For marketers jumping the shark refers to that moment when a brand breaks its promise to a customer. New Coke is a classic example — changing the tried and true formula. Think about any strong brand — Martha Stewart for example. If she showed up on camera in rhinestones and spandex, she’d be jumping the shark for sure.
What about libraries, one of the strongest brands around? What about free, public libraries? Do they jump the shark when they go down the path that Dallas Public Library has chosen: "Dallas libraries let you pay to check out hot titles." Here’s the story from the Dallas News.
"StreetSmart Express that lets people check out popular books and DVDs for $5 each. Other items can still be checked out by Dallas residents at no cost. "
"Library officials say the program is designed to eliminate or shorten wait times for people who want to borrow popular titles rather than pay hefty retail costs. Not every best seller or top-selling movie is part of the program, but many of the hottest titles are now available at all branches the same day they hit bookstores."
For more background check out this article in Library Journal.
I certainly understand the situation all libraries are in and understand the pressures of tough economic times. But isn’t this a PR nightmare and a leap over the shark? In spite of Dallas’s attempts are equitability — customers can still get into the waiting queue, which can see wait times of 6-8 weeks — I can’t imagine justifying this to tax-paying customers. Especially those that can’t afford the $5 easy pass.
The basic premise of libraries is carved in stone over many Carnegie public libraries: Open to All. Do you get more openness for $5?