Monday, May 22, 2017


Why should we plan?

  • To assist us to get from where we are to where we would like to be or should be
Why don’t we plan?

  • Planning can be
    • Difficult
    • Time consuming
    • Confusing
You know, we really should plan!

What exactly is planning?
  • An analytical process involving:
    • Assessment of the future
    • Determining desired objectives
      • e.g., moving building to have new space, or revamp building
    • Developing several courses of action
    • Selecting appropriate course(s) of action
    • Think ahead to choose the best course of action.
Long range or strategic plan
  • Time frames such as:
    • 2-year plan
    • 5-year plan
    • 10-year plan
It’s hard to think in terms of 10 years because of ever changing technology.

Short term plan (operational)
  • Open eyes
  • Lift head
  • Move leg
  • Move other leg
  • Sit up
  • Yawn
  • Stretch
  • Put on slippers
  • Stand up slowly
  • Getting through specific tasks with lists of accomplishments 
Two levels of planning
  • Departmental or unit level
  • Overall plan for entire organization
Steps in strategic planning
  • Identify values, assumptions and beliefs
  • Conduct an environmental scan
  • Do a SWOT or PEST analysis
  • Create a vision and mission for the library
  • Develop goals and objectives
  • Implement the plan
  • Evaluate the plan and start again
Values and assumptions
  • Value
    • Respectful workplace
  • Assumption
    • Technology will continue to play a significant role on the library as it enters the next millennium
Environmental scan
  • Beyond the library
  • Analysis
    • SWOT
      • Internal and external
        • Internal
          • Strengths
          • Weaknesses
        • External
          • Opportunities
          • Threats
    • PEST
      • Restraints
        • Political
        • Economical
        • Social
        • Technological
Visions versus missions
  • Vision statement
    • Future oriented and almost out of reach
    • An ideal
  • Mission statement
    • Philosophical statement of overall purpose 

Sample plans and mission statements on the web
U of M.

Vancouver Public Library. Mission, Vision, Values and Goals

Goals and objectives
  • Goals
    • Broad statements stating how library will achieve its mission
    • Time frames are still 3-5 years
    • Strategic
  • Objectives
    • Specific, measurable and time limited actions in support of goals
    • Time sensitive
Goals often cover broad areas such as 
  • Services
  • Collections
  • Facilities
  • Funding
  • Staffing

  • Goal: To provide materials in a variety of formats as identified by public need and use
  • Objective: To provide a catalogued book collection of two volumes per capita by the year 2000
  • Action: By an increase in the collection of 2% annually
  • Objective: To provide an adequate ethnic collection by the year 2000
  • Action: By identifying the major language groups by June 1999 and acquiring at least 1,000 volumes annually in those languages

    Implementing the plan and evaluation
  • Set priorities
  • Allocate staff/resources
  • Establish time frame and when milestones should occur or products/services be developed
  • Communicate plan
  • Monitor, evaluate, adjust, start all over

Monday, May 15, 2017

Marketing measures for information services

Zachret, Martha Jane and Williams, Robert V. Marketing Measures for Information Services. Special Libraries 77 (Spring 1986) pp. 61-70

Monday, May 8, 2017

Tapping into the zen of marketing

St. Lifer, Evan, Albanese, Andrew R., Tapping into the zen of marketing. Library Journal. 05/01/2001, Vol. 126, Issue 8
Tapping into the Zen of marketing
Libraries strut their stuff and gather insightful data with a more retail-oriented approach to pursuing new patrons
LATE IN 1999, Ohio’s Lakewood Public Library recognized it had a problem or, more aptly, a challenge: after running some studies on its service area, it discovered that one of its biggest subset of residents was hardly using the library. “Many people had a perception of Lakewood as being a city of families and senior citizens,” said John Guscott, Lakewood PL’s manager of electronic services. “Our experiences at the library over the past few years suggested otherwise-that it was fast becoming a city dominated by young, professional (but nonmainstream) singles.”
As a group, there was very little in the collection specific to Gen Xers to pique their somewhat bohemian, countercultural lifestyles. Further, library staff didn’t know enough about them to offer materials that catered to their literary and musical proclivities. 
Lakewood’s problem was not unusual: traditional libraries have had a difficult time reaching Gen Xers, and the rise of the Internet hasn’t made that job any less difficult. 
Today, Lakewood has no such problem. The Gen X crowd frequents the library for a rich array of programming and diverse book and CD collections just for them. “Our circ for audio CDs has just flown off the charts,” says Guscott. 
The elusive Gen Xer
The story of how Lakewood PL was able to identify and target this significant subset, learn more about its predilections, and then act on that profile by delivering more materials that would attract that elusive group is a testament to libraries’ newfound willingness to employ marketing techniques and a service imperative once reserved for retail operations. Lakewood PL’s ability to ferret out this missing chunk of potential patron base stems from the research efforts of Guscott. A Gen Xer himself at 29, Guscott employed two techniques referred to in marketing parlance as “market segmentation” and “geodemographics.” Essentially, both processes allow the user to slice and dice potential patrons into meaningful, definable cross sections.
Gusscott worked with a program called “You Are Where You Live” (YAWYL) (www.delluke.claritas.conff YAWUL/aboutprizm.wjsp) created by Claritas and its net-based arm, ClaritasExpress, which offers marketing solutions and software. YAWYL is part of Claritas’s PRIZM lifestyle segmentation system, which is based on the premise that people with similar lifestyles tend to live near each other. According to web site information, PRIZM defines every neighbourhood in the United States in terms of demographically and behaviorally distinct types or “clusters”.
Guscott had a conversation with Lakewood PL Director Ken Warren in December 1999 to address the need to define and pursue dormant subsets of the library’s patron base. Less than two months later, Guscott submitted to his boss a marketing report using the PRIZM software, having divided residents in the Lakewood PL service area into nine clusters, ranked by sixe. For example, Guscott classified the largest cluster as “Urban Achievers,” documenting how many lived in Lakewood, 14,433, which he calculated comprised nearly 26 percent of Lakewood PL’s total population in its service area. He also compiled some very specific information about their ethnicity, age range, level of education, type of information (e.g. “white collar/professional”), type of housing (rent or own), median income, median home value, key issues (“gay rights or environmental protection”) and politics (e.g., “liberal independent”).
Targeting consumer tastes
However, the most intriguing part of the cluster profile and the area that provided Lakewood PL with the most insight into each duster’s general consumer tastes was the section entitled Consumer Pattern. Here the first group and largest cluster, Urban Achievers, were characterized as “behaving like middle-class sophisticates” and gravitating toward a welter of consumer outlets, products, and brands, including “speciality shops, ethnic markets, family restaurants, delis, sushi bars, taco joints, Nordstorm, jazz music, Kias, Volkswagens, and Nissans.” Their composite “Interests” were also telling: “multiculturalism, intellectually challenging pursuits, theater, adult education, libraries, public broadcasting, and alternative health.”

