The Library market is heating up
When discussing selling 21st Century technology like RFID to libraries, a cynic might look at a market involving books as a dead end. One reality is that in certain areas, certain libraries may well be that.
The exciting news is that libraries are being forced to change for a myriad of reasons – and most of that change involves new technology. In RFID Switchboard’s home town of Silver Spring, Md., adjacent to Washington, DC, a library about half the size of a city block is being built and it will be wired – and wireless – to the rafters. Throughout our county, and around the world, old libraries are being razed and replaced. New technology is often the prime catalyst. This means contracts during construction and forever after, serving the librarians who are not taking this in-house.
There are built in obstacles to be aware of when selling anything to libraries, the first being an endless array of purchasing systems. Public library purchasing decisions may involve the system itself, county, town, city, school district, state or even a combination of the above. Those of you already selling this market hopefully have this issue understood, if not solved. Then there may be budget committees; multi-year lags in the cycle; fiscal shortfalls; elections and minor potentates as part of the process.
Some libraries have reported to Switchboard their prime suppliers are not offering RFID and they want to meet those who can help them. This means the latest RFID products for this market might give other solution providers a new way into these buyers.
Public libraries are the tip of the iceberg. Many corporations, publishing companies, non-profits, theaters, hotels, law enforcement, government agencies and others have their own libraries. Universities, colleges and other schools may have many libraries. The technical and marketing know-how your company gets serving any one of these client types, might give you quick cross-over potential to broaden your client base and sell these other library buyers.
Keep in mind now that libraries keep collections of every media imaginable, some even with microfiche in the basement, so books are just one element. Film libraries have their own needs, including dying media that needs conversion opening up other niches. Each medium has its own needs for equipment to display, project, broadcast, place on a screen, provide audio transmission of or otherwise allow audience to access. There are anti-counterfeiting and anti-copying needs.
The opportunities for sales and service are vast and changing. In fact, many libraries are shedding the name entirely, for purposes of public perception as well as simple accuracy, with names like media center. In some places, libraries and museums join in hybrid configurations.
Do not take lightly the reality of potential community and/or user backlash awaiting announcements a library will begin using RFID or other auto-identification technology. The concern over intrusion into what books people read or films they watch is as American as the Fourth Amendment, and is not isolated to the U.S. Get out front of this issue, be one of the good guys, and offer help to clients on protecting the privacy of their constituents.
Figure some sort of helpful education and pro-actively helping clients with the public relations and customer service needs as a cost of sales. This could be the one cost that might make or break an implementation. Read RFID Switchboard for updates and suggestions on how to approach this.
Thanks to Bibliotheca RFID Library Systems (www.bibliothecarfid.com).
Major RFID sales points; help buyers stretch budgets, increase efficiency.
Anticipate objections and know the sweet spots as libraries see them.
Gain knowledge of the economic realities of your library customers.
RFID-enabled books are the librarian’s perfect assistant, according to Texas Instruments. Review their inlay specs.
Demonstrating the automatic library check-out process, with return and sorting chutes.