February 17, 2018

Robert J. Lackie, Advocating for the Advocates

Lackie2While it’s not always part of the job description, trustees should think of themselves as marketers for their library. Advocacy is about more than just a positive attitude. Creative Library Marketing and Publicity: Best Practices (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), coedited by Robert J. Lackie and M. Sandra Wood, offers successful marketing campaigns and promotional methods from libraries of all types and sizes.

From the book’s preface:

When speaking with any library professional about the importance of public awareness in regard to their library’s continued existence, the conversation will inevitably lead to discussions about the necessity of marketing and promoting library resources and services in order to gain important visibility and support. The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”… [B]y effectively incorporating innovative and creative marketing, promotional, publicity, and advocacy efforts, whether through traditional or nontraditional methods, ideas, and campaigns, many libraries have improved their reputations as dynamic, inviting institutions and gained important, continuing (loyal) support.

LJ caught up with Lackie, professor-librarian and department chair at the Franklin F. Moore Library, Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ, shortly before the book’s September 18 publication.

LJ: How did you get involved with library marketing and advocacy?

Robert Lackie: I’ve been doing marketing-type efforts since I arrived at Rider University, and I won the [American Library Association] Ken Haycock Award for Promoting Librarianship in 2006. I served on what was then called the Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperative for seven or eight years, and then I was elected to LibraryLinkNJ, which is a statewide executive board. I served on that until about a year ago—I’m still a voting member, but I became the department chairperson for the Franklin F. Moore Library two years ago, and it’s much harder to get away.

Serving on [those boards] was probably the best thing I could have done for myself and for my library, because you are continually meeting with experts, heads of libraries, and members from around the state. You help each other out, you figure out solutions to problems that other people are dealing with—it’s an excellent way to stay on top of everything that’s going on, not only in the state but around the country, and a way to mentor new people coming into the field.

These scenarios look very replicable by anyone interested in advocating for their library.

We tried to get a mix of different types of libraries, different sizes of libraries, different things they were doing around the continental United States and Canada.

Some of the people who wrote chapters actually aren’t librarians but marketing professionals for libraries or consortia and talk about step-by-step marketing plans. I think a lot of librarians don’t have that kind of experience—they certainly don’t learn that in library school—and we want to help with building awareness, interest, and engagement in the library.

The last chapter, by Sara Kelly Johns [president of the New York Library Association (NYLA) for 2013–14 and past president of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and the School Library Section of NYLA], is about advocacy—how promotion plus marketing equals action. She is trying to make everyone aware that they all have to be a part of legislative advocacy as well as the normal day-to-day operations of the library.

The book stresses the importance of advocacy for everyone throughout the library, from staff members on up. Do you think this is useful information for trustees, who may not be part of the library’s regular marketing effort, as well?

Certainly. They need to market the library experience, what the library can do for everybody, and that’s what the book is all about.

Anyone involved who wants to see the library successfully complete its mission, whatever that is, needs to gain loyal support from the community. Any of the stakeholders, whatever type of library it is, need to build positive relationships with their constituencies—if they don’t do that, when it comes down to budget crunches, libraries are one of the first things that get cut because people don’t understand the promotion, the publicity, the advocacy efforts they need to campaign for what their library does. If you can gain continuing loyal support from your stakeholders, it will be a win-win situation for everybody.

Lisa Peet About Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Associate Editor, News for Library Journal.

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  1. Robert is right — everyone in the field needs to know about marketing and advocacy, but sadly, few have the chance to learn much about those topics in library school.
    Sounds like a great book! I can’t wait to review it.