“Any kind of cluster has basic values and what you want to do is find out what those values are and reflect that in your collection while leaving some room for discovery at the library,” says Guscott. “Then we took it to the next step and figured out the programming and content that would attract them to the library.”

However, the notion that all libraries are forever trying to drive usage by figuring out ways to expand their patron base is not realistic. Faced with limited financial resources and an often overburdened staff, many libraries are simply trying to provide first-rate service to the patrons they already have.”

“Usually people who use the library love the library,” reasons William Ptacek, director of the King County Library System (KCLS), Seaule, one of the busiest libraries in the country based on its record of circulating roughly 13 million books annually. “So there hasn’t been a good incentive to seek out ways to better serve customers or recruit new ones because we have so many using the library already.”

Arming the noncompetitor
Thus libraries haven’t traditionally behaved competitively by seeking to stake a claim to a specific constitution or audience. Now, however, with incursions being made on a number of fronts, e.g., bookstores and the Internet, some librarians have pushed their organizations to think about pursuing new patrons more aggressively. “We know that we have to compete to get business, and libraries typically haven’t thought that way,” says Gale Group CEO Allen Paschal. “Prior to the electronic age, they were the [undisputed] foundation for information in their communities, and now there is competition from AOL and Yahoo. Thus there is a danger that the virtual library will pass them by if they don’t let people know they are at the center of the information universe.”

Paschal admits that libraries’ reticence in marketing their virtues has “bothered” him because “libraries have better information and people don’t know it.” He readily acknowledges Gale’s vested interest—“obviously our existence goes hand-in-hand with libraries”—in attempting to help them market themselves more effectively.

Sensitive to librarians’ increasing desire to tout their institutions while lacking the financial wherewithal or expertise to do it, Gales has posted at its web site ( an assortment of free downloadable marketing resources based on the company’s “Find yourself in the library” campaign. Libraries can customize these resources to address their own marketing objectives.

Billboards for LOUIS
Gale has also invested in an experimental marketing foray with Louisiana’s LOUIS system, a statewide library consortium consisting of more than 120 public, academic, and school libraries. In an effort to help LOUIS push the visibility of its homepage ( as a statewide access point for an extensive army of online databases and resources, Gale paid for a billboard advertising campaign. Although LOUIS Director Ralph Bee concedes the “full impact of the billboards has not been felt yet,” Gale officials say they are willing to experiment and include value-added marketing strategies and investments in their future dealings with libraries.

King County’s Ptacek has fought against the strategically limiting axiom of “doing the best we can for the people we have” with some innovative marketing efforts that have pushed library use in his area to even higher levels. Ptacek details the source of his motivation. “I don’t think it’s a given that people will always use libraries and think about them the same way they do now.” King County employed a strategy of brand marketing in an effort to drive use of its electronic resources and databases. “We were spending all this money on databases and people weren’t using them as much as we would’ve liked,” explains Ptacek. The centerpiece of KCLS’s brand marketing strategy was a campaign to circulate 600,000 library cards to every student in King County.

Several months before kicking off the campaign, Ptacek and his staff deliberately embarked on a process of discovery, by hiring a pollster to “do an analysis of our market,” increasingly the telltale sign of a marketing-savvy library. In fact, Ptacek says he keeps a local research firm on retainer to help formulate focus groups and other data-gathering endeavours. According to Ptacek, the pollster gave them a good news/not-so-good news scenario: while 75 percent of the 400 family households said they had used a King County library in the last year, only 25 percent of this highly wired community said they had connected to KCLS’s homepage. Ptacek thought the library card campaign could literally double the homepage access rate to 50 percent of all King County family households.

KCLS’s library foundation kicked in $150,000 to pay for promotion of the campaign and also paid for all of the library cards. Ptacek says the campaign was a huge success: database use via the KCLS homepage rose from a precampaign average of 300,000 hits per month, to more than 700,000 hits per month.

Low-budgeting marketing
However, the country is chock-full of a whole cross section of libraries that could never afford to keep a marketing firm on retainer. Even among those that have a foundation, there is little chance that they could appropriate foundation money for promotion or research when an infusion of new materials or technology upgrades beckon. So what is a less affluent library to do?

“We’re always looking for people who don’t use the library,” says Nancy Dowell, director of the Vigo County PL (VCPL), IN. “We take advantage of all the demographic information we can get our hands on.” In an effort to save money and pool resources, VCPL has sought to partner with other local agencies, businesses, or institutions to promote a local event. The library’s sponsorship and promotion of “Family Learning Day” in downtown Terre Haute with the local business association garnered it the 2001 Marketing of the Year Award from the Wabash Valley Chapter of the American Marketing Association. Dowell says the library sought to promote the revitalization of the economically blighted downtown in combination with the concept of family literacy.

In some cases, perception is just as important as any well-oiled, assiduously researched marketing plan. Ferguson PL Director Emie DiMattia’s goal of having a Starbucks on its premises was to “add quality to the experience of those who currently use the library.” But, most importantly, says DiMattia, was the public perception of the library, based in downtown Stamford, CT, as a relatively “in” place. Ferguson is only the second public library to house a full-service Starbucks franchise. DiMattia and staff have added other touches: a passport office and a “Friends of the Ferguson Library Used Bookshop.”

According to Greg Buss, chief librarian at British Columbia’s Public Library, the staff didn’t have to hire any market research firms or pore over demographic, data to discern the needs of the public. Buss says staff simply “took very seriously” the patron comment forms that most libraries offer. The types of things on the public’s wish list are not uncommon to any public librarian. “They wanted longer hours, more technology, more books, and more personalized service—really more of everything,” he says. “Customers have never been shy about what they want, but I think we have been shy in giving it to them.”

Slicing and dicing the constituency: a comparison of two of Lakewood, OH’s “Clusters”

Bohemian Mix American Dreams
Percent living in Lakewood 18.9% (1.7%of U.S.) 5.0% (1.4% of U.S.)
Number living in Lakewood 10,967 2,828
Cluster rank for Lakewood 2 6
Description Progressive, eclectic group of executives, students, artists, and writers;
live in rented high-rises; very few children;
75% single or divorced;
33% are gay
Immigrants and descendants who typify the American Dream;
affluent married couples with or without children who work hard at multiple trades and public service jobs;
often have big families
Family types Single Mixed
Ethnicity Ethnically diverse Ethnically diverse
Predominant Age Range 25-44 Mixed
Education College Graduate Some College,
College Graduate
Employment Professional White Collar
Housing Type Rental of Multi-Unit Owner of Single-Unit
Median Income Mid to High 30K Low to Mid 50K
Median Home Value $135,452 $180,900
Politics Liberal DemocratLiberal Democrat
Key Issues Gay rights,
legalizing marijuana,
defusing racial tensions
Gun control,
pro-life movement,
eliminating affirmative action
Consumer Pattern Early adopter consumer pattern,
quick to try new products,
imported goods,
especially wine,
beer, and cheese,
organic foods,
fashion forward,
subcompact cars,
anti-mainstream brands,
New cars, boats,
recreational vehicles,
designer labels,

Is the “Library of the Future” the future of the library?
How many libraries allow food and drink anywhere in the building and call its most heavily used room the “living room”? With its newfangled Ironwood branch, British Columbia’s Richmond PL is recasting the conventional notions of what a library can and should be.

