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Fall QuestionPoint Users Group Meeting Library of Congress October 17, 2006 Marketing Your Virtual Reference Service: The Experience of Maryland AskUsNow!

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Presentation on theme: "Fall QuestionPoint Users Group Meeting Library of Congress October 17, 2006 Marketing Your Virtual Reference Service: The Experience of Maryland AskUsNow!"— Presentation transcript:

1 Fall QuestionPoint Users Group Meeting Library of Congress October 17, 2006 Marketing Your Virtual Reference Service: The Experience of Maryland AskUsNow! Joe Thompson Project Coordinator: Maryland AskUsNow! Baltimore County Public Library /

2 Maryland AskUsNow!  Launched March 17, 2003  33 partner library systems: Academic, Public, & Special  Staffed by over 300 librarians in Maryland for 266 hours each week  First statewide participant in “24/7 Reference” cooperative  Maryland customers accounted for 25% of all “24/7 Reference” usage  Now participates in QuestionPoint 24/7 Reference  143,000 questions to date! About Us!

3 InfoEyes  Launched January 2004  InfoEyes is a question and answer service for people with a visual impairment or other print limitation  People can ask a question about anything  Questions may be: ed via webform using QuestionPoint Voice Over IP by request!  Joe is the current InfoEyes secretary and may be contacted for info about participating also participates in…

4 Grand Opening March 17, 2003  Press release  Phone calls to local papers, radio, and TV  Postcard invitations to state and local government representatives  Event with a big cake  First “official” question  A librarian in robe and bunny slippers!  Attendance by local media  FREE publicity! It’s new once! How we have promoted AskUsNow! statewide: Grand opening  Getting a link on every library home page (negotiate for “above the fold”) Rocking memo holders, keychain highlighters, pencils, post-it pads, summer reading club question “prompt” cards, a TV commercial and of course… bookmarks! Staff pins during 1-year anniversary: “Let me answer that.”

5 Local promotion: Each partner library has a project liaison who… 1.Represents the partner library at meetings & on the listserv 2.Reports training needs 3.Monitors local performance 4.Maintains scheduling and arranges substitutes 5.Monitors usage 6. Maintains the currency of local library information used by the cooperative 7. Contributes enthusiasm and energy to make the project a success!

6 Get staff and administration support: They’ll help promote it. 1.Before joining as a partner, the director of the library must sign a “Letter of Intent.” 2.Each librarian who provides the service must attend a one-day training class where we not only look at the software and deduce the best VR model behaviors, but hope that staff will embrace the service’s statewide culture (i.e. customer service, quality, innovation) 3.Project Liaisons attend quarterly in-person meetings

7 Promotion techniques used by partner libraries: 1.On the web - Library web site (all over) - Local Government - K-12 school pages - Local non-profits 2.School media orientations 3.College/faculty orientations 4.Instruction classes 5.Business cards 6. Closing announcement 7. Door of library when closed 8. Telephone hold message 9. Print receipts 10. newsletter 11. Calendar of programs 12. School paper/newsletter 13. Show commercial in branch and ask local cable to show as a PSA (This can really work!)

8 Recent publicity 1.A back-to-school television spot for AskUsNow! this September, with… bread

9 Recent publicity 2. Radio spot on Baltimore area station Mix 106.5

10 Recent publicity 3. Bookmarks

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12 Recent publicity 4. More highlighters 5. Festivals and conferences MACO: Maryland County Officials Maryland State Fair Maryland state teachers fair MEMO: Maryland’s school media specialists 6. Certificates of recognition given to every partner library director for every librarian who provides the service. Signed by the state librarian! Future publicity 1.Voice over IP 2.Target: Business 3.Target: College/University

13 Three reminders about publicity: 1.Ensure that you’re providing the best quality service possible. Staff need to be perceived of as friendly above any other trait. Reinforce that it’s all about customer service. 2.Keep your funders and your partners aware of what a great service you are all providing. 3.Guide realistic customer expectations when you describe the service…

14 Guide Customer Expectations First time users might expect the impossible. Help them best understand what it can offer. Examples: 1. Although live and in real-time, answers are not instant. It usually takes at least 5 minutes and often longer for the librarian to find exactly what you need. 2. The service often gets very busy. If you contact the service at one of these busy times, your librarian may suggest writing you back later by so that you don’t have to wait online.

15 Guide Customer Expectations 3. Your librarian will likely ask you questions to make sure you get exactly what you need. 4. Like in a library, the same standards of respectful behavior apply. If you are rude, you won’t receive any help. 5. As you type in your question, please give as much detail as you can. Here’s a good example of a question someone sent: “I’m in 8th grade and writing a paper about the crusades. I don’t know where to start. Can you help me find some good websites?”

16 “ Thank you for using Maryland AskUsNow! If you have any further questions, please contact us again! You can go ahead and select the End Call button if that’s all you need. Bye for now!” This presentation will be posted at: Feel free to contact me: “Thank you!”


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