Friday, 11 April 2008

Marketing Libraries

I avoid marketing surveys, especially since being conned into doing a personality audit by Scientologists back in 1979 ("it'll only take 5 minutes" - there must have been 500 questions). Nevertheless, I was clipboarded in the library by a nice lady doing market research; I'm allowed to break my own rules and she said only 5mins and no personal questions.

First question: "Name"? That's sounds personal to me. Okay, just put anything. Then "E-mail address"? Uh oh. Then the classic "Where are you from"? (the form said "Race"). As long-term readers know this is one issue I have explored deeply so when she started writing "British" I interjected. British is not a race, it's a nationality, but she wasn't bothered and moved on.

The chirpy clipboard lady finished up with a smile. Not because I gave interesting answers but rather my completed questionnaire achieved her quota so she could now go home. She insisted on giving me a plastic pen stenciled with "Media Research Consultants Pte Ltd (". It's a nice web address but if MrConsultants is listening, I have to report that the pen is now in the bin. I don't keep cheap pens; they are unpleasant to write with, feel awkward in the hand, fail unpredictably and seem to multiply when you turn your back. Plus, you didn't pay me enough to endorse your company.

Pentel fibre tip, ultra fine in black. Now that's a pen worth writing with. I'm also rather partial to the Japanese ultra fine pens like the Muji Gel Ink Pens (0.38mm) or Pilot G-2 Gel Pen (0.38 mm). For aficionados, there's been huge R&D yen thrown at sub millimeter pens but 0.38mm is good enough for me.

So what did I say about the library? The book collections are very good (some libraries have better collections for certain topics) and the computer search system is Okay but it badly needs a usability re-design to reduce the number of steps for typical actions. The main problem with all the libraries is the lack of fitness for modern purpose. I want tables with power outlets so I can read books and use the wireless Internet. I don't need S$2.90 coffees or armchairs where I have to balance the laptop on my knee. I don't want to have to bring a sweater to sit for more than half an hour in the chilly air-con. I don't really want to tote the heavy books home either. I'd rather borrow books 'virtually', using some kind of book reader software on my home computer. Frankly, I'm surprised libraries have lasted this long into the Internet age.