Although the idea of allowing kids to do their homework while they lay sprawled on the floor munching potato chips and sipping soda might be anathema to some librarians, most sit up and take notice of some of Ironwood’s gaudy annual usage numbers: 12,000 program attendees and 100,000 hours of net time used. Perhaps most impressive are its circulation statistics: the library circulates more than 750,000 items annually, which means it circulates its 65,000-item collection more than 11 times. Ironwood, at 12,000 square feet, does this with 13 FEEs.

Apparently the public library world has taken notice. Public library officials from King County, San Jose, Solano County, Santa Clara, New York, Chicago, and southern New Jersey have all made pilgramages to British Columbia to talk to Chief Librarian Greg Buss and Deputy Chief Librarian Cate McNeely about Richmond PL’s self-anointed “Library of the Future.”
The concept for the Ironwood branch came from a “series of epiphanies” that occurred from looking at trends and developments outside the library. Perhaps most important, staff noticed the emerging trend of self-service in the retail sector and considered how to adapt it to a new branch library in which they could incorporate innovations from the ground up.  
Their idea, according to McNeely, was to automate certain library functions, checking out books principal among them, to “free up the library staff to have more meaningful interactions with customers.”  
One of the main lessons learned from developing the forward-thinking Ironwood branch was that it could be done without huge infusions of money, said Buss. “It required a lot of planning and really working together with the staff, the board, and the community. It’s not impossible to have a library with a good selection of books and the latest technology,” he said. “You can have food in the library and the world won’t fall apart.”

Monday, May 1, 2017

Marketing the worth of your library

Sass, Rivkah K., Marketing the worth of your library. Library Journal, 6/15/2002. Vol. 127, Issue 11.
For the cost of a latte a week, your library brings you the world
In a perfect world, everyone would have a library card, and the library would serve as both a real place worth spending time at and a virtual information center available 24 hours a day. The library would be the top-of-the-list destination for information and pleasure seekers alike. Unfortunately, in the real world, the public library may rate closer to number 11 as the chosen place to seek information (that’s according to a 2001 survey at The truth is the library isn’t on the radar screen of many people who think of themselves as information literate.
Despite all our real-time reference, web sites that rock, and exemplary programs, libraries are still missing the hook that will change our public’s perception of what we have to offer. It isn’t enough simply to tell potential patrons what is available at their library. What was the last Madison Avenue ad campaign you saw that just told what the product offered?
The hook is selling the value of the library in real bottom-line terms. 
The curse of history
Libraries are a beloved tradition in America, commanding respect, pride, and even a willingness to support the occasional bond issue. Yet, for an institution that has been around this long, the library has simply faded into the background for many in the general public. Librarians struggle to demonstrate that they are the information cognoscenti.
Most customer satisfaction surveys regarding library services indicate a high level of satisfaction with basic or traditional roles. The primary expectation is that libraries offer books for lending and provide programming for children, but they do not contribute to more sophisticated information needs. Adjusting such an entrenched reputation would not be easy in the best of circumstances. In this day of downloads from Kazaa, “Live Journal” communities and “blogs” with names like “Snoop Doggy Blog,” libraries have to fight for the attention of our users, and we are losing the battle. In trying to cast a new status for our institutions as information central we face the new and, for many librarians, uncomfortable position of being in competition. In this environment, we must tell our users—who are also our funders—what they get for a dollar spent by the library. 
Borrowing from the competition
Librarians do not promote library services well and often are reluctant to borrow from the private sector, although that may be the only thing that will guarantee a viable future. This observation isn’t new. In fact, more than 50 years ago Pelham Barr wrote, “There is general rejoicing if some lipstick, love, and lingerie magazine says a kind word about libraries” (Public Relations of Poor Relations,” LJ 6/15/46, p. 884ff). Things have not changed much. Too often, we wait for others to notice that we are doing a good job.
Try as we might, we have not come up with the ultimate marketing message. “@Your Library” is a terrific idea as far as it goes, but despite the best intentions and great public service announcements (PSAs) starring Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, three problems stand out. Just when we are trying to prove our relevance in the digital age, too often the implication of the campaign is that people must actually enter a building to use the rich array of resources libraries have to offer. We can market librarians as information-savvy and tout libraries as the place to find that recipe or research that car, but if the message is still about the library as the place, ultimately, we will lose out.
Second, as respected as Sarandon and Robbins are by baby boomers, their message may not hit Generation X or Y. These are the generations least impressed by the traditional array of services.  
And, most importantly, the campaign takes an essentially passive stance: We have something you might like, stop by if you have the time. Selling the library on its value, on the other hand, is about letting people know what their libraries already own. It is about presenting information as a commodity that librarians can deliver at discount rates. 
Databases vs. the web
Libraries should be valued and viewed as an essential community resource. People should react with delight when they’re presented with options for service and delivery. The first step is letting them know options exist. The next step is letting them know the comparative value of library products and services.
One area that is truly undermarketed is our electronic resources. Many users have no concept that they’re different from “the Web”. We know they are unique, content-rich, authoritative, and not free. Again, too many of our information literacy initiatives are passive. We ask people to sign up for a research class and then teach better search methods. Information literacy needs to include teaching happily oblivious people about the dangers of bad information and the costs of good information.
Like almost everything else in the library, databases are not a “free” service to the public, but they represent a great value compared with other available sources. The same marketing strategy can be applied to other areas of the library. 
Staff as marketers
So, what is the value of a library card? What is the value of a library? Access to unique resources? The help of trained professionals? While some of us want to tip the balance in favor of providing electronic resources for the serious user, it is still the human connection that makes the difference. As highly touted, purely electronic tools like Questia fade into history, we should remember to market the value of what is the largest percentage of most library budgets—the staff.
The staff in turn need to sell the value of the library. When Starbucks was a small, local coffee company, its staff knew coffee, and, more importantly, they knew their customers and understood that their service and our satisfaction were integrally linked. As customers we developed high expectations. While Starbucks has lost some of that personal touch, there are few among us who do not envy its brand, which literally helped change our tastes.
Like Starbucks, librarians can use the personal touch to build a brand and change user tastes. The reader who comes into the library every week to talk about what’s new and what’s good has high expectations about whatever the librarian is going to suggest. It’s the service that our public receives that helps them perceive the value the library brings.  
The staff need to be smart and offer expert knowledge, but, in fact, it is the personal encounters that hold value, whether they are face to face or virtual. Each encounter is an opportunity to share our expertise, our resources, and ourselves in a way that allows our customers to savor the experience and go away wanting more.
The marketing of libraries is the responsibility of all of the staff. If we can do it with reader’s advisory, we can convince our users of the worth of electronic resources and our ability to help them make the best possible use of them. We will know we have succeeded when a customer asks what new databases has been added this week. 
Marketing your worth
While the idea of advertising library services isn’t new, we must exploit it more than ever. We need to talk about “having the world in your pocket” with a library card and stress that you don’t have to be inside a library to use it. I hope some library somewhere is doing radio spots featuring “inside the mind of a librarian” scenarios that target diverse user groups. Even better, how about a whole show devoted to information? If the Satellite Sisters can be syndicated, why can’t a group of creative and zany librarians who respond to reference questions as though they were car repair issues?
Whatever the creative avenues your team can come up with to spread the word about what the library has to offer, don’t forget that these services aren’t free. Simply put, thanks to librarians, the public has access to resources more easily, quickly, and cheaply than would otherwise be conceivable. We know that; now we must let our public in on the secret. 
By Rivah K. Sass
Rivah K. Sass is Reference & Information Services Coordinator, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR.
Five things libraries can do to market their worth
  1. Have a real budget for advertising, like St. Louis Public Library. It budgets $120,000 a year for radio ads, billboards, and bus cards, targeting some of its low-use neighbourhoods to encourage people to use the library and understand its value. Somewhere travelling around St. Louis is a bus with a sign that reads, “Want to be healthy, wealthy and wise? Use your library!”
  2. Develop creative PSAs aimed at Generations X and Y that are designed to be broadcast during late-night television. “It’s the middle of the night and you’re working on a paper? Did you know that your library card will get you into the library’s databases all night long? They’re better than Google, and you can cite them, too!”
  3. Develop catchy placards for the inside and outside of buses that highlight the value of the staff at the library. Use some of the more unusual questions librarians have been known to answer next to pictures of local staff members: “Have you ever wondered can you poach a salmon in the dishwasher? Ask a librarian!” In the Information Age, it’s good to know there are true information professionals ready to assist with any question.
  4. Joe Jarnes of the University of Washington iSchool says, “Be where people are.” Janes was the inspiration for Multnomah County Library’s “Knowmobile,” a rolling reference cart that allows staff to answer reference questions, make library cards, and promote library services at everything from baseball games to farmer’s markets.
  5. Work with database vendors to develop strategies and promotional collateral to market electronic resources and get the word out. Product-specific marketing materials about electronic resources would be a huge benefit to users and give librarians a chance to highlight the specific cost of building their collections.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Footballs and URLs

