There’s no better way to market your library than to have your users do it for you. Think about what it takes you personally to make a decision on trying out a new product or service—you’re bombarded with advertising messages 24/7, most of which you’ve probably learned to tune out and ignore, so when someone you trust and respect says to you ‘have you tried this specific example?’ you instantly value their recommendation above the white noise of traditional marketing. They are independent of any brand, they are speaking from their own experience—they are like you.
With all the excitement over social media and reports of newspapers closing or shifting focus to keep ad revenues rolling in, libraries have taken a hit with ever decreasing coverage. You might even be thinking whether it’s worth the effort to create media releases. The quick answer is yes. If well written and interesting they can amplify your message reaching reporters, bloggers and the general public through your web and social media channels. But if you want to have larger value-driven articles published, you’ll need to step up your game and pitch those story ideas to reporters.
I recently attended three award ceremonies for Library Journal’s LibraryAware Community Award at the Canton, OH, Skokie, IL, and Hartford, CT public libraries. For all three, the community has stood up to say they value all the services the library provides to the community. The competition was tough: more than 100 libraries applied for the award. With so many communities supporting the library, you would think we are in the golden age of libraries. And yet just this past January the Pew Institute report, Library Services in the Digital Age, stated that only 22 percent of those surveyed say that they know all or most of the services their libraries offer now. Ouch. Okay, so there’s still work to be done. But perhaps the work isn’t what you might expect.
At first glance, a partnership between libraries and airports may seem a case of strange bedfellows. Libraries offer space for concentration and relaxation, while airports are notoriously stressful and full of distractions. But the venues do have one thing in common: in both, users are looking for something to read.
Offering commonsensical, yet often overlooked, advice, this session proposed that non-users cannot effectively be reached by focus groups, surveys on the library website, or other such mechanisms that may be useful for capturing the opinions of active library patrons. To reach this other group, libraries must go where they already are: malls, daycare centers, coffee shops, commuter rail stations, houses of worship, farmer’s markets, senior programs, etc.
This fall a new national “library staff picks list” will debut under the name LibraryReads. All public library staff will be welcome to nominate new adult titles that they have read, loved, and are eager to share with patrons via the website libraryreads.org, which will go live today at noon. The ten most frequently recommended titles will be calculated monthly, and beginning this autumn, the resulting list will be publicized and promoted by librarians in branches as well as in patron newsletters, websites, etc.
If you make one small change to the way you contextualise your marketing efforts, it can yield big results. It’s subtle but important, and here’s how to go about it.
Marketing libraries is a tough business, for all kinds of reasons. Lack of time, lack of funds, lack of other resources. The fact that public perception of what libraries actually do is about 15 years behind the reality in a lot of cases. But also the fact that there’s often a fundamental misunderstanding about what marketing should actually achieve.