If you had told me when I was a newbie librarian a lot of years ago that I’d be co-authoring a book someday that had “marketing” in the title I would have (a) laughed and (b) told you “no way.” I didn’t see that in my future at all.
Then 35 years passed. In the interim electronic resources came along, I got interested in them, started to review them, and they became part of my daily work and life. A big part. Next I became interested in library assessment, since it, too, started to form a large part of my library life (beginning with work on focus groups). When I attended the 2010 ARL Assessment Conference in Baltimore (which turns out to be the best library conference I’ve ever attended), I heard Marie Kennedy speak, her presentation entitled, “Cycling Through: Paths Libraries Take to Marketing Electronic Resources.” Not surprisingly, the room was packed, and also not surprisingly, what Marie said was taken down word for word by that audience.
At the end of her presentation, Marie took questions, and I asked her whether she had ever thought about writing a book on the presentation topic. She said she hadn’t—up to that point. So we talked, corresponded, and collaborated, and the result of that collaboration has just been published: Marketing Your Library’s Electronic Resources: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians (ALA Neal-Schuman). It was a collaboration from which I learned a lot, because Marie was the expert here, being the Serials and Electronic Resources Librarian at the William H. Hannon Library of the Loyola Marymount University.
I don’t think this book would have had an audience when I was first a librarian. Marketing was never discussed in any of my library classes, which made some sense at the time since we (libraries) were about the only places available for research and information sources (except for those incredibly expensive print encyclopedias that families who could afford them bought for their kids’ use—encyclopedias that went out of date in a matter of months).
Now, of course, you and I are faced with omnipresent competitors (Google, Wikipedia, social media, et al) that our users turn to—as a first resort, at least. Combined with that competition we’re faced with decreasing funds and an increasing expectation of accountability and resource justification. We know our value to researchers, but what can we do to come up with the data and beautiful stories we need to have and to make available to the governments/schools/library boards/universities/research institutes that fund and administer us?
We can market ourselves much more effectively and efficiently than in the past; we can also assess those efforts and adjust them accordingly on an ongoing, routine basis. And since the electronic resources to which we subscribe are some of the library’s biggest budget line items, marketing them aggressively can only be a good thing.
I’m finding that my newer colleagues are extremely open and receptive to the idea of marketing for libraries, and I suspect that may be because they routinely create and promote online marketing presences for themselves (Twitter, Facebook, online portfolios). Making good use of their skills with online tools to market the libraries in which they’re working is a natural extension of their professional lives, and it heartens me to find that newer-generation librarians are not shy about marketing themselves. Nor are they afraid of the term “marketing”—my take on this? It’s about time.
Teaching the concepts and processes of marketing still seems to be a pretty new area for library schools to address. A cursory Google search found just a couple listings of LIS courses on marketing, and in several marketing was an ancillary focus, rather than the focal point of the course. Here are a couple of examples:
The School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
INLS 701: Information Retrieval Search Strategies
Investigates information retrieval techniques and strategies from the world of electronic information sources, including commercial and Internet databases and search engines. Processes for evaluating, selecting and deploying end user information retrieval tools are explored including user needs analysis, contract negotiation, marketing and user education.
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Library and Information Science
S604: Marketing for Libraries
Application of marketing concepts, techniques, and technologies for all library types. Emphasis on matching library users with services through information, education, persuasion, and partnerships. Topics: planning, audience analysis, needs assessment, market analysis, goal-setting, message design, public relations, publicity, promotion, advocacy, assessment and evaluation, internal and external communication, and change theory.
Frankly, I’d like to take that IUPUI/SLIS course myself. It is an online course. And I would love to hear from anyone who’s taken a library school marketing course and what you got out of it.
My wholehearted thanks to Marie Kennedy for a wonderful collaboration experience! Market on!
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