MacDonald, Robert H., Computers in Libraries, Sept. 2000, Vol. 20, Issue 8. Footballs and URLs.

Marketing Your Library and its Online Presence


Libraries face growing competition from commercial internet communities as the first place to go for information. In an age where dot-coms are known more for their advertising campaigns than their content, libraries must market themselves as the only content-concious information solution. [“Online Ads on The Good, the Banner, and the Ugly.” Mediaweek 10.6 (2000): n. pag. Online. Bell & Howell Information and Learning. ABI/Inform. 15 May 2000] To make the Auburn University Libraries more visible to our users, we undertook a series of promotional events. One central focus included marketing the library at demonstration tables before Auburn University (AU) home football games. We utilized a PowerPoint presentation along with innovative marketing merchandise, embossed with the libraries’ logo and URL, to draw hundreds of people and make them more eager to find out about the libraries’ services.

Auburn University is Alabama’s land-grant university. As such, the library as well as the university seek to serve all citizens of the state through research, instruction, and extension; furthermore, we strive to exemplify “service to society as a function of U.S. higher education.” [Bonnen, James T. “The Land-Grant Idea and the Evolving Outreach University.” In University-Community Collaborations for the Twenty-First Century: Outreach Scholarship for Youth and Families. New York: Garland, 1998.] Located in Auburn, Alabama, the libraries’ collections exceed 2.5 million volumes, making it Alabama’s largest library system. We are a member of the Association of Research Libraries and are comprised of a main library and two branch libraries. Marketing our resources and services to the public allows us the opportunity to build on outreach efforts inherent to a land-grant university.

Planning for game day, 1999
Since 1997, the Auburn University Alumni Association has hosted a hospitality tent prior to each home game. The tent (40 x 80 feet) features food, drinks, and entertainment. It also hosts tables representing different departments and organizations, and draws between 2,500 and 4,000 people each game day. The tent is open approximately 3 hours prior to kick-off, and the libraries have participated since its inception. During the first 2 years, library volunteers at the tent provided printed brochures, pencils, and plastic bags. At one of these games in 1998, we observed that the other tables in the hospitality tent seemed to be doing a better job of enticing crowds to discuss their services. The notable difference between their tables and ours was that they had candy and better giveaways such as golf tees, peanuts, and colouring books. So we decided that we would invest promotional merchandise to be utilized at the hospitality tent on game days as well as for other marketing events.

Two librarians were assigned a budget of $5,000 and were instructed to select merchandise for the events. (See the sidebar for our suggestions for ordering merchandise.) They decided to focus on the libraries’ electronic access and two other specialized areas: InfoQuest (our own fee-based research and document delivery service catering to customers worldwide) and extended distance education services. We knew that alumni and visitors were familiar with the physical building and its holdings—the books that they could see and touch—but perhaps not as familiar with the electronic resources that were available remotely. To capitalize on remote access, we decided that in addition to the library’s name, its URL would also be prominently embossed on the promotional items. We wanted to brand the URL in people’s minds; we wanted them to think of our URL more than any other URL when they needed information. (Gibson, Stan. “Three Big Things: Brand, Brand, Brand.” eWEEK 15 May 2000: 62 and 66)

In the summer of 1998, the Alumni Association notified the library that there would be a change in the organization of the hospitality tent. Instead of hosting several tables during each game day, each department would be assigned one game day. They indicated that this would be a better opportunity for each group to be the primary focus of the day. Because of this change, we would be able to concentrate all of our resources (merchandise and volunteers’ time) on one single extravaganza.

Game day: what happened
After much planning and anticipation, our turn finally came. On Saturday, October 9, 1999, we got an early start as we began to set up three tables of library giveaways in the Alumni Association Tent. We used tablecloths, balloons, and streamers, and we prominently displayed a large tri-fold background featuring InfoQuest and distance education services. Since alumni and companies not affiliated with the university are the primary customers for InfoQuest, we felt that this would be an ideal setting to advertise this service. Our staff had prepared an extensive PowerPoint slide show to focus on the two areas of specialization. Auburn’s fight song played in the background of this show, adding to the game day excitement.

Before the tent opened to the public, other library volunteers joined us—we had a total of nine librarians, including our dean of librarians. We lined up all of our new promotional items: sponge footballs, foam drink holders, magnets, notepads, binoculars, mini-mousepads, business cards, Post-It Notes, plastic bags, brochures, and candy. (All of the giveaways were clearly marked with the libraries’ logo, URL, and phone number.)

As sports fan filtered in, we watched and heard their amazement: “You guys are in the library?!” and “It’s free?!” We repeatedly noticed their surprise as they eagerly listened to our own excitement about services and resources available to students, faculty, and, in the case of InfoQuest, to the general public.

