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

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Summary of Modules and Future Trends

Why do we market?

Letting the community know what libraries do

The availability of resources on the Web changes the way users access information. Libraries are not the only source of information and sometimes not the most accessible or available. Libraries can benefit by letting the community know what the library provides and marketing library strengths to match users' needs.

Marketing positions the library in the minds of the community as a valuable resource, builds good customer relations, and contributes to a positive relationship with media, businesses, local government agencies and organizations. Often marketing is about changing perceptions. Everyone benefits when we find out what users really want, and when we let our community know everything that a library can do, in the library or on the Web.


The foundation for a great marketing plan is to examine the library mission, values, and philosophy of service. Then analyze library capabilities and research customer needs to find out what works or what needs improvement. Use the analysis and research to establish goals, select strategies for promotion, develop the marketing plan of action, implement, and evaluate how well you meet your goals. Use results of evaluation to make changes or to develop a new marketing plan that responds to changes in the library, in the community, and in the world of information.

Marketing Mix

The marketing planning process requires a look at the library marketing mix, the 4Ps of product, place, price, & promotion. The marketing audit examines library products -- tangible goods and services such as events, programming, collections, etc. Market research determines the values and benefits of the products to your users. After a product or service for marketing is chosen based on market research, the marketing plan is created; and the goals, objectives, and promotion strategies are established.

Your market plan should consider which means of promotion is best suited to the service, product, or concept being promoted or is most suitable for the audience that you are targeting. Market research gives you insights into what drives your users, what they consider important. Promotion should tie into the needs, preferences, and decision-making practices of your users.

Marketing on the Web

For many users, the web site IS the library! Some users never visit the facility. For others, a web site is just another branch of their favorite library -- and a great place to shop for information 24/7. More libraries are providing services and marketing on the Web as a response to changes in the way the world accesses information.

Trends that affect marketing on the Web

Library plans for marketing on the Web should consider the the implications of these trends in Web use:

The 2008 Digital Future Project Report shows the average number of hours users spend online has increased to 15.3 hours per week and membership in online communities has more than doubled in only three years. 54% log into their community at least once a day. 43 percent of Internet users who are members of online communities say that they “feel as strongly” about their virtual community as they do about their real-world communities.

PEW Online Activities and Pursuits Report finds that 62% of all Americans are part of a wireless, mobile population that participates in digital activities away from home or work. PEW also reports that 85% of American adults use the internet or cell phones – and most use both. Many also have broadband connections, digital cameras and video game systems. Yet the proportion of adults who exploit the connectivity, the capacity for self expression, and the interactivity of modern information technology is a modest 8%. Another report finds that it is young adults who are the most likely to say they will use libraries in the future when they encounter problems and need information.

Information access has shifted.

Recent studies report observations and recommendations about information use by younger generations. The highest criteria on the their list of needs when seeking information was ease of use. They also expect customization and are technology veterans who use new communications. Trends in changing services to meet these needs include creating online interactive group spaces, support for remote usage, wireless networks, portals that combine catalogs, e-journals, reference materials, etc. Users would appreciate integrating library information and more multimedia resources into popular search engines and incorporating “open” web resources into catalogs. Gaming as a mechanism for promoting libraries and teaching information literacy is another trend, representing services and instruction visually and in multimedia modes.

In the library, look at exploring more services for mobile devices such as cell phones, offering wireless networks, or providing individual and group learning spaces equipped with computing resources and comfortable spaces for informal gatherings.

A selection of annotated articles in UI Current LIS Clips: Digital Native or Digital Immigrant, compiled and annotated by Marianne Steadley, March 2006.

The market for library services will evolve because technology impacts lifestyles and work locations, and because the percentages by age group in the world population is changing. Library operations will change as technology changes, and so will marketing methods. Consider new methods of marketing to reach all users: blogs, wikis, gaming, RSS feeds, photo sharing, social bookmarking, etc.

Changes in technology and demographics affect what we market, how we market, and to whom we market. The process of planning, however, will still require careful assessment of who we are, who our customers are, what they need, and how we can provide it.



What's new in library marketing?

Libraries in the future

Explore other sites on the Web for additional information.

Web marketing requires tracking the trends!