Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Long Tail

Long Tail Rules for libraries
In the book The Long Tail by Chris Anderson, he states that the future of markets is selling less of more with two guiding principles:

Make Everything Available

Help Me Find it

How does this relate to libraries?

1.Make everything available
Libraries make a wide variety available, more than any larger chain bookstore, but lacks the depth of a virtual bookstore. Even with E-books, we would not be able to make everything available as there are cost constraints. As a business, you can make everything available, and reap the benefits of the multiple purchases, with libraries on a limited resource and no additional money for success, this possibility lays far from our reach. E-books, e-music, e-movies, and databases will get us further into providing everything, but it is improbable to get to that everything bench unless libraries are nationalized and all resources are pooled much like how worldcat is offering its worldcat library search. ILL also gets us there, but it is slower than right now, as opposed to purchasing it on Amazon.

2.Help me find it - Nine Successful practices

1.Move inventory way in... or way out: Centralized inventory either in physically Central warehouse or digitally

Bigger library systems do this when they have a main central library. This library has the biggest collection, the most staff, and support services that help make the dis-aggregation of library services possible. Bookmobile services, books by mail, reference assistance, and support services are provided to all the libraries in the system. So these libraries will need to get even bigger to provide these type of services. (Digital is another issue)

2.Let Customers do the work: "crowdsourcing" Self-service means work done by the people who Care most about it and best know their own need.

This is the tricky part in getting your users involved in library services. If there is a one percent rule, does that mean the smaller the group the smaller the chance of participation? People post book reviews to Amazon more frequently due to the fame of exposure. Will they feel the same about your local library?

However, some of the tools are developed are being developed for user participation in the most critical library area, the catalog:

New Web Catalog Wins Prestigious Technology Award:

"WPopac, the online catalog developed by Bisson turns out to be quite an interesting concept.

* built on the WordPress, blogging software, which allows records to have comments and tags.
* each record is separate website indexed by search engines with unique permalink (web address)
* as an open software Wpopac could be tailored to your library needs and works over your OPAC"

See for yourself, Lamson Library Wpopac

3.One distribution method doesn't fit all: one item multiple format and access

Libraries provide a multitude of formats from different levels of reading materials, to audio, video, and online free resources. The online resources need to expand to best satisfy the long tail. The selection needs to be very, very big.

4.One product doesn't fit all: multiple formats. Break it down into smaller chunks

Provide teaser pieces of collection materials. Many library catalogs provide this where you can read the first chapter similar to what you can do at Amazon. Some other services provide the music clip or a movie trailer, but it is not tied into the catalog. Libraries provide this type of service in other ways by providing dis-aggregated services, bookmobile, books by mail, and deposit collections.

5.One Price doesn't fit all: cheaper means greater hassle, more expensive means ease of use

Libraries can follow this model. Especially in the books by mail service. A special service you can charge for that creates ease of use for the patrons. Make it so if they want to pay more, they can get better services. The one thing to watch for is that you do not provide an advantage over access. If you start charging for holds, then you are creating a proprietary layer that blocks access for everyone.

6.Share information: provide recommendations by transparent methods ,why was Something recommended.

Easy libraries do this all the time with reader's advisory. If we can find a way to automate it like amazon, that would also be great AND within our grasp.

7.Think ''and' not "or" offer it all!

Libraries offer all things to all people. The great difference is that it is just for that community, a smaller version of the long tail.

8.Trust the market to do your job: pre-filtering Vs. post-filtering one is predicting one is measuring Popularity rankings Don't predict, measure and respond.

Use the circulation statistics to predict what part of the collection you should be purchasing. If you focus more on the collections that get used, you will increase your circulation.

9.understand the power of free: free piece of product than in Price follows Cost. digital makes it cheaper.

Libraries already provide it for free. Probably what we can do is to offer a teaser piece of information that encourages people to sign up for library cards. For libraries that provide everything for free, it is not a price barrier but a time barrier. If you can make it easier for users, you will increase your user base. If you provide some access to your materials without requiring the library card, you will increase your users.

Some food for thought.

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