welcome back, Answerland
Welcome back to that same old place that we laughed about. The L-net naming team has finally come to a decision, and we've picked a new name, and it is our old name:
No name is perfect, but in the end, what is great about the name Answerland is that it champions reference service. It emphasizes the tangible benefit that patrons receive when they ask questions at the library.
It does not emphasize the library itself, though neither does the name L-net. Instead, the library is the context in which people experience the service: most patrons who visit the L-net website got there by clicking on a link from their local library's site.
It will take some time to work up a new logo, a new website and new marketing materials, so we'll keep calling it "L-net" until sometime next summer.
This wasn't an easy decision to make, and we appreciate all of the feedback you have given us recently. I especially appreciate all of the careful planning and thought that the L-net naming team put into this process.
And just what was that process?
1. Ask Librarians
A librarian survey in May revealed that what was most important about a name was that it be memorable for patrons and that it describe what the service does.
2. Ask Patrons
Patrons said that what matters to them the most about our service was "getting help" and "getting answers". They described our service with the words "helpful", "librarian" and "chat".
OCLC and Rutgers' University's report about virtual reference, Seeking Synchronicity, says library patrons like chat for its convenience, authoritative answers and for the friendly people behind it.
3. Come up with potential names
We contracted a crowdsourcing website, crowdSPRING, offered the best bounty we could, and received over 1,400 entries. The winning entry would earn some cash for the creative person who submitted it.
I encouraged people to submit names that demonstrated that people from the library were online to give you authoritative answers, right now. This is a challenging thing to say in one to three words.
I was active in rating and giving feedback on entries, but he whole naming team helped choose the finalists. They were:
Ask the Librarians
My Library Live
Pop A Question
Answerland was not among the submissions, but we were always going to consider it.
4. Ask library staff for feedback online
I reported on the results of our survey to librarians a few weeks ago. The most popular name was "Ask the Librarians", at a whopping 40%. It became clear that whatever name we picked was going to be unpopular with most people, and oddly enough, that gave us confidence to go forward with the name we thought was right.
We used the librarian survey to narrow down what we would get feedback from patrons on. My thought was that it was okay to annoy 60% of Oregon library staff, but annoying 80% was over the line. This left:
Ask the Librarians
My Library Live
5. Ask patrons for feedback online
An online survey of people visiting the L-net website showed that patrons preferred "Ask the Librarians", "Just Ask" and "Mybrarian". I checked the results by hand to make sure they weren't skewed.
6. Ask patrons and potential patrons for feedback in person
We made flashcards of these names, one name per sheet, and asked our friends, friends of friends, families, and people on the street. Patrons we spoke with in person clearly preferred "Mybrarian" and "Answerland".
7. Get professional help
I asked Jeremy Graybill, Multnomah County's Marketing and Communications Director, for help. Which names had the most potential for marketing and promotion? His feedback was that with one exception, "My Library Live", they would all be easy to work with, but he particularly liked "Mybrarian" and "Answerland" - they were most unique in the online space.
We found the same thing in our own research, and also that "Just Ask" related to ask.com, "Hello Library" was used a few times already to good effect, "Ask the Librarians" and its variations would make our service hard to distinguish from similar ones.
Now the hard part: we had to choose a name.
The easy one to drop was "My Library Live". No one loved it, though it did convey what we did, if you already knew about reference service, in a boring sort of way. "Ask the Librarians" eventually fell into the same category.
"Just Ask" was catchy but also a little off-putting. It reminded some people of a local company's famous slogan, which was positive, but for most people, it has a kind of condescending tone. It was out.
My personal absolute favorite was "Hello Library", and I found a few kindred librarian spirits who felt the same way, but patrons did not respond to it either online or in person.
Near the end, we discussed "Mybrarian" and "Answerland" at length.
Mybrarian conveys a personal service provided by a person who works at the library. It is awkward to read and say the first time you see it - it is jarring, and it gets your attention. One patron told us "I can't help but see the word 'brain' here, and I love that".
Answerland emphasizes a place for answers.
Almost everyone in the group was happy with either name. I characterize the difference between them like this:
Answers ... from the library!
The library ... has answers!
But it is easier to make up for the lack of "library" in a name than it is to make up for the lack of description of what the service does. Patrons get to our site by starting at a library website. The library brand is built-in, and that is why we've been able to survive so long with a name that means nothing to anyone.
We thought also about what name we wanted to have in ten years. We don't know that we'll be around, or in what form, but if we are, you'll know where to find us.
Erin Golub, Eugene Public Library
Stuart Levy, Wood Middle School in Wilsonville
Emily Papagni, Multnomah County Library
Kim Read, Clark College
Caleb Tucker-Raymond, Multnomah County Library