February 16, 2018

Library Marketing to Hispanics

When I hear from colleagues in libraryland marketing, I like to follow up with an interview to learn what is going on in other libraries — what are they proud of, what are they seeing, where are the challenges. The other day I had an email whose subject line simply read, "A Small World."

Turns out that the sender was Carolynn Muci, who heads marketing/public relations for Mount Prospect Public Library in Mount Prospect, IL (cmuci@mppl.org). The "small world" referred to the fact that I once worked with her brother at Target (loved him!). The smaller world is that, like me — and maybe you — prior to library work, she spent her professional career at advertising  and public relations agencies. Like many of us she is working hard to demonstrate to libraries the value of marketing and we found we had much in common.

But that’s not what I want to focus on today. Rather, I’d like to share with you what I learned from my interview with her. Turns out that Mount Prospect Public Library (MPPL) just opened a new branch whose primary audience is Hispanic, specifically Mexican immigrants and she had lots to talk about.

Her challenge: getting word out in the Hispanic community, and helping library staff move beyond using paper as the vehicle to communicate to this demographic. Because her advertising background taught her to learn everything about the target audience before executing a single idea, she has spent considerable time learning the best way to reach them, and has developed a marketing plan accordingly. I love what she said: 

"We need to speak with them in a way they understand." 

And she doesn’t mean Spanish versus English; she means cultural and value-based. 

She’s learned that the Hispanic community finds about resources through family and community. Traditionally libraries want to flood the public with the information they want the public to hear. That doesn’t work in this case. For many of these people even the concept of a library (as we know it) is foreign. To talk about resources, job help, homework help, CDs, DVDs — that’s just too much noise.

Her solution: 
1) Focus on computers. This audience needs access to this resource. Carolynn’s philosophy is: "If I can get them in the door by telling them about free internet and computers, then I can tell them about the other services. But I have to get them there first."

2) Make it personal through old-fashioned outreach. In partnership with the village government and police she was introduced to key Hispanic influencers. Those influencers endorsed the library to the Hispanic community. And when it came to creating imagery, she used photos of these same influencers, faces familiar to, and trusted by, the community.

This flier features well known faces in the Hispanic community 
and highlights that the library is "in your neighborhood." 

I closed our conversation with these two questions.

What is the biggest marketing challenge for libraries?
Carolynn: To get in on the conversation. Keeping people grounded in what our community wants. Librarians see themselves like a social agency, and believe: "the public needs this; if they only knew about it they’d like it." But it’s not about what they need; it’s about what they want. It isn’t a field of dreams, where if you build it they will come. 


What’s the biggest opportunity?

Carolynn: We are so much than just books. We can be really relevant to how people live their lives. We can be so ingrained in the everyday life of our community that we could be funded from now on. Let’s look at the marketplace and identify what nobody else doing and meet those needs, particularly if they are not being met or done well. We can become so engrained that the community can’t imagine life without us.

That’s a big idea for a small world. (you know you are singing that song right about now!)

Alison Circle About Alison Circle

Alison Circle is director of marketing communications for Columbus Metropolitan Library. Previously she was an Account Director at Jack Morton Worldwide, a global branding agency, and her primary client was Target Stores. Prior to that she was the National Marketing Director for Minnesota Public Radio and "A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor." She has advanced degrees in English and Fine Arts, and is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant.



  1. Elizabeth says:

    “Let’s look at the marketplace and identify what nobody else doing and meet those needs, particularly if they are not being met or done well. We can become so engrained that the community can’t imagine life without us.”

    I love this idea!