The lady in the photo probably isn’t reading a library book. SEO expert Trey Gordner offers fixes.

How to turn phone-aholics and others into library book readers and gung-ho patrons, if they aren’t already? One answer is greater visibility for libraries on the Web and elsewhere. That’s what Koios, Troy Gordner’s company, is about.

A Confederate statue – still stuck in the middle of Washington Street, as required by state law is not the only sight or site in the Old Town section of Alexandria, Virginia, across the Potomac from D.C.

You also see cobblestone streets and $1-million historic brick townhouses. And wherever you go, more than a few people are jabbering on their cell phones as they walk along. Even at a check-cashing store in a shabbier area of Alexandria, many customers are phone-crazed. No longer is the tech too expensive for most residents, and, in fact, it can be a “must” for poor people juggling family responsibilities and multiple jobs.

Countless cities are like my hometown, and more will be in the future.

Now, how many of the phone-aholics are thinking of their local libraries and maybe even planning to read books on their iPhones, Samsungs, and Nexuses?

Precious few compared to the potential number. They’re talking to their friends, playing games, listening to music, watching Netflix, you name it. Libraries are up against zillions of rival choices—phone related and beyond—in their quest for a bigger share of mind and time.

That’s where CEO Trey Gordner and his colleagues at Koios come in. Koios specializes in search engine optimization and related activities for libraries of all kinds and sizes.

An in-depth Q&A follows. But first I’ll pass on some thoughts of my own, which will help you understand the significance of what Koios is up to.

The big picture: Amazon’s book discovery leaves libraries in the dust

Even if you love books, your local public library probably isn’t your go-to-site, whether for searching for new titles or just browsing. Amazon most likely is. You’ll find millions of paper and digital titles there—and not just books but also reviews and information on writers. When it comes to popular-level metadata and other amenities online, Amazon leaves typical libraries miles behind in the dust. But can you really afford everything you want to read from Amazon? Or from Audible, its audiobook subsidiary?

And what about the books that tempt you but don’t seem worthy of a gamble at first, regardless of Amazon’s first chapter previews? In other words, rich, middle-class or poor, you can still benefit from free books from your local public library. Just the other day, I discovered Richard Cohen’s memorable recollections of the writer-director Nora Ephron by chance while browsing among the biographies from a library system near me. I’d missed the book on Amazon. Jeff Bezos’s on-site links and email bots offer many ideas on what I may want to read, but they can’t anticipate everything. As it happened, OverDrive‘s Libby app was how I found She Made Me Laugh. But the Web services of the Alexandria and Fairfax County library systems pushed me toward using Libby in the first place. And to this day I still visit the Web sites. Regardless, I’d love to see more library content pushed toward me during my wanderings online—here’s to more serendipity!

Of greater importance, consider the millions of Americans who don’t buy or borrow books often despite all the benefits to them and society at large. What if libraries enjoyed such good search engine optimization that even the phone-a-holics at the check-cashing stores couldn’t help but run across compelling, library-related links for them? And suppose, too, that we augmented such a campaign with in-context embedment of library mentions in social media and TV programs, in addition to far more face-to-face outreach and other kinds.

The links and the rest could promote not only books but also locally originated content and library-related events, including those related to community matters, not exactly the stuff you’ll find on Amazon. Imagine the possibilities, too, for using Web SEO to foster family literacy by steering those in need to the right resources. A national library endowment like the one proposed at could help pay for discovery-related activities and services and many others (here and here) such as the creation and operation of two national digital library systems. Especially libraries need money for content, since marketing can go only so far if the rewards for patrons aren’t there. Part of the problem here in Alexandria is that so many of the e-titles are checked out even though digital library usage is far short of what it could be.

No, the idea isn’t to displace Amazon and smaller stores—in fact, library sites could include buying links to it and competitors for people who wanted to buy now to avoid waits, or purchase personal copies of loaners. But surely libraries can at least narrow the discovery gap with Amazon and ideally also mention paper books available at local bookstores, not just titles from Jeff & friends and other megacorporations. Not to mention the related content issue!

From SEO to Amazon-style affiliates

For this to happen, however, we need not only financial and other resources but also good vendors since librarians can’t do everything, regardless of all the information out there on such topics as DIY search engine optimization for libraries.

Koios may or may not be right for every library system—I’d love to hear from possible competitors via email and the comments area of this post—but I myself am very excited about what Trey and colleagues have been up even if they’re not doing everything that proposes.

Here are services that Koios, several years old and based in Columbia, South Carolina, and Crystal City, Virginia, offers now or or will soon:

l. Libre, “a search platform specially designed for libraries. We analyze your holdings and link them to common, relevant keyword searches in your service area. As a result, your materials can appear side-by-side with Amazon and Wikipedia in local Google search results.”

2. Other SEO-and-ad-related services covering everything from book-specific links to the display of phone numbers and hours. The services include managed campaigns on Google AdWords and comprehensive search consultations.

3. Libre Lists, “helping librarians make beautiful, digital displays in five minutes that are visible in search and social media. These landing pages associated with common search terms can offer the aesthetics of a good-looking page within a bookstore.”

4. A plug-in for Chrome, Firefox and Safari that alerts you when you’re browsing Amazon or certain other sites and land on a page for a book you can check out for free at the library. Trey Gordner actually prefers other approaches, since this one requires the book-seeker to be proactive. Still, it’s nice if your local public library is included. Check out a YouTube walk-through.  The Koios Web plugin lists these systems: the Richland Library in Columbia, South Carolina, the New York Public Library, the San Francisco Public Library, the Washoe County Library serving Reno, Nevada, the Anderson County Library in South Carolina, the Tulsa City-County Library, and the system for Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

5. Recruitment of “bloggers and authors to link to the same book in all libraries with one URL.”

The first four services exist. The fifth, the blogger affiliate one, is on the way. The business model isn’t locked down forever. Should a book blogger or author get paid for promoting libraries, affiliate style? Or should this be a pro bono public service? For now, it appears that “free” will be the word of the day since so many book blogs—at least from librarians—are more labors of love rather than commercial endeavors.


Posted in: E-Books, Libraries & Librarians, Library Marketing, Mobile Tech, Mobile Technology, Technology Trends