Best Practices in Library Marketing: A Blog

First published 2/28/2016


This is a new blog about best practices in marketing libraries. I hope it will be of use to all librarians seeking to make their organizations more used and more valued on their campus or in their community.

I worked in marketing for a library technology vendor for a number of years and spent my days wondering what librarians wanted. One of their primary concerns was the very survival of libraries, and they saw marketing as part of the solution. They understood technologies as features and also saw them as good marketing: for example, discovery engines that retrieve print, digital, and library events in one search. Being able to say, "We've got a mobile catalog" updates the libraries image and helps keep it relevant.

The top-of-mind public perception of libraries, which 
OCLC discovered was "the Library Brand is Books", has to be changed and marketing has everything to with fixing it. You can also see the mandate to modernize in the ALA advocacy campaign, Libraries Transform.

Libraries are doing something important and I believe to my core that marketing – when it goes beyond just creating awareness – can actually have a measurable impact without unreasonable expense. San Diego Public Libraries’ program that put Spanish-language materials in laundromats was just such a creative solution. It expanded the library’s reach to include under-served patrons, increased the library’s overall value to the community, and challenged the perception that libraries are single-purpose institutions at a price well below the cumulative benefit.

My journey into libraries began early. No one in my immediate family was a college graduate, but library books were in everyone’s house. I have early memories of taking the bus with my grandmother to our local library and seeing a man at a table who was always on the phone and had a stack of huge reference books behind him. It barely registered that he was a librarian; but I definitely had not seen anything like it before.

I have learned that librarians are some of the strongest, most intellectually curious, most principled, most creative, most tech savvy, and most fun (really!) people I know. After meeting some, and hearing what they really did (not reading books all day), I was intrigued enough to get a degree in library sciences and work at a library or two.

It must have been my dad's work, writing the accompanying music to 1,000s of commercials, that got the "art" of advertising into my head. The voice-overs would spill out from the music room and bounce around in my head all day: Ball Park Franks: They plump when you cook 'em!, The RRRRollling Wrrrrriter Pentel Pen, and Get That Great GM Feeling with Genuine GM Parts!

A library is a reflection of a world I want to live in: where education, personal development, civilized debate, intellectual diversity, and the whole of human experience are valued. The professionals who work in libraries are critical to a mission that is much bigger than “books” or “information” and add value to the lives of everyone that uses their app or walks in their door.

Focused marketing, based on proven methods in the commercial world, can communicate that value and make ”the needle move,” meaning more donations, more e-book downloads, higher circulation, or more appreciative nods at a Provost or City Manager meeting.



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