The libraries’ laptop computer, with its cellular modem connection, proved to be valuable. (See the sidebar for details about the technology we utilized.). With it, we were prepared to answer the reference questions that arose. Patrons were pleased to receive instant service, rather than simply hearing, “Stop by the library later, and a reference librarian will be glad to help you.” After all, it was this kind of instant, remote access that we were marketing.

Blank address cards were another tool that day; with them, we collected names and addresses of people interested in receiving our new promotional newsletter, Auburn University Libraries’ Highlights.

Throughout the morning, we had a librarian photographing the event with the libraries’ digital camera. We planned to cover the story later in our electronic newsletter, Bits & PCs ( We sought permission from individuals to include their photos in the newsletter and we collected their names and addresses; later we mailed them each a copy of their photo along with the Web address where the article appeared. This was an extra touch that impressed people. We hoped that they would share their enthusiasm about the library with friends, and that the publicity would extend beyond the morning’s event.

When kick-off time was near, the band, cheerleaders, and school mascot, Aubie, came through the tent. (We recommend to anyone planning a promotional event to contact your own school’s mascot to schedule an appearance.) Finally, the crowds headed towards the stadium. It had been a dynamic morning, and our day’s giveaways were nearly depleted. We had handed out over a thousand items in just a few short hours and had talked with hundreds of people about exciting new developments available at Auburn University Libraries. We heard from several people throughout the morning that they would call InfoQuest for their business’ research needs, and that they would remind their children—who were students at the university—to make better use of the library. The Alumni Association extended kind words as well, saying that we had done a great job and that we were very well received.

Other marketing initiatives conducted here at Auburn

With the success of our game day experience, our library has been motivated to further explore the possibilities of marketing—in particular, marketing to outside patrons that do not often enter our physical library building. The following are examples of other initiatives that we have implemented since the alumni tent event.

Alabama Newspaper Hall of Honor Induction Ceremony: During another home football game on November 6, 1999, the Alabama Press Association hosted its Newspaper Hall of Honor Induction Ceremony. This annual ceremony is conducted in the Newspaper Reading Room of the main library on campus. We used additional branded giveaways that we had reserved from our merchandise inventory to offer a similar marketing display. Since this event was hosted within the library, we were able to offer tours of the library as well. This event enabled university alumni and prominent Alabama journalists and dignitaries to get a comprehensive overview of the libraries’ activities while they were in town for an AU football game and the Alabama Newspaper Hall of Honor Induction Ceremony.

Homepage oversight committee surveys: The committee charged with improving the libraries’ Web site conducted user surveys in the library and in the Haley Student Center on campus. Using technology similar to that used at the alumni hospitality tent, in conjunction with printed displays on poster boards, the committee was able to solicit input on Web page terminology and test out improvements to the libraries’ evolving electronic presence. The committee gave out candy, library copy cards, and discount coupons to a Starbucks Coffee Vendor (which had recently opened a shop in the main library at Auburn) to entice students and other university personnel to participate.

National library week: The libraries seized another promotional opportunity when National Library Week occurred in April 2000. The week’s theme was “Auburn University Libraries … Making Your Life Easier.” Each day of the week focused on a different service, including a new electronic document delivery service, public scanners in the library, and a new information desk. Publicity for the events included e-mails to departments, local newspaper coverage featuring our school’s mascot, a message on our home page that appeared before and during the week’s events, and even a live broadcast by the student radio station. Several volunteers in the library contacted local businesses for donations; the free merchandise that we scored included T-shirts, stuffed animals, tote bags, and even a flatbed scanner.

Our suggestions for others who are planning events
  1. Choose the event well, and make sure that it works for your situation. Auburn University is an SEC school, and football is big here—we’re a very small town, yet the 85,000-seat stadium is often sold out. Marketing at home football games is a perfect opportunity for us to reach a lot of people in a short amount of time. Seek avenues in your own environment that match your institution’s situation: Perhaps you could sponsor a film festival, or commission an artist to design a mural, or give away squeeze bottles at a women’s soccer game; the possibilities are endless. Also, consider taking along a laptop to your events to demonstrate remote accessibility and to answer questions that arise. 
  2. Think about the merchandise, and tailor it for the event you are planning. Seek out economical merchandise if your budget is limited. During our football events, we offered sponge footballs, foam drink holders, and binoculars. These were some of the more expensive giveaways, so we were only able to order limited quantities. However, when the Homepage Oversight Committee surveys were held, we offered Starbucks coupons, which didn’t cost the library anything because the Starbucks Coffee vendor saw it as advertisement to potential customers. Candy is also great because it is very inexpensive and provides instant gratification to the participants. Contacting local businesses for donations is an economical way to get promotional products. 
  3. Have a strategic marketing plan in place. When the Alumni Association called to notify us about the change of plans for the hospitality tent, we were already underway with our orders for giveaways. We also had plans to reserve some of those items for the Newspaper Induction Ceremony. We knew they were the two primary events that we wanted to focus on that year, and we knew the specific services we wanted to emphasize: InfoQuest, distance education services, and remote access of electronic resources. Take time to organize your thoughts for the year and try to focus on specific services or resources; if you try to cover everything, you’ll only overwhelm yourself and your participants. 
  4. Seize marketing opportunities as they arise to complement your marketing plan. A library staff member suggested that we do something to celebrate National Library Week; from that, we formed a committee of volunteers and made plans to contact local businesses. This single comment from a staff member paved the way for 5 days’ worth of promotional events, and the cost to the library was minimal because of donations. The Homepage Oversight Committee’s surveys were another way of promoting library services while gaining input from students, faculty, and staff. Be open to possibilities as they present themselves in your environment. 
  5. Get over the commercial fear. We have found that some academic librarians resist the idea of commercial publicity, suggesting that offering commercial products to entice people to the library somehow weakens library services. But as we discovered with our Alumni Hospitality Tent experience, people get excited when there are prizes and enthusiasm. If you decide to market to potential library “customers,” then don’t hold back because of preconceived ideas about what a library should be. (Wiley, Lauren. “ Plans 2Q Ad Push.” Adweek 37.11 (2000): n. pag. Online. Bell & Howell Information and Learning. ABI/Inform. 15 May 2000) 
We really scored big
Our recent promotional efforts proved to be very successful. We plan to continue to seek out avenues to promote our services and resources, while still concentrating on football-game-day events. One area that has growth potential is our new library development newsletter; its mailing list is continually growing, and each issue focuses on a specific service or area of the collection. Beyond this, we hope to explore new possibilities that incorporate emerging technologies into our marketing endeavours.

Remember, commercial information providers won’t hesitate to market to your users. On our own libraries’ bulletin boards, we have seen posters that attempt to draw our users to commercial Web sites. Libraries must actively advertise their services if they hope to compete in this arena; we should communicate that our information quality and our services surpass that of the businesses who seek to compete with us.

