iCONN News

Monday, March 13, 2006

Last week with iCONN

Well, I'm afraid that I have news both good & bad. First, the good news: as of Friday, I'll begin working for the CT State Library in a different, permanent employee (v. contractor) realm. Secondly, the bad news: I will be leaving the iCONN Outreach Coordinator position. My new job will be focused on web development for the state library. My time here at the iCONN project, which is itself a Connecticut State Library program, has shown me that there is a lot of work we have to do to get the word out about the Connecticut Digital Library.

I've done my best to contribute to public awareness efforts, by creating a baseline for analysis of the effectiveness of our marketing efforts, through the survey (done by UCONN's CSRA), which helped us to understand that while 14% had heard of iCONN, only 5% of the general public were at all familiar with the service. We also learned about their perceptions in regards to online services and libraries, more generally. We measured what was most valuable to members of the public about these services and what messages resonated with them. Along with the other staff members here (Steve's done a great job, for example, with adding appealing colorful photos to our brochures which describe the iCONN offerings), I've modified promotional materials (keeping our survey findings in mind when tailoring the messages) and worked on events that served to market the service. I've sent out mailings and contacted webmasters of sites that now link to appropriate iCONN databases.

Raising public awareness of iCONN considerably (say, from a 5% to a greater than or equal to 25% "at least somewhat familiar" rate) would take longer than a 6-12 month contract could realistically encompass... at least without an infusion of cash to underwrite mass marketing efforts, such as advertising on television. An increment of this could likely be achieved, of course.

Still, it would be ideal for iCONN if they could hire someone as a permanent employee to share the load and to provide the constant stream of press releases, emails, and marketing materials that are necessary to really build a brand. iCONN has always done an excellent job in promoting itself to core constituencies, such as librarians, and has primarily relied upon those librarians to get the word out to the public. Without a coordinator dedicated to direct public outreach, this model becomes the fall-back, but in just over 7 months, I've seen the program move forward in the sophistication of its marketing techniques by leaps and bounds and would hate to see it lose momentum. I would also hate to see its small staff overwhelmed due to my shift in position.

This having been said, some of that work really has to happen on the web side of things. iCONN is, after all, a digital library and our potential users are online - all too often unaware of this great State Library-administered service (which is free to all Connecticut residents and encompasses over 5,000 full-text magazines, journals, and newspapers). I'm grateful that I'm getting the chance to redeploy and enhance my web skills to further the mission of the State Library and iCONN along with it. I'm sad to leave this great office, staff, and project, but I will not be leaving it behind completely, for which I'm even more grateful! Thank you and I hope that I have aided iCONN in its quest for greater public awareness of the service. I also hope that I am able to continue to help iCONN increase public awareness of iCONN through work on the web. I know that my time here has helped me to better understand the art of communications -- a skill that is at least as valuable to a webmaster as the technical skillset I had developed in previous library technology positions.

A huge thank you from me to everyone at iCONN for giving me such a great opportunity and being such affable, decent, outrageously smart, principled, and fun colleagues!

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