Elizabeth R. Lorbeer
Elizabeth R. Lorbeer
Library Director, Western Michigan University School of Medicine

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Welcome to the Bibliomatrix

How do you promote a service and resource that you can’t physically see, hold or enter? It is a challenge I’ve faced for the last four years in developing an all-digital library for a new medical school. You cannot open the front door to my library, study, nor check out books. Rather the library I work at is what you hold in your hand. It’s accessible through your smartphone, tablet, and laptop. You can be anywhere in our school building, at home, in the coffee shop, or on a medical mission trip and have access to the library’s digital content. As neat as this all sounds, my biggest challenge is marketing the existence of the digital library. What you can’t see in the traditional academy is often forgotten or simply non-existent. That’s dangerous in a world plagued with fake news and impostor journal sites where a simple Internet search can produce misleading information for our learners. I do not manage a library with rows of book stacks, banks of computers or a maker space. I exist in the digital realm, and if I let my imagination get the best of me, I’m the Oracle who manages the Bibliomatrix. So, how do market to Neo, Morpheus, and Trinity so that they’re effective information users within the Bibliomatrix?

 

Research in the Informationist Age

The medical librarians who we now call Informationists are the most valuable resource I have. Armed with a tablet or laptop, they are unchained from the reference desk to work in the learning environment. They go as ambassadors of information to deliver content, provide expertise in systematic searching of the world's knowledge databases and help answer medical questions. When a medical case piques curiosity, the Informationist will search and appraise the literature as time constraints often limit learners from exploring further. We scribe for our clinicians in morning report, then work quickly to answer their questions later in the day. Our web pages and services are always changing and building upon successes as we meet the daily needs of our students and educators. To make this work seamlessly and in real-time, we collectively created our digital library platform to be agile so that at any time one of us can customize how we deliver content to our users. Some readers might think we’re going to run the digital library amuck, but our shotgun approach has branded us within our institution as problem-solvers who can deliver real-time results. We improve user success by eliminating barriers to information and advocating that we’re here to make our learners, educators, and clinicians successful healthcare providers.

Going “Viral” By Building Trust and Success

Our marketing strategy is simple; to go out within our community and elevate each user’s success. We're passionate about making the world a healthier place, and supply the front line with vetted resources. We believe our success is based on being a good role model and a friend to our learners and making the learning space safe for them to ask a question about the care of a patient in the clinical setting. Crafting our brand is trickier because it is tied to each Informationist and his/her interaction with our users. We are growing our skills and expertise’s organically as our school matures. Each of us brings our unique talents, interests and traits to our workplace. We’re encouraged by our school’s administration to explore, discover and create our success Many of our users have a favorite Informationist, and they know that person will supply them the materials and information they'll need. I fully expect the Informationists to know our users by name and be that trusted friend they can confide in within the academy. We’re fortunate to work with a smaller faculty, and student body, where cultivating relationships is relatively easy, and respect as an equal is a given. The Informationists are part of the healthcare team where we are prized for being innovative problem solvers, working quickly to produce results and noted for being the “nicest people” in the medical school. Word of mouth is powerful, and cultivating library champions is key to success. There always will be naysayers, and disruptors, it's how you handle your brand and positively adapt to each new situation that makes users respect and trust your services.

 

With any effective marketing plan, communication and listening are key. That can be hard, as you like to think you’re one step ahead of the information consumer and you’ve created a flawless paradise. When I hear, a user say, "I wish the digital library could...," it is an invitation to strategize how we're getting information into the hands of our people. My job as Oracle is to listen, empower, emulate the qualities I admire in our library users, then make it happen in the Bibliomatrix.

 

What unique challenges do you face as a librarian in marketing your services? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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