By Robert H. MacDonald
Robert H. MacDonald is the Web site manager and English literature specialist at Auburn University Libraries. He holds an M.L.I.S. from the University of South CarolinaColumbia and an M.Mus from the University of GeorgiaAthens. His e-mail address is mcdonrh@auburn.ed

JoAnn Sears is a science and technology reference librarian and the chemical and mathematical literature specialist at Auburn University Libraries. She holds an M.L.S. from Indiana University-Bloomington in Indiana. Her e-mail address is

Cindy Mitchell is the manager of InfoQuest, the Auburn University Libraries fee-based office. She holds an M.L.S. from Indiana UniversityBloomington in Indiana. Her e-mail address is

Tips for ordering promotional items Know your vendor and its products. Find out the type of organizations your vendor is used to dealing with. Have catalogs and sample items sent to you. Select childproof items. Find out how your vendor would like to receive graphics: What file type do the images need to be in? Do the graphics need to be camera ready? What about color codes? (There are a lot of shades of blue). Does your institution place limitations on how its name and logo may be used?

Give yourself plenty of time. Find out how long the turnaround time is from the order date. Order early—delays are inevitable: Allow time for proofreading before giving the final go-ahead. Selected items may be out-of-stock or no longer available. Shipments can get lost or sent to the wrong address.

Budgeting—Allow for price increases, shipping & handling costs, and set-up charges for graphics.

Keep good records. Keep duplicates of graphics. Keep copies of all communications. This will not only resolve problems but make ordering the second time around easy.

Don’t forget the candy! Buy individually wrapped candy, and order twice the amount you think you’ll need.

Game day technology
On game day and during other promotional events, we used a system made up of the following components:
Dell Inspiron 3500 notebook computer with Microsoft Office Professional 98 (includes PowerPoint, 3Com 56K Global GSM & Cellular Modem PC Card, Nokia 6190 PCS digital cellular phone, Mindspring Internet service account). We found this to be an affordable option that provided means of demonstrating library electronic resources. (Mobile Computing Online. Mobile Computing and Communications (2000): Online. Available: We were able to display our Microsoft PowerPoint presentation as well as demonstrate the libraries’ Web catalog and other databases such as Journals@Ovid.

Further reading
Corson-Finnerty, Adam and Laura Blanchard. Fundraising and Friend-Raising on the Web. Chicago: American Library Association, 1998.

Helton, Rae and Stuart Esrock. “Positioning and Marketing Academic Libraries to Students.” Marketing Library Services 12.3 (1998): Online. Marketing Library Services. Available ( 29 May. 2000.

Smykla, Evelyn Ortiz. Marketing and Public Relations Activities in ARL Libraries. Spec Kit 240. Washington, DC: Association of Research Libraries, April 1999.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Prescription for successful marketing

Kendall, Sandra; Massarella, Susan. Prescription for successful marketing. Computers in Libraries; Sep. 2001, Vol. 21, Issue 8, p. 28, 5p.

