February 17, 2018

Library Marketing Get-Together

Today I hosted a lunch for the marketing representatives of the six other library systems in our county. Until today we have never come together as marketers to share our experiences, challenges and opportunities. It was a great experience, and I highly encourage you to do the same. 

We found a lot of common issues and opportunities to share as well as resources and ideas. It is a widely divergent group of libraries, from our large urban/suburban system to powerful community libraries to libraries that have changed little in the last thirty years.

I thought you’d enjoy hearing what they had to say. I asked 2 questions: 1) what are the big challenges for 2010; 2) what word of advice would they give to someone working in marketing in a library.

Linda Wilkins, Westerville Public Library:
1) Due to state budget cutbacks (a recurring theme in this gathering), her library has suffered a lot of cutbacks. The impact of those cutbacks are now a reality and the challenge is connecting for customers the impact to the cutbacks. For example, they had to reduce custodial costs, and now customers complain that the meeting rooms are not set up for them the way they want. 
2) They are also invigorating their Foundation to augment those cutbacks, and recently completed their first annual appeal.
Word of Advice: "Make as many community connections as you can."

Lisa Fuller, Worthington Public Library:
1) This very day they announced the retirement of their executive director, Meribah Mansfield. Filling her shoes will be a large undertaking.
2) For the first time ever, they are coordinating the development of their strategic plan with both the city and the schools. The city of Worthington has never done a strategic plan — considering their makeup, this is a surprise — and the library is leading a unified strategic plan. This weekend they are holding a visioning conference which includes all three entities as well as many other citizens.
Word of Advice: "Partnerships."

Ruth McNeil, Upper Arlington Public Library
1) They are about to embark on the development of their 2-year strategic plan.
2) Like all of us, they are suffering the loss of state funds, and, in fact, failed a bond measure on the ballot last year. So they are working at developing the infrastructure around their Foundation and trying to find ways to generate operating funds.
Word of Advice: "Never give up."

Amy Shaw, Southwest Public Libraries
1) Southwest hopes to have a levy on the May ballot. This will be the 8th time they have been on the ballot; they have never passed a levy. They are even having difficulty getting their board together just to pass the resolution to get onto the May ballot. This is such a sad case of a community which need a library the most, but who don’t understand the value.
Word of Advice: "Keep trying."

Susan Studebaker, Bexley Public Library
1) Many of you may know Susan, who worked at my library for 30 years. retired, and has been filling in as director at the Bexley Library. Susan has the great distinction of introducing "let them wear pants" at Bexley. Until Susan arrived, women couldn’t wear pants! This is one library that has been "left behind." It hasn’t changed much in 25 years. It is severely isolated from advances in the library world and has neglected its relevance. A new director begins February 1st, and her challenge will be to reinvent this library.
Word of Advice: " Keep it simple."

Connie Frecker, Grandview Public Library
1) They, too, are struggling financially. She shared that last year their circulation staff was reduced from 31 to 15. So like the other libraries, they are focused on fundraising and will be on the May 2010 ballot.
2) Other challenges include shifting the balance more toward a community center and slightly away from their collection and software changes that introduce credit card payments and self check.
Word of Advice: "Stress the benefits."

If you have multiple library systems in your market, call them all today and invite them over for lunch. In today’s world collaboration and shared ideas on makes sense!

Faces in the photo above: Front row: Lisa Fuller/Worthington; Julie Theado and Kim Snell (my direct reports at CML); Connie Frecker/Grandview.

Back row: Ruth McNeil/Upper Arlington; me; Susan Studebaker/Bexley; Amy Shaw/Southwest; Linda Wilkins/Westerville.

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.