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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Going local: understanding regional library needs

By Anne Ziebart

As a marketer you spend a lot of time hidden behind your screen. At least it feels like that sometimes. Conferences and the occasional external meeting offer a welcome excuse to step into the picture and finally meet the people you market to. So I was excited when there was talk of setting up regionally focussed “library advisory councils,” and a German-speaking was one under consideration. Being a German in “self-exposed exile,” to phrase it dramatically, it provided me with a chance to organise and participate in a German-speaking meeting.

Oxford University Press (OUP) already works with an international “library advisory council” — a group of librarians with whom we are in an ongoing dialogue. Member librarians are from a range of different types and sizes of institutions to ensure the width of different customers can be represented as adequately as possible. Meetings and communications with this group are conducted in English as the librarians come from different countries globally. We regularly consult with its members on a range of topics and questions related to industry developments, trends, and general feedback to name a few. The communication stretches from personal meetings to other forms of dialogue which are beneficial to both sides. It helps us to remain in touch with our customers and learn about ongoing changes – on both sides.

The regional library advisory councils are another step closer. Whilst acknowledging regional differences means looking at more than linguistics, starting an ongoing conversation in local language seems a good starting point.

As we were looking to create our German-speaking library advisory council we obviously had the DACH countries (Austria, Germany, and Switzerland) in mind. Since we’re working in an acronym-obsessed industry the project was accordingly nicknamed DACH LAC (LAC=”library advisory council”). There are a number of German-speaking colleagues working here at OUP so we knew we would be able to plan and conduct the meeting in German. We were tied into the project and following a lot of planning, a string of emails, and some phone calls, we had a number of interested librarians from all three countries. In order to meet everyone and give members a chance to get to know each other we decided to hold a first meeting. Since many librarians come to Frankfurt Book Fair anyway it seemed a good idea to time our event around this. Hence we gathered in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on 8 October 2013, the day before the start of the book fair.


On the day we were pleased to welcome participants from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland for our half-day event. We met in conference facilities at a hotel which is located right next to the exhibition grounds of book fair and therefore easily accessible. Following short welcome coffees we got started with a brief introductory round. The main topic of the day was eBooks business models which gave us a lot to talk about. Despite the fact that some had a very early start on the day, to make the journey to Frankfurt all the way from places like Zürich and Vienna, we had lively discussions.

As expected, the mix of participants from different types and sizes of institutions made for an interesting conversation. The agenda consisted of a mix of presentations, including one from participants from the University of Vienna, and discussion time. It was nice to get to know people and we got some interesting insights not all of which were about eBooks business models. For example, we learnt that most of the librarians now developed a dislike to questionnaires. It seems these have become a favourite way of gathering information in the industry and as a result they receive so many surveys currently that the majority of our group wasn’t in favour of them anymore. The consensus was that they’d prefer different means of communication although the question what form this should take was subject to debate. Another interesting insight was language preference amongst library users, students in particular. Even though students are being encouraged to read in English, it seems most still prefer to use German titles rather than English books. That’s with the exception of Switzerland where it seems English titles are more popular. Overall user behaviour appears to change at PhD or post-doc level when many refer to English titles also. Other influencing factors are subjects and international focus of the institutions.

Altogether it proved a very informative event and we’re already planning another one this year. In the meantime we’re working to establish more regular communication and hope to foster an open dialogue as we navigate through a changing industry going from print to pixels.

picAnne Ziebart is a senior marketing executive in the institutional marketing team at Oxford University Press promoting academic online publications to librarians in Central, North- and South Europe and North Africa. Originally from Frankfurt, she has lived in the United Kingdom for over five years.

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Image credits: (1) Image credit: Photograph of Steacie Science and Engineering Library at York University by Raysonho@Open Grid Scheduler. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. (2-3) Frankfurt and portrait images courtesy of Anne Ziebart. Do not reproduce without permission.

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