Wednesday, March 28, 2007

“The more they know about us, the more they'll like us.”

The cover story in the March 2007 issue of Wired is titled The See-Through CEO. It asserts that organizations can be successful by becoming more open, especially when dealing with their customers, shareholders and employees. The article states that customers appreciate it when companies are honest about mistakes and upfront about what they’re doing. Instead of zealously guarding their internal communications and trade secrets, “…firms spill information in torrents, posting internal memos and strategy goals, letting everyone from the top dog to shop-floor workers blog publicly about what their firm is doing right.”

The article cites two companies that are using blogs to promote openness and give their customers a place to voice their opinions; Southwest Airlines Blog and Redfin Realty

As I read the article, I thought about the “Library as Conversation,” proposal that Dave Lankes has been writing and podcasting about. The idea is to find ways to encourage participation by our patrons in our web site content, library programming, material selection, etc. One of the ways libraries are doing this is by designing their web sites with blogging software. The Ann Arbor District Library site is a example of how to do this. Everywhere you go on this site there is a place for comments from users. With a little searching, you can find lots of online conversations between patrons and library staff.

For example, here’s a discussion between Eli, who moderates teen game programs at the library, and some of the participants. Or this interchange between someone who has a question about an SAT practice test being given at the library. The library director has a blog on the site where she discusses the opening of a new branch and seeks feedback from the community about moving or renovating the library.

I read about a recent survey showing that libraries are one of the most trusted institutions in the country. Finding ways to build on this trust and encouraging “conversations” with our patrons willl help the library stay an important part of the community.

Finally, there’s this quote from Tony Hsieh, the CEO of, the online shoe retailer. “The more they know about us, the more they'll like us.”


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