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Libraries are continuing to evolve, but what about library marketing?

Andrea Cowan, Elsevier | Feb 02, 2013

Keeping book lovers, researchers and technophiles in the library loop
 
In a recent Publishers Weekly article, Brian Kenney asks if the library brand, once bound to books, is undergoing a transformation. The answer is yes, and has been for awhile. And if that’s the case, then does library marketing need to undergo a transformation as well? As someone who has spent her career in marketing, I am wondering how librarians are feeling about their current marketing efforts.
 
Kenney’s article referenced a Pew Internet study, Library Services in the Digital Age, on the attitudes of Americans towards libraries. A point that jumped out from the Pew survey came when library staff was asked about wider technology use at libraries. Many replied that their library was already offering a lot from e-borrowing classes to an online “ask a librarian” service. Library staff also noted that services popular with the public were also popular with the staff: things like coordinating more closely with schools and offering a broader selection of e-books. When the public was asked what they know about the services in their library, 22% say they know all or most of the services their library offers, 46% say they know some of what their library offers, and 31% say they know not much or nothing at all of what their libraries offer. Somehow the efforts of libraries weren’t getting back to the public or not resonating with them.
 
It is clear from both reports that many types of libraries today face a multitude of marketing challenges, from the rapidly changing world of reading habits to a major rebranding of what it means to be a library. The barriers to success range from budget constraints to outdated tactics. If you are feeling like your current efforts are falling flat, I suggest going back to basics and reviewing the marketing goals for the library. Do you want your marketing to:
 
Increase foot traffic?
Increase database usage?
Increase online questions to staff?
 
Another valuable exercise would be to define the needs and actions of the various patrons. How do they behave and how does your marketing nurture their decisions?
 
These are the questions we can start asking now and use as a basis for creating a new marketing mix for the library. With the continued rapid evolution of libraries, it’s time for library marketing to leave its comfort zone. What if we tried to tackle this challenge together?
 
I’d like to devote this blog space to the joys and perils of effectively marketing the library. From sharing our own experiences to recruiting experts for their opinions, this blog will focus on library marketing.
 
To get the ball rolling, I’ll start with a request: Tell me about the biggest challenge your library is facing in the current year. Then in future blogs, I’ll provide (and recruit other library marketing experts’ input) ideas, suggestions, and solutions to help address those challenges from a marketing perspective.
 
To respond e-mail a.cowan@elsevier.com or use the comments section below.

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