Library Marketing for Public Libraries from the Ohio Library Foundation
Marketing training on the web for public library staff

Module PlanningPLANNING


Who plans?

Process Steps


Strengths & Weaknesses

Market Research







Module Overview overview

Module Product product

Module Promotion promotion

Module Internet internet

Module Ohio ohio



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Marketing Audits

Who are we, really?

Assess strengths and weaknesses

After examining the library mission, start the marketing process with a marketing audit to examine the library's capabilities, products, and services. A marketing audit is a systematic self-examination and assessment of the library's activities, including strengths and weaknesses. The marketing audit establishes where the organization is, and why. Part of the analysis involves establishing the environment, or situation, in which the library operates.

Context: Environmental or Situation Analysis

While assessing internal capabilities, you must also assess the environment, or situation, that affects how the library functions. Consider what's happening in the community, region, state, or world-wide that will affect demand for library services. Look at community demographics and the local economy and political situation. Assess the following:

  • Structure of your organization, system affiliations, networks.
  • Technology, issues of access, expectations for Internet services and access.
  • Economic situation, changes in primary industries of the area.
  • Politics, the realities of support and funding for services.
  • Demographics and population, growth or decline, distribution within age groups.
  • Lifestyles and activities demographics in the area.
  • Media, national campaigns or local news that affect how users think of the library.
  • Education opportunities, types of schools, alternative libraries, home schooling.

Demographics and Segmentation

Part of the environmental analysis is to determine target markets, your specific user groups. For your area, locate demographic information for at least the sex, age, language, family size, educational level, income, and occupation statistics relevant to your community. Find out if any of this data has been gathered for library users specifically.

Primary and secondary information

The demographic data you are gathering for the environment or situational analysis of the audit comes from local and national resources, and is called secondary information. Market research works directly with customers and therefore provides direct information about what actual users want, need, and how they see us (primary information). Both types of information are useful in market planning.

The marketing audit consists of an internal assessment of strengths and weaknesses and an environmental (situational) assessment of factors in the community that will affect library marketing.


Include a short environmental analysis in your marketing plan: Use the audit form.

  • You may LIMIT the analysis to facts related to the service or user group you have chosen, OR you may look at the big picture and decide to change the service or target! (If so, go back and revise the first parts of your plan.)
  • Describe VERY briefly your structure, technology issues, local economy and politics, demographics (age and interests), media availability, educational situation. For example, your community may be part of a regional system, have statewide access to resources but limited hardware, have a declining economy, a supportive local government, no local newspaper, no colleges in the area, a growing number of retirees, and no nearby bookstores.
  • Include very brief demographic information in your plan. This may be available from a Chamber of Commerce brochure or web site, or from Census resources or a library fact sheet that answers the basic questions about the demographics in the area. Include information that's easily available such as percentage of population by age, sex, income, occupation, educational level, language, marital status, etc. Several resources are listed in the right sidebar.
  • Use these demographics to explain why the target group or service you have chosen is a good choice for marketing.
  • If you do not have access to a library marketing plan, look at sample library marketing plans from Module 2 or Sample Marketing Plans from NSLS and Members. You may also look at online plans for several types of business available on a commercial site. Choose one or two of the non-profit plans to scan. These plans are more complex than the plan you will be working on in this module, but will give you an idea of the way that marketing audits, market research, and the whole planning process are reflected in the final marketing plan.

     What are your strengths & weaknesses?


What's new in library marketing?

What are other libraries doing with Library 2.0?

Explore other sites on the Web for additional information.

Got data? County profiles

Business data sources

Ohio data

National demographics

Print planning form