About Timothy Hackman
Librarian for English & Linguistics, University of Maryland Libraries. Member of LES since 2006.
OK, so I’ve been asked to be a panelist for a session on “Marketing Online Databases” at the MDK12 Digital Library Summit, to be held in mid-June. I will be representing the academic librarian’s viewpoint, and will be joined by a public librarian and a school library district administrator. I agreed to be a panelist because the commitment is minimal (60 minutes total, so probably 15 minutes of talking plus time for questions) but I have to admit I haven’t thought much about how (if at all) we market our online databases to our customers.
At our university, marketing of the libraries and their resources is done at a more general level; e.g., giving out highlighters and Post-Its with the homepage on them at orientations, etc. I think most of our resource-specific “marketing” is done through our library instruction programs. We rely on the history subject specialist to inform the history students about Historical Abstracts, the English subject specialist to talk about MLA and ABELL, the art librarians to alert the art students to ArtSTOR and Art Abstracts. If a database doesn’t get used, I think most of my colleagues are happy to cancel it and look for something that is worth the cost, rather than spend time and energy marketing a database that no one wants to use.
One idea is to use cross-training of librarians to make sure that patrons will be connected with the most useful databases for their topics. This is especially important in institutions where you have a wide range of subject areas and a large number of electronic resources available. You could use a series of simple”brown bag” workshops (e.g., “Top 5 Databases in the Humanities,” “Digital Resources in the Life Sciences,” etc.) in which librarians train one another on the best databases to use for their subject areas.
What other ideas do you have? What are your experiences with marketing your databases to students and faculty? Do you spend much time thinking about how to get more of your patrons to use MLA, World Shakespeare Bibliography, or other electronic resources?