April 24, 2018

Jim Schmidt on Analytics, Widgets, Digital Magazines, and Other Aspects of the Digital Shift

Jim SchmidtOn October 14, Library Journal and School Library Journal will host their sixth annual virtual conference, “The Digital Shift: Libraries Connecting Communities.”

Recorded Books is a Gold Sponsor of the conference, and LJ reached out to Jim Schmidt, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, to participate in this series of interviews addressing libraries’ evolving role in using the latest technology to connect patrons to the information, tools, and services that they need—and to one another.

LJ: How has the digital shift evolved in libraries since last year’s event? What digitally driven trends have you seen taking off, fading out, or becoming the new normal?

JS: We have seen incredible growth this past year in our digital magazine service, Zinio for Libraries, as more and more libraries are preparing for the transition from print magazines to digital magazines. Interestingly, we have not seen a dramatic decrease in print magazine spending, as most libraries continue to have high demand for print. We also continue to see steady growth in digital audiobooks and ebooks as well as relatively new digital services such as streaming video and digital music, which are formats that are here to stay in libraries.

LJ: What needs or challenges do your customers report as their current priorities, and how are you helping to meet them?

JS: Our customers have been asking us for better analytics in the services we offer and better marketing services to help promote them. We have recently added more advanced analytics to our reporting for both OneClickdigital and Gateway platforms. This allows librarians to see a wide range of patron-usage statistics in a way that is easier for them to process. Our marketing department has been working closely with librarians to improve their social- and web-marketing presence and has created several unique services, including library-branded promotional videos, interactive web-based “widgets” designed to lead patrons to a particular service on a library’s website, and a variety of social media tools to help distribute a library’s message to its community.

LJ: This year’s theme for the Digital Shift event is connecting communities. How are libraries using technology to connect to communitywide initiatives at the local, state, and even federal level?

JS: We are seeing libraries investing more heavily in technology, including upgrading hardware and software inside of their buildings, adding space and digital tools to meet the needs of a younger audience, and adding higher-quality, consumer-oriented digital services designed to attract a younger and more digitally aware audience. Digital magazines, streaming video, digital music, and non-traditional services like online gaming are rapidly finding their place in libraries alongside more traditional library resources.

LJ: How has your [company’s] approach to UX and design evolved in recent years? What are a few characteristics that patrons have come to expect in electronic resources?

JS: Recorded Books has recently invested heavily in improving the UX design of our services. More and more patrons are accessing library services via mobile devices that have a wide range of formatting options, and our recent efforts have been designed to enhance the user’s mobile experience on all of our services. Earlier this year we relaunched OneClickdigital with an entirely new user experience, offering a reactive web interface that greatly improves search and discovery on the OneClickdigital website when used from a mobile device. We are also releasing a new version of our OneClickdigital app that combines e-audiobooks and ebooks into a single app experience.

LJ: Electronic resources and ebooks offer convenience, but many do not require a patron to visit the library. What are some ways that libraries and their vendors can ensure that the library, as an institution, is top of mind when patrons access content remotely? Similarly, what are some effective ways to let infrequent library visitors know that these resources are available?

JS: We are seeing more and more libraries looking past traditional marketing efforts (bookmarks, posters, flyers, etc.) and investing in technologies that will help them reach a broader audience in their communities. Targeted email newsletters, RSS feeds, Facebook posts, Twitter, and Pinterest are social media services being used to reach both avid library patrons and those who haven’t used libraries in years. We are also seeing libraries using more multimedia elements in their advertising and social media campaigns. Interactive, web-based “widgets” mentioned earlier in this [interview] engage patrons at a higher level than print ads and are designed to lead patrons directly to a service that a library is trying to promote. Custom, library-branded product videos have also been shown to be effective ways of engaging patrons outside of a library when used in social media campaigns and online pay-per-click advertising. While there are many new and creative ways to reach patrons with technology, libraries still struggle with limited budgets and resources to sustain marketing initiatives.

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