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Market Your Library’s Services and Resources
Being a librarian is a stimulating job. No two days are the same, and no two users have the same needs. The ability to juggle many tasks is paramount and the demands on librarians significant. They face constant interruption, and shifting between roles and responsibilities, all while keeping a smile on their face or trying to! And then there’s the need to keep abreast of new information technology to meet their users’ changing requirements and expectations, while facing budget cuts and less staff. Need we go on?
Now, librarians are expected to quantitatively prove the value of their library when footfall is decreasing. While there are arguments as to why mere head counts are not reflective of a library’s value proposition, that argument is for a different time. However, to counter that simplistic evaluation, marketing can help. Marketing is a way to promote the library’s resources and services to increase encourage active engagement with and by the community. If not, they run the risk that their current and potential users remain unaware of what the library has to offer and look elsewhere. This, in turn, compromises the library’s future.
The library’s website is the perfect place to advertise its resources and services. Librarians can include:
- virtual library tours
- digital library guides, and
- available online catalogs.
The website can reach users through email marketing to distribute digital newsletters that introduce new services and highlight current ones.
Nowadays, libraries are much more than a place to access information. They are interactive hubs where users seek and share information. Many social media platforms support user-generated content that can be distributed among participants. Library users are also likely to be social media users, so libraries should promote themselves on digital platforms as well.
There are so many libraries for people to choose from. In the United States, there are more than 119,000 libraries of all kinds. How do libraries ensure people know about them and how to find them?
Traditional print advertising is effective. Libraries can have posters, flyers to hand out, published library guides, and brochures. Printed signs will advertise the library’s presence and location, and advertisements in the media are sure to reach people. Direct mail works – even in this day and age! People love receiving something in the post, especially when it is directed to them personally and offers them something of value.
People love giveaways. Libraries can be a source of free promotional merchandise like bookmarks, water bottles, bags, pens, pencils, and stationery items. Competitions arouse people’s interest. Libraries can combine contests with give-away items and prizes.
Libraries may be changing rapidly and the way we access information is different. But, people do still value the human touch, face-to-face interaction, and something they can actually engage with physically. Promotional items and competitions are a way to encourage that.
Establish a program of events. Events can include:
- library tours
- guest speaker events
- art classes or
- learning experiences that interest library users and visitors.
Exhibitions are also a great way to attract visitors. What is displayed will depend on the library’s location and what the users are interested in seeing. Is there a well-known local artist or photographer who is willing to exhibit their work or a historical society with a collection of interesting items they are willing to lend to the library for example? Most areas urban or rural have interest groups or organization from which exhibition material can be obtained. Most would be delighted with the interest and are willing to help. Then market the exhibition!
Active Engagement in Your Community and Market It
Librarians can arrange presentations at local schools to inform students about what library resources are available to help them expand their learning. Librarians can pre-arrange seminars or workshops in the library to inform students on how to use electronic journals, search the catalogue or adding reviews and rating to the material they have read or podcasts they have viewed for example.
For libraries that include one or more meeting rooms and facilities like WIFI and computers, offer them to teachers. Give them the opportunity to hold classes there – all students like to get out of the classroom!
If you have the facilities available, engage with local community groups. Offer them the opportunity to hold meetings in the library. It is a wonderful way to increase the profile of the library and its staff.
Staff – involve your staff! If your library is fortunate enough to have several staff members many of them will have different skills that can be used. Make the most of their talents and experience. Some are great at user and community engagement. They may have gone to local schools, are a member of local organisations or great at art and drama. They will contribute to extending the library’s reach ensuring more people become aware of just what they can find, do and escape to, at their local library.
The Right Management Tool
A good library management software is a multifaceted tool. It is not only necessary to efficiently managing traditional tasks, it can also be used to market the library – to promote their services, resources, and events. It will enable you to customize the WebOPAC as a window to all that the library and the staff have to offer. With imaginative, well thought-out, and delivered information, graphics and other visual options, librarians can inform users about what is available to keep them visiting, borrowing, and using their library and all it has to offer.
Marketing increases the profile and value of the library. It is as important a task for librarians as it is to efficiently manage the standard responsibilities of budgeting, collection development, cataloguing, reporting, circulation and library user engagement. Know your users and the users you want to attract. Make the community aware of the library – it’s not a place of books and quiet reading. It is a multitude of things to all people. Show them the value – most people won’t know what you’ve got unless you tell them. And that’s the value of marketing.