When I started work at the Library,  the name David Lee King kept popping up in random project team meetings. Administrators would quote his advice on website development and MakerSpace emerging technology. People talked about his engaging conference presentations. I was told I HAD to sign up for his newsletter and start reading his blog.

David Lee King
David Lee King

As it turns out, David Lee King is kind of a rock star in the library community. In his day job, he is the Digital Services Director at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library in Topeka, KS, where he plans, implements, and experiments with emerging technology trends. He also speaks internationally about emerging trends and social media and has written a book– Face2Face: Using Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media Tools to Create Great Customer Connections.

His blog offers hundreds of articles on a variety of topics that library content marketers can devour: managing Instagram accounts, making your website more engaging, and figuring out analytics. David has worked in the library world since the mid 1990s and is intimately familiar with the unique culture and challenges of the library. Recently, he took time out of his busy schedule to answer a number of questions about libraries and marketing and offers advice for my readers (and for me!)

It amazes me that libraries still have an image of being stodgy and traditional. I think there are so many libraries doing amazing, forward-thinking things. So we obviously have a promotion problem, individually and as an industry. How can we do a better job at spreading the word about the cool things happening in the library space?

David Lee King: Two things – spend the money and stop thinking traditionally. Spend the money on actual marketing and promotion initiatives–things like inserts in newspapers, TV ads, posters around town, etc., basically anywhere NOT in the library that people gather. It doesn’t have to actually cost money — they can come in the form of sponsorships and donations.

We also need to stop thinking traditionally. Libraries are really bad at making bookmarks or in-house posters or a book display for the main promotion for something, and then assume that everyone in the community magically visited our facility and somehow saw it. That’s simply not how promotion or marketing works.

What’s the biggest marketing problem libraries tell you they are having right now?

David Lee King: Time and money–as in not enough of either! Even libraries with marketing departments tend to have capacity issues because we’re just too darn busy! Also the marketing department tends to not understand how social media works.

Share your top three tips for improving a library website.

David Lee King:

1. Ask your customers what they expect of the library’s website, and then build that.

2. Read the book Don’t Make me Think by Steve Krug, and do what he says.

3. Simplify. Cut the words, cut the details. Delete the “history of the library” page. Focus on what the customer wants (see #1).

Social media still seems to intimidate many libraries. Can you give three tips for libraries looking to take their social media game to the next level?

David Lee King:

1. Be there, and do something, every day.

2. Focus on doing a few social media channels well rather than trying to do all of them.

3. Work really hard to sound like a fun, likable, smart human being rather than a brochure.

You’ve written a book about using social media as a tool to make customer connections. Why is it so important to libraries to connect with their cardholders?

David Lee King: Besides stuff, connections are what makes the library. People are talking about libraries being “community centers” currently–that’s because we’re a great, neutral place for customers to make connections. So it makes a lot of sense for us to develop connections to our community. And in today’s modern library, part of that connectivity happens online.

Many library marketers have told me they just don’t have time to do all the things they want to do. You do a lot… you have your full-time job, your blog, your speaking engagements, and your personal life. How do you manage it all? Do you have some tips on time management?

David Lee King: First of all, it’s something I want to do. It’s not so much a job but more like a rewarding hobby. Second, I schedule my time. I set aside time in the mornings before work to blog or to work on a presentation, for example.

What’s an emerging technology trend that libraries and particularly library marketers need to pay attention to?

David Lee King: The current maker movement, with makerspaces and DIY mentalities, is definitely one to watch and to participate in. Libraries should be there, helping customers actively make stuff – not just read about it–doing that active partnering on creative projects is something that brings people back to the library. And that’s why marketers need to be there too–reporting on and promoting those good vibes (and the ROI to the community).

You worked a lot of jobs before landing in the library world… and you’ve stayed here for a long time. What’s so great about working for a library?

David Lee King: I do something different every day and get to help people learn new stuff (or simply be entertained for a bit). I also get to help build the future of the library through technology and digital branches, which I find exciting.

What books are you reading right now?

David Lee King: I’m just starting Stephen Lawhead’s The Fatal Tree, a fantasy series about time travel. Also True Grit (it’s my library’s Big Read book this year). Fun stuff!

If you could send a message to yourself ten years ago (in 2005), what would you say?

David Lee King: Wow – 2005. I would tell myself to hang on for about a year, and then you’ll have a new job at an innovative library, and you’ll actually get to build the stuff in your head!

What library influencers would you like to see interviewed for this blog? Leave a suggestion in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.