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.
Will marketing result in increased funding? According to Library Journal’s November survey, most libraries think not—unless your library is serving a population of 500K+. Then 70 percent of the participants believe marketing helped. Interestingly, the majority of those surveyed from libraries of all sizes believed marketing increased their perceived value to elected officials and the community at large. If libraries could apply the influence of advocacy to their marketing strategies, they might see an increase their funding.
New York City’s underground transit system may be the final digital frontier: on the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA)’s hundreds of miles of subterranean track, Internet access is not available. But a speculative ad campaign has suggested that a Wi-Fi-free digital information exchange on the subway is possible—and could boost library readership. The one minute “Underground Library” commercial from students at the Miami Ad School promotes an as-yet nonexistent library program which would allow smartphone users to download book extracts from the New York Public Library (NYPL) during their commutes.
The Free Library of Philadelphia will launch what it calls the first virtual library at a U.S. train station on April 2. Throughout National Library Month (April), commuters will be able to download books, music, and podcasts by scanning QR codes placed on 76 advertising boards on Philly’s Suburban Station platforms.