CRM & libraries

Despite a lot of PLA conference sessions discussing embedded librarianship as if it’s a new thing, it’s far from it. While it’s mostly seen with academic librarians embedding themselves into assigned departments, public librarians are seeing the need to embed themselves within their communities. And rightly so.

Vibrant libraries have already seen success in relationship building by attending town meetings, volunteering for committees and setting up tables at local farmers markets. Those of us who run this track see the importance of successfully “existing” in the town.

Recently, it occurred to me that a good way for us to track and foster these external relationships is by using CRM. For those not hip with corporate acronyms, CRM stands for customer relationship management. Major for-profit companies have been using CRM databases and practices for years to identify potential leads and maintain existing connections.

In my research, I saw a few blog posts encouraging libraries to try it. However, I wasn’t able to discover any case studies or reports of library implementation. So it looks like we’re staring from a blank slate.

i6bqe2I checked out a few free cloud CRM databases and settled on Bitrix24 (mainly because it’s the only free cloud I could find with up to 12 users). We can incorporate our google calendars should we choose and it seems fairly user friendly. I plan to give a tutorial to other supervisors next week and figure out what labels and components will be most useful to us. I’ll document as we go, which will hopefully be helpful to others.

Relationships are two-way roads

How often do we ask ourselves this? We’re planning great programs, making sure the technology is updated as regularly as we can afford, and getting coverage in the local paper. The displays are fun and colorful. Even our BluRay collection is solid. So what gives?

I like to compare our complaints to the relationship between a pair of friends. One is always calling and being proactive about getting together for coffee, dinner, a beer. The other just sits around waiting. Eventually that enthusiastic friend is going to stop and think, “Wait. Why am I the only one reaching out. Why is s/he never taking the initiative?” And the friendship sometimes ends because no one wants to be in a one-sided relationship.

So why are we, as public librarians, always complaining that our community doesn’t give us the time of day? Maybe we shouldn’t sit around waiting for patrons to walk through our doors. Maybe we should be making the appointments and finding reasons to go to them. Even arrange to have our programs out in town and sometimes bring some of our collection with us. We need to see our existence as a two-way road in order for our profession to thrive.

Over the next year, I plan to walk the walk. I want to see if I can turn my professional presence from purveyor of resources and knowledge to a regular contact in the town’s pursuit of lifelong learning. Thankfully, I have a wonderful team of colleagues to help.