24:3 (2009:09) 24th Conference: Tactics Session: Marketing the Library in a Digital World

September 17, 2009 at 11:46 am | Posted in Conference Reports, Tactics Sessions | Leave a comment

TACTICS SESSION
Marketing the Library in a Digital World

Kerry Cole, Portland Press, Ltd. /The Biochemical Society; Tonia Graves, Old Dominion University
Reported by Jane Bethel

Kerry Cole from the publishing industry engaged the audience describing basic tactical marketing tools as well as planning and measuring for successful marketing strategies.  Draw on your resources, Kelly advised: your talented staff members, student organization groups, and, perhaps, an under-utilized circulation student staff.  Tonia Graves enlightened us with past and present marketing promotional events that occurred at her academic library.  Through details and statistics, Tonia described the momentum and rewarding results.

Formal marketing plans are not the norm at not-for-profit institutions.  Marketing has become more important now because users are not physically occupying space in the library.  Kerry stated that libraries have more in common with marketing than you might imagine.  “Marketing is communication, delivery of value, and management of customer relations.”  Marketers and librarians have big ears, are national networkers, and problem solvers.  Marketing needs a plan.  It is not an emergency measure, and is only complete when you decide you are done.  Be proactive to meet users’ actual needs.  Think of their lives in a “day-to-day” scenario.  Focus on how they organize their world and what could improve their study time.  Get vendors and publishers to sponsor guest speakers to promote a lab.

There are several reasons why marketing is important for libraries today: fewer people visit the physical building; patrons want instant access; commercial search engines are in high use; people are becoming more “me”-centric; and patrons are unaware of how the library can meet their needs.  Kerry quoted author Cynthia L. Shamel, “A library without a librarian is nothing more than a document storage facility….”  A marketing plan includes researching your particular market, a SWOT analysis, SMART objectives, and planned brainstorming sessions.

Defining customers and knowing their needs gathered from focus groups/surveys are essential.  SWOT analysis stands for defining your Strengths, Weaknesses, the Opportunities that await you, and the Threats that stand in your way.  A set of questions within each SWOT section will generate ideas.

The SMART objectives were also explained: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timed.

Kerry outlined a brainstorming plan using the example of a library considering hosting a graduate student web page as part of a marketing plan.   Part 1 of the brainstorming plan requires seven blank pieces of paper, a writing utensil, a quiet room, and 45 minutes to answer these questions that bubble up:

  1. Why are you doing this?
  2. What are the top 3 or 4 factors affecting your library?
  3. Who is your competition?
  4. How can you overcome or compete with the competition?
  5. What services are you going to promote?
  6. How are you going to promote it; multi-channel marketing, online and offline?
  7. What are your goals for the next 12 months?

Part 2 of the brainstorming plan defines realistic time measures of 30, 60, or 90 days towards your goals.  Part 3 completes the skeleton plan by asking, “Does it make sense?  Are the actions SMART?  Do you want to share your ideas with your colleagues?  Does it excite you?  Can and will you do it?”  Marketing can be online, e.g., Twitter, or offline, e.g., flyers.

Tonia Graves discussed what her academic library has been doing to promote library resources and what they would like to begin doing.  Marketing has not been a consistent part of their vocabulary.  Instead they have used the word “promotion.”   At Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, they have been using six tools: flyers; LibNews, a weekly email service; “Daily News”; the Courier; new item notification; and the library website.  Interested library staff members make the flyers.  Workshops are presented on specifically targeted resources such as citation databases, special collections, and electronic business resources.  The “Daily News” on the library webpage announces featured exhibits, for example,  World Jewelry, Criterion Collection Films,  School Desegregation, Scoring for Suspense: Music for the Movies, and Political Campaign Songs.  The Courier is a monthly print and online newsletter for faculty, staff, and students authored by the university, but it will cease this summer due to recent state budget cuts.  New item notification was created ten years ago, but is no longer accessible on the library’s website.  It could re-emerge as an RSS feed.  The library website has a limited set of people with permission to update the “News@ODU Libraries,” but this area is used to promote the library.

Tonia related that six months of data were collected to evaluate all promotional events.  The statistics showed a spike of periodical usage during the promotional events.  Tonia explained that efforts put forth have been “strong in traditional offline multi-channel marketing methods such as flyers, face-to-face, and events/workshops.”  Tonia’s library plan is quite similar to that which Kerry described and the library staff is especially pleased about “identifying and knowing our users’ behaviors and needs.”

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