The Tale of the Library Long Tail.

The State Library of Queensland (SQL) is currently in a period of transition. Their recently released strategic plan aimed towards 2020 detailed their key services as well as key challenges. Some of these include challenges include barriers to access of content, the transformation of the creation of new knowledge and building infrastructure to ensure long term access to digital content. I believe that SQL can help tackle some of these challenges while also creating new value by correctly levering the long tail.

The long tail was first posited by Chris Anderson in 2004 and is discussed in depth on his website. Its main goal is to connect supply with demand when delivering services. In today’s Enterprise 2.0 world, organisations can afford to move away from providing a select few popular products and services and more towards providing a large number of niche products. The example Anderson discusses is ITunes and Amazon; these companies can stock a huge variety of goods as they can stock anything virtually as they are online based and not limited by shelve space. The idea is to take advantage of the many, smaller markets that individually don’t sell well, but as a collective add significant value.

SQL provides all of the main services one would expect when visiting a library either in person or online. These include access to print and online resources, free internet access, meeting spaces, printing and copying services to name a few. Some of their more niche services include centres of engagement for children (The Corner), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Indigenous Knowledge Centre) and arts, science and technology (The Edge), as well as jobseeker and business support and other public programs. This niche group is the one that may be expanded to assist SQL in adding value to their enterprise.

The main addition I would suggest to this list of programs is an online collaborative work space. Many businesses use this technology already and would be a simple way to encourage those looking for a collaborative environment to make SQL their first port of call and diversify their membership. With this diversified membership, SQL may also want to diversify their offered software, for example, they could deliver more specialized software in the design, engineering, science, health and business areas to name a few. Delivering services for the minorities in the community is also an excellent way to attract users that would otherwise not use the library. SQL could deliver learning programs for the disabled and mentally ill, once again beefing up that long tail of services.

So how does SQL connect this new supply to the demand? They can leverage the programs already in place to do this. A library member that exclusively looks at creative writing materials will probably want to know when the library is hosting a creative writing workshop. SQL can gather data about their users to point them in the direction of some of these niche services. A new marketing approach wouldn’t be a bad idea either; if the general population is anything like me, they will have no idea about half of the services that SQL offers. So, being adequately informed of all these new features will be of supreme importance also.

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