  Customer service is often a frustrating hassle whereby you get the impression that no one on the other end really cares.  People appreciate the human touch and concern taken to help you solve their problem.  They REMEMBER a place that goes above and beyond. People LIKE being cared about.

Are there things your library can do to provide more “texture” and “richness” to your patron’s experiences while at the library every day?  Once you do this successfully, you will develop a tribe (another Godin term) that will support you and your mission.  AND (BONUS!), you will be enriching the lives of everyone in your community!

So, brainstorm the possibilities with your staffs and find ways to create souvenirs everyday for your patrons.  This is one more way that libraries can fill a gap missing in our current society.


2 Responses to “Is your library in the souvenir business? If not, they should be…”

  1. Hi there! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I truly enjoy reading your blog posts. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same topics? Thanks!

    • infopromom said

      A couple of great library blogs are David Lee King and Tame the Web. Also, you can go to 23 Things for Professional Development and there are other bloggers there that focus on library issues. Thanks for the compliments!

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