Increasing Usage: Train Your Users
In times of constricted budgets, library decision-makers come under tremendous pressure to quantify and justify all of their content-based expenditures. Subscriptions they have taken out and relied upon for years suddenly come under the microscope for the first time. What is the cost per download? How central is this journal to our researchers? Will anyone care if we lose access to this database? No matter how illustrious the name or well-regarded the publisher, if content is not being used it is bound to be discussed in the yearly “What can we cancel?” conversation.
As subscriptions budgets continue to remain weak for 2010/2011, many publishers are VERY concerned about customer retention. Having exhausted their supply of finger-in-the-dam incentives — 0% price increases, targeted discounts, free added products – content providers are having to look at more fundamental ways of staving off cancellation: namely, increasing usage.
When end-users are engaged and usage is good the chances of losing those essential journal, package and database subscriptions goes down exponentially. Publishers can go about trying to raise those usage statistics in a number of ways. Users guides, online tutorials, and similar resources are great because they allow librarians and researchers to orient themselves on their own terms. A video tutorial available on a publisher’s platform is an easy, available tool that can make using the resource easier. For visibility, there are ways librarians can better position your titles or database in their online catalogs, and things they can do in the physical space such as putting up posters or displaying publisher ads on flat screen televisions in the library.
There are also more aggressive, direct ways of getting noticed. Contacting end-users and researchers directly, be they university faculty, authors and editors, or independent researchers, can bring in new users in the same way that contacting librarians can bring in new sales. Mailings and calls can encourage end-users to notice and refer to your product, and in-person visits can advance the process that much quicker.
PCG conducts on-site, native-language training sessions for researchers and librarians in Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere, and the experience of our salespeople has been that such sessions are always a positive experience. On-site training can help raise your visibility, increase demand for your resources, and increase usage at currently-subscribing institutions. If organized right (like the session pictured), user training can get a message out to a wide swath of current and potential customers, and this makes training a particularly important exercise in an era of closely-watched usage reports.