Wednesday, March 26, 2008

LibraryThing doubles its conference budget

Sonya just iPhoned us the LibraryThing for Libraries booth at PLA in Minneapolis, which is starting now.

The rhino has its origin in conference rules that prohibit exhibitors from doing too much of their own setup. At CIL2007 the rule was no more than what one person could carry in one trip, without a hand-truck.

Well, what can one person carry that fills up some of a 10x10 space? An inflatable animal, of course!

There is no meaning; It's an absurdist joke—a protest against the vacuity of conference selling. Still, it does line up with some of what LibraryThing and LibraryThing for Libraries is all about:
  • We're not a "vendor." Vendors bribe you with tchochkes. They erect gorgeous displays, adorned with orthodontically homogenous and racially diverse "patrons" grinning about some irrelevant, overpriced and boring piece of technology.
  • We are cheap. LibraryThing for Libraries costs what it costs. Sonya's sleeping with friends and she flew cargo, but we spent a few thousand dollars to own a 10x10 booth for three days. The internet alone cost us $1,000. This is rip-job enough, and some library will be paying for it. If we ordered fancy chairs we'd have to charge them another $500. Who wants that?
  • LibraryThing for Libraries "sells itself." At first I didn't even want Sonya to make fliers, for fear some people will grab the flier and not see it for real.
Anyway, if you're at PLA, stop by (booth 1652). If not, but you're in Portland, ME or Cambridge, MA, send us a note. We might even spring for wine—something we do not skimp on.

PS: Even if you have no interest in LibraryThing for Libraries, help Sonya figure out how to make the rhinos roar. It says they do on the box, and there's some sort of speaker on the foot, but we can't figure out how.

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20 Comments:

Blogger matthew said...

Speaking of festivals, you guys seriously need a booth at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. Free admission, brings 140,000 readers and booklovers (not to mention almost 500 authors) in one place to talk about books. So perfect for LibraryThing:

http://www.latimes.com/extras/festivalofbooks/

I'm sure there are some thingamabrarians in L.A. who would gladly help you staff the booth (I know I would!)

3/26/2008 6:27 PM  
OpenID lisa-marli said...

Does the Rhino have his batteries in him? They usually need a bunch of AAs.
And don't sell fliers short. Everyone forgets the information unless they have a flier to take with them.
Remember they have 10 seconds to figure out if this is what they want. Yes, 10 seconds, 30 if they decide to look at your computer and play with it a moment. Ugly but true.
lisa_marli

3/26/2008 7:25 PM  
Anonymous Heather19 said...

LOL Oh the rhinos are awesome! Too cool!

3/26/2008 9:58 PM  
Blogger Sam M said...

I'm in Cambridge! Or Somerville, but close enough. I'm a school librarian, and over the next year we're auditioning new library management software of assorted kinds. I'd love to meet whoever's in Cambridge and take a look at LibraryThing for Libraries! Even without rhinos. Send me an email!

3/26/2008 11:34 PM  
Blogger Sonya said...

I'll check out the battery situation. Of course, the packaging told me nothing.

The fliers have been ... flying of the table, so Lisa-Marli - you're two for two!

3/27/2008 12:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have a plastic pig the same size that also makes a noise when you squeeze a sensitive part...just search for the sensitive part ;)

3/27/2008 2:15 AM  
Blogger Moultrie Creek said...

I'm a big fan of LibraryThing and I think the rhinos are awesome. Keep up the good work!

3/27/2008 4:36 AM  
Blogger papalazarou said...

are the rhinos possibly a reference to Eugene Ionesco or possibly Lawrence Norfolk? Rhinos and literature go hand in hand

3/27/2008 9:33 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Yeah, alas no. It's the largest, bulkiest one they sell.

http://www.thejunglestore.com/Gift-Catalog/Inflatables

3/27/2008 10:47 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Thirty bucks, btw!

3/27/2008 10:47 AM  
Anonymous Drom John said...

So when you have the 10 things to improve LT for libraries contest, grand prize is a rhino?

3/27/2008 11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to have my DNA taken to the far ends of the Milkyway. Someone should order small plastic vials from the manufacturer using the green Thomas industrial catolog at the public library, look up vials /plastic. Next have someone make a kids rubber helium party baloon that is 1 inch bigger when its inflated so it goes higher in the sky. Have it made with glow in the dark stuff that shines at night. It will take two rubber baloons tied together to carry up the plastic vial taped to one of the baloons. Proceed to get poke-em lancets from the drug store to prick your finger. Now Space-Aliens flying in invisible craft in Earths skies could retrieve a drop of your blood when you release the baloons over the desert or nature park. Go ahead and dab a drop of blood onto the surface of the baloon instead if you want, then only one baloon is needed. Your baloon might be recognized by the Aliens up there. Or you might find the whole idea a bad thing. Should people who believe there is Aliens visiting our solor system send out a spacecraft way past Pluto that has a supply of fruit tree, vegetable and berry seeds so the Extra-terrestial star travellers can take it home?

3/27/2008 11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm confused. Almost all of what you write makes sense but this is just nutty. You wanted space in a convention center to show off your stuff. The convention center is a for-profit gig. The PLA conference is not supposed to make a profit (per se) but the trade show does subsidize the rest of the conference, reducing (at least somewhat) the costs to the attendees.

On the one hand, you have a for-profit convention center which doesn't necessarily have any particular fondness for LibraryThing. On the other hand, you also have a real not-for-profit (PLA) in the mix. If you don't want to pay for the space to strut your stuff, who do you expect to subsidize those costs?

Yes, LT costs what it costs. And part of that cost is funding your marketing and advertising efforts. If you choose to attend the expensive conferences then you get to pay for the privilege. Do you also complain about the cost of a back cover advertisement in Library Journal? What's you beef?

3/27/2008 8:26 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

We're not complaining that we deserve a free ride. Of course stuff costs. But to "do it up" in the way some companies do is a waste that goes directly to making our services more expensive for the people who want them. A really nice booth, for example, would easily set us back $10 or $20k.

Reports from the booth are that we're mobbed. Sonya reports that neighboring booths want to know what the hell it is we're selling. This was my experience at CIL too. When left for an hour I came back to a table littered with business cards.

Right now people want our stuff. The respect that we're not a vendor. Most understand that the flashy salespeople and branded pens cost them money in the end. (On the flip side I've heard it expressed that for many librarians an vendor dinner is one of their few opportunities to go to a really nice restaurant.)

Maybe someday LibraryThing will be one of those tired, bloated vendor trying to dress up their ten-year-old technology with expensive photographic backdrops. If a library wants that—if they think the quality of technology and customer service is related to the money they spend on carpeting at a conference—they're exactly the sort of library that won't get us anyway.

3/27/2008 8:40 PM  
Anonymous Scott D. said...

I stopped by your booth at PLA on Friday and was totally hooked. I had heard of LibraryThing, but I had no idea what it was. Sonya did a great job of explaining LibraryThing for Libraries, but I also was sold on LibraryThing. The first thing I did when I got home was open an account. So, I do think it is worth your time (and money) to exhibit at conferences.

3/29/2008 12:24 PM  
Anonymous scott d. said...

As a librarian who has been in the field for nearly 18 years I can truthfully say that I do not base a vendors performance on whether or not they have flashy booths and carpeting at conferences. It is no different than any other advertising. They try to be big and flashy to draw your attention, but that doesn't mean that the product is any better than the minimalist display down the aisle.

Than being said, part of the fun of going to these shows is seeing all the glitz and fancy displays. If Random House and Brodart want to build lavish displays and shower us with free books and gifts, I for one will take them. It doesn't mean that I'll buy from them though. What it does mean is that their products will be more expensive. That is why I make it a point to visit the smaller booths (like LibraryThing). Often the best ideas and trends are coming from the smaller guys. There is nothing that says that you have to build big lavish displays. If you have a good product or service, people will find you and shower you with business cards...

3/29/2008 12:45 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

That's interesting. All I think about opac and database vendor displays at conferences is "oh, THAT'S where my money is going. No wonder my bill is so high - and you're too busy to make any of the improvements we ask for."

Yay for rhinos!

3/29/2008 9:00 PM  
Anonymous winstonsmithlives said...

I stumbled onto the LibraryThing both at PLA and thought it was fine. Of course as a LibraryThing member and fan I might be a bit bias. For me, it's the product, not the flash that sells. 3M had one of the biggest booths and I didn't stop, because I don't need their product. Other's had give aways and other gimmicks, but honestly sitting through a 15 minute presentation--even for an MP3 player--isn't worth it sometimes.

In my opinion, ALWAYS provide a flyer. When I go in on Monday to try and get my boss and the IT department to add LibraryThing for Libraries to our catalog, it helps to have something to show them. Plus, I talked to over a 100 vendors and spent a week going from presentation to presentation, so by the end my brain was FRIED. With your flyer, I know I won't miss something important, because I wrote it down at the time.

Also Sonya did a great job of showing off the product and was super enthusiastic even though it was Friday. Big props to her and thanks for talking shop with me!

Jeff from Topeka Public

3/30/2008 11:36 PM  
Anonymous Nicole C. Engard said...

I made sure to get some pictures of Sonya working the booth:

http://flickr.com/photos/nengard/2368020252/
http://flickr.com/photos/nengard/2368023394/

3/31/2008 7:52 AM  
Blogger Sonya said...

Not that I was worried, but I love that there is both anecdotal and photographic evidence of my conference time!

3/31/2008 11:45 AM  

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