February 17, 2018

Marketing Electronic Resources

One of the first requests I had at the library, when I arrived five years ago, was: "Please market our electronic resources." My reaction? What are electronic resources? Since then I’ve come to appreciate the value of these tools, but am puzzled by the industry’s approach to promoting them  — notice I didn’t say market them, which would be a different thing all together.

Seems that the industry’s approach is — if the public can find them, they’ll love them. That’s like hiding a sale on milk in the middle of the grocery store and saying that if the customer can find it they’ll love it. We’ve made it so hard through nomenclature and access that I’m impressed that they are used as well as they are!

I’ve been enjoying an ongoing conversation with Peter Simon, vice president of product management at Newsbank (psimon@newsbank.com.)  He shares the perplexity on how to improve access to these tools. He shared some articles that provide thought leadership in this area. One of the articles was printed in Library Journal a few years ago. You may have seen it then, but it is worth revising today. The three articles are:

Making "E" Visible: "to increase patrons’ awareness and use, librarians must revolutionize the ways they promote their electronic resources."

Virtual Reference Services: Marketing Gudelines: "One solution is to market these services by strategically building their brands. "

Library Terms That Users Understand: "To ensure patrons can make productive choices concerning resources and services, developers of library Websites must provide clear descriptions and proper terms."

A couple of things we are doing at my library to help: 1) we are finally integrating the resources into our catalog, so that search results will direct customers to the information. This point-of-sale concept is like putting that grocery store’s milk sale right at the checkout counter. And it emulates the Google model, which is today’s industry standard.

2)  Peter and I are discussing embedding a customer survey at the library customers’ access point to query how they got there and what they were looking for. Perhaps, equipped with better customer insight, we can open up access to these tools and help our taxpayers get their money’s worth.

What new strategies is your library employing?

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. Tony Tallent says:

    Oh! e-resources promotion and marketing…good stuff if you can get at it indeed! This is something that has been talked about for so long in so many libraries. One way that we are working on driving traffic to great info through e-resources is to talk openly about the matter at hand–people don’t know how to get there (though they love it *if* they do) and really moving the discussion toward the customer experience of getting lost on the e-path. We actually print many of our “Ask A Librarian” in questions and answers in our newsletter that include library customers’ issues with getting at our great e-resources. This not only lets customers know that we hear them, it winds up giving some in-context step-by-step directions for getting at the info.