We focused on each group of customers and designed services that each department could access in their hospital work areas 
One year had passed since I, Sandra Kendall, had become the director of the Sidney Lockwood Library at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. I had spent the time upgrading the library’s electronic and print collections to ensure that they addressed the core medical information needs of our clinicians. Now it seemed like a good time for an “annual checkup.” Our resources, library services, and staff skill sets were fulfilling the baseline for a small hospital library. But how could we be better? How could we increase our visibility within the hospital? With a team of four staff members and a very limited budget, I knew that some creativity would be required. 
A part of my responsibilities was to contact each chief of service to find out what he or she would want from his or her medical library. (A chief of service is the senior physician in charge of a specific medical department.) We had to make sure that our library addressed the basic needs and subject specialities of this hospital. I was surprised to learn that our users were not aware of many of our new acquisitions. It became clear to me that our users needed to be reintroduced to our updated skills and services. For this hospital library to be repositioned, we had to develop a deliberate strategy for success. 
Diagnosis and treatment
Mount Sinai is a small, community-based, city teaching hospital with approximately 465 beds. Each department has its own subject speciality, and therefore its own unique needs. It is easy to lose sight of the individual information needs of each group. Although our staff had created a comprehensive intranet site that included all of our new resources, we were receiving feedback from our patrons that they didn’t know which resources they needed to use. Our users wanted to have access to their own personalized intranets as opposed to the library’s all-encompassing intranet. But of course, creating individual intranets is not practical. However, applying what I’d learned as a consultant made me realize that the only way for a library to be seen as relevant to each group within a diverse organization is to create the illusion that each department is our only customer—in essence, to focus on the “customer of one.” 
In order to accomplish this task, we incorporated a myriad of traditional and cutting-edge communications methods to get the message out to the hospital community that the library did not just take a cookie-cutter approach to everyone’s information needs. So, the library began to treat each department with the same standard of excellence and customer service focus as the hospital uses to treat each of its patients. 
To demonstrate our commitment to customer focus, we needed to start by redesigning our actual library space. In truth, the entire library staff area was anti-customer service. We didn’t have an adequate reference desk. We also did not have enough computer terminals for either staff or users, and we had no facilities for group training. But we didn’t have any funding for this project, so I worked out a deal with Informatics (our hospital’s IT department) to create a computer learning lab in a corner of the library reading room. Space is always at a premium in our hospital, so exchanging part of our valuable library area to create a shared computer lab was a big move. But it put us in a better position to offer training and gave us new equipment at no cost. 
In this partnership, we did relinquish some prime real estate. But we gained an immediate reputation for being flexible, and demonstrated an ability to address the hospital’s bigger needs. Best of all, we did not have to pay for the nine new computers, printer, or redesign of our reading room. Our new space is now an accessible, welcoming environment, giving a visual facelift that corresponds to our commitment to change. 
To inform our users about the new features of the library, we published an article in the in-house hospital newsletter. We peppered the article with testimonials from regular library users from various hospital departments, and included a sidebar highlighting features of the intranet. 
We also set up traditional cork bulletin boards outside the library with instruction materials on how to use key resources and hints on how to access the library’s intranet 24/7. In a related initiative, we made each library staff member responsible for highlighting a library service in our hospital newsletter or library news Intranet section. Basically, we try to ensure that one service is highlighted each month in either publication. I have been attempting to coordinate our library news with relevant activities and special programs featured throughout the hospital. 
After I reviewed our salary budget, I saw that I could afford a one-day-a-week position, so I was able to hire a part-time library consultant. When Susan Massarella joined the library in this position, we quickly realized the short- and long-term successes we could create from continuing the “customer of one” service idea. Now she works with us every Monday, and that’s when we focus on our marketing projects. This means that every Monday we update our intranet site and work on our marketing and communications issues. After our space redesign, we decided that were ready to repackage our content for our end-users. 
Partnerships with nurses
The Sidney Liswood Library had been established as a medical library—the existing collection and intranet were designed primarily for physicians. But the nursing department used the library heavily without the appropriate support materials. Nursing reference questions, training sessions, and interlibrary loans were a growing percentage of library usage. 
Without any prospective funding available from the library’s budget, I chose to draft a collection development proposal for the nursing collection. I wanted to address its core print and electronic needs, and I offered to create a specific nursing intranet site. I had one of our volunteers compare our existing print collection against the Brandon-Hill List for Nursing and Allied Health, a benchmark collection guide for nursing resources. Based on the results of the analysis, I presented nursing with a list of recommended titles, both print and electronic, that was required to create a basic collection. Consequently, the library was funded and we acquired the print and electronic content reviewed by our clinical nurse specialists, with the proviso that in return for the funding, the library would market the collection and offer training on how to use the nursing resources. 
Once the content was in place, we again needed to look at the packaging. Merely providing access to content was not going to solve the information needs of our nurses. The resources were already scattered under various headings (databases, e-journals, e-books) on the existing library intranet. So Susan began to create the e-nursing intranet site, a subset of the library intranet. She created a single-point search solution where all of the nursing resources and corresponding instruction guides were gathered together. When it was ready, we put a “e-nursing” button on the library intranet to direct nurses right to “their” section. 
Now we’re implementing a customized marketing launch and outreach to our nurses. Clinical nurse specialist Patricia Hynes Gray and I have dedicated ourselves to going to each nursing station to announce and demonstrate the new e-nursing site. Our initial visits to nursing stations occurred during Nursing Week, and thus became part of the larger publicity in the hospital surrounding the week. 
This marketing launch has followed the same communications pathway as the library’s strategy to market our other services throughout the hospital—using careful individualization according to the information needs of each group. When we visited the nursing administration group, we gave the members a complete demonstration of e-nursing, along with tips and guidelines on library services they’d find useful. Since the nursing administration department is in an office environment, not a patient care center, they could schedule time into their day for our presentation. On the other hand, when Patricia and I visited the nursing station in the emergency department, the nurses there were coping with victims from a car crash, and we were not able to give a demonstration. We left pamphlets and assured the nurses that they could contact us for further information as their schedules permitted. In the neonatal unit, we had yet another unexpected experience: We gained access to the nursery where the staff was tending to the premature babies. I used the computer in the room to highlight the e-nursing site. I would explain the screen information, then wait until each and every nurse nodded that she had noted the information. Sometimes it took several minutes for each nurse to view the information, as they continued with their work. 
By going to the nurses in their work areas and at the same time respecting their work with the patients and adjusting our presentations accordingly, we emphasized that e-nursing is a tool designed to work for the nurses. However, this marketing approach would not have been possible without the cooperation of the nurses and their willingness to learn more about research tools specific to their needs. 
Designing group therapy
In addition to acknowledging the diverse information needs within the hospital structure, within each department individuals have varying experiences with computers. Individual skill needs must be addressed through training initiatives, so that everyone can benefit from the resources on the intranet. Again, focusing on the concept of the “customer of one,” we started to develop training plans for all learning types. 
Some of our clients were used to searching electronic resources and wanted desktop access and online guides to using the sources. Others had limited computer skills and would need help even searching the Internet, let alone understanding how to access and use specific clinical resources. Of course, other employees had computer skills, but were weak on searching clinical electronic resources. Effective training is one of the most valuable promotional tools of an electronic collection, because training helps to limit anxiety associated with electronic searching. 
We developed a series of hands-on workshops to train people to search specific tools; they’re conducted onsite in our new joint training lab. We also offer one-on-one training, which is vital for clients who need extra help. 
We also provide the option of arranging for group presentations in a given department. By going into a department, participants have training that’s arranged to fit into their work schedule, and that’s adapted to meet their group’s specific information needs. Again, by being flexible and by offering a variety of training sessions, we are marketing our electronic collection to the community as accessible, usable, and relevant. 
For people who are more experienced with computers but need point-of-use help, we took advantage of Help files created by the vendors themselves. We procured vendor brochures and made them available throughout the library. Product brochures are an excellent first step to marketing resources, since you get an professional information guide for free. 
Our library made Help guides even better by having our senior researcher create PowerPoint Help files for each resource, using examples specific to the Mount Sinai Hospital community. The PowerPoint Help files are accessible from the intranet 24/7, which also offers the added bonus of fitting training into people’s busy schedules outside of library hours. 
I got another great promotional opportunity when I was invited to participate in Grand Rounds. Grand Rounds are monthly learning sessions where specialists present leading-edge case scenarios for continuing education accreditation and lifelong learning in a given speciality. My role here is to sit with the presenting doctor and, at the appropriate times, introduce our resources, research skills, and services into the scenario. This shows doctors how the library can support their information needs in patient cases and help them give the best possible care. This type of participation reaches an audience seeking knowledge of specific clinical information, so it’s an opportunity for me to promote tools that are specific to clinical practice. 
Alternative medicine: trying out PDAs for M.D.’s
In trying to identify various departmental needs of a hospital library, I found that not only do these departments have diverse content needs, but that some of the departments also have specific format preferences. For example, our hospital does not currently have remote access to our intranet. Our response is to pursue new licensing of Web products, thus helping the users who need intranet access from home. 
I also discovered that our pharmacy department was paying for Micromedex, and knew that other departments could benefit from access to the product. I worked with the pharmacy to alter its license so that Micromedex could be positioned on the library and pharmacy intranet, available to the entire Mount Sinai Hospital community. 
But the Mount Sinai Hospital Critical Care Unit best exemplifies how we’re applying library content and technology to specific job and departmental requirements. Dr. Stephen Lapinsky, associate director of the Critical Care Unit, has determined that in his daily work practices, he requires quality control at the bedside. Personal digital assistants (PDAs) are the preferred method of delivery. The reference question “Can you get me good, quality medical content on my handheld?” started almost a year and a half ago, but the products weren’t available then. I had inquired about the specific resources that Dr. Lapinsky wanted to access, but found that these resources relied on remote access to large, central databases, and were not formatted for hand-held devices.
In order to address the dearth of quality medical content formatted for PDAs, I took a proactive approach by contacting the vendors directly and telling them what information the critical care team needed to complete its daily tasks. As an incentive to the vendors to make the information available, I arranged to beta test our pharmacopeia and was excited to be a beta site for Ovid@Hand this past summer. (Ovid@Hand is the mobile-device version of Ovid’s electronic resources.) As a result, Dr. Lapinsky will be able to gauge the benefit of using PDAs in the Critical Care Unit as tools for accessing essential medical information. 
My relationship with our vendors has changed. A librarian must communicate with vendors to drive the delivery of their content to address our end-users’ requested needs. Do tell your vendors what your users want, and what you need. By working closely with vendors, we are in essence ensuring that our needs are going to be addressed. 
Giving out referrals
Our library does not have an extensive academic collection; we have focused on resources that compliment our hospital’s specialities. But our library staff have ensured that we have connections to outside sources. With limited staff and budget, we cannot be experts to everyone. But, we can be experts in our referral process. The University of Toronto and the Health Science Information Consortium of Toronto are our best allies in supplementing our resources and clinical information needs. The referral process assures our users that we are the one place to go for information and makes our collection appear limitless. 
Prescription for the future
Since embarking on the project to better position the Sidney Liswood Library within the Mount Sinai Hospital, I have received additional staffing and an increase in my budget that could be calculated at over 50 percent (including input from partners, etc.). We’ve also had the pleasure of getting the volunteer assistance of a number of librarians, library technicians, retired business professionals, and university students from our volunteer office. And finally, our pathology department has hired a contract librarian to support a project we’re working on at its request. 
We’ve been inundated with requests from other departments to create focused sites for them akin to e-nursing, so we’ve begun an organized process of adding client-driven one-stop buttons to our intranet site. To date we have added social work, business and administration, and we’re now launching e-clinician. This will be a pathfinder for evidence-based resources within our library for physicians. We will continue to work with specific departments and add to our resources. 
We have also been added to the schedule of the orientation for hospital interns. In this way, we will be able to target all of the interns who have not been exposed to the library services. At the same time, we have retooled our segment in the general employee orientation session. We now present the resources available on our intranet, as opposed to our previous practice of giving new employees a tour of the library. Thus, the Sidney Liswood Library is seen as a content provider rather than a physical space. 
Our goal now is to ensure that our information efforts do not get stale. We can’t let the prescription lapse beyond its expiry date—we have to keep our marketing efforts going. By continually updating our intranet site and our training, and by keeping the library prominent in the hospital newsletter, we will ensure a healthy future for the Sidney Liswood Library. 
Marketing Rx 

  • Use traditional print methods (bulletin boards, pamphlets, newsletters, posters) to advertise electronic services.
  • Take advantage of any company newsletter.
  • Position the library intranet well on the organizational home page.
  • Give departmental presentations that make the library’s services relevant to the participants’ work.
  • Re-emphasize the diverse nature of the library by celebrating staff and volunteer efforts.
  • Emphasize your work to the hospital and the larger community.
  • Get out of the library! Market outside of your library, outside of your organization, outside of your community.
  • Find and analyze your hidden markets.
  • Constantly look for opportunities to partner on projects.
  • Refresh your library’s physical space.
  • Use vendor marketing materials to highlight your resources.
  • Customize your library brochure for your users.
  • Prescription renewals: repeat on a regular basis, even if usage seems healthy.
By Sandra Kendall and Susan Massarella
Sandra Kendall is the director of the Sidney Liswood Library in Toronto, and the president and founder of Information Based Services, a library consultancy service. She has worked in a variety of corporate, academic, and public libraries, and also in a marketing agency. Her e-mail address is Susan Massarella is a library consultant based in Toronto. Currently she is helping to redesign the Sidney Liswood Library’s intranet and is implementing the library’s marketing strategy in the Mount Sinai Hospital community. Her e-mail address is

Monday, April 10, 2017

Anatomy of a marketing campaign

Jarvis, Margo. Anatomy of a Marketing Campaign. Computers in Libraries, September 1998, Vol. 18, Issue 8.
Are your CD-ROM products getting the attention and use they deserve? Do your patrons stare blankly when you mention that you have CD resources like InfoTrac SearchBank, American Business Disk’s ABI, American Board of Specialities’ Medical Specialists Plus, or Granger’s World of Poetry? When suggesting CD-ROM databases, are you cut off in mid-sentence by statements like, “I don’t need that—I’ll just use the Internet. I know I can find everything there.”? Perhaps it’s time to consider some active marketing.

Just how do you market CD-ROM products? Actually, you can market them like any other service—with a twist, that is. Unlike announcing the arrival of video collection or Internet access, CD-ROM products are often unfamiliar to users, so simply announcing their availability is not enough to bring people in. “The Internet seems to overshadow CD-ROM use because it gets so much coverage and has become so much a part of our culture,” said Ellen Justice, electronic resource librarian for Cumberland County Public Library and Information Center. “Librarians have to actively suggest CD-ROM products as resources.”

This article takes a look at the marketing campaign for the NC LIVE service that was done at the Cumberland County Public Library and Information Center (CCPL&IC). It is unique in several ways, but any size and type of library can use the same basic strategy. If certain elements of the campaign are beyond your resources, then pick the ones you can do, and do them well. Any positive exposure is better than letting your products lie hidden—and wasted—on your terminals!

What is NC LIVE and why did we market it?
In September 1996 the State Library of North Carolina initiated a project that would “give all North Carolinians—students, faculty, business people, and residents in all walks of life—equal access to a range of electronic information resources and to the resources housed in libraries statewide.” Representatives from public, state university, private college, and community college libraries formed a steering committee and created NC LIVE (North Carolina Libraries for Virtual Education).

Modeled after Georgia’s Galileo and Virginia’s VIVA services, NC LIVE is a huge collection of Web-based databases. Similar to CD-ROM products, the databases are available only through subscription and cannot be accessed by Internet users. These databases are costly when purchased individually, and so large collections are often found only in libraries with large financial resources. In order to “level the playing field” and provide access to all North Carolinians, the NC LIVE steering committee petitioned the General Assembly to appropriate state funds for the project. During its 1997 session, the General Assembly appropriated $2.7 million for NC LIVE. An additional $416,000 was raised through donations to support the participation of the private college system.

With this pool of financial resources, two negotiators chosen by the steering committee put out bids and selected vendors to provide the databases. The chosen vendors were EBSCO (EBSCOhost), UMI (ProQuest Direct), OCLC (FirstSearch), CARL (NoveList), and SilverPlatter (PsycInfo). The money and negotiation resulted in the purchase of a vast amount and variety of databases that few individual libraries, businesses, or research firms could have afforded on their own.

A public relations subcommittee of NC LIVE launched a marketing campaign. Choosing National Library Week 1998 as its goal for a statewide kickoff campaign, this Public Advisory Committee planned and coordinated materials in conjunction with Sally Johns of Sally Johns Design and graphic designer Michelle Conger. The materials included a proclamation issued by Governor James B. Hunt Jr.; brochures, bookmarks, and banners; as well as stickers that said “I use NC LIVE, your library link to the world,” and buttons for staff that said, “Ask me about NC LIVE.” Ten libraries representing each region of the state were chosen to kick off NC LIVE, and CCPL&IC were the chosen site for the Pleidmont region.

The Marketing campaign
“Introducing NC LIVE” was a statewide marketing effort. This means that many libraries simultaneously bombarded the press with information. To accomplish this, some of the libraries were provided with materials that they could never have afforded to produce with their own resources. However, this didn't take the burden off each individual library. While CCPL&IC wanted the public to know of this unprecedented service, we specifically wanted the residents of Cumberland county to know that NC LIVE is available in their hometown public, university, community college, and private college libraries, and not just in “libraries around the state.”

To achieve this, the Cumberland county libraries worked together. The library directors of Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville Technical Community College, Methodist College, and CCPL&IC decided on a strategy of invitation, information, event, and follow-up, and we chose April 21, 1998, to collaboratively kick off NC LIVE with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

You are cordially invited
Invitations tell their recipients that something out of the blue is happening. So we felt that they should be used sparingly, as in the case of an event like a ribbon-cutting ceremony, grand opening, or open house. To be successful at getting people to attend a special event, decide who you want to invite and, as a general rule, send out the invitations 2 to 4 weeks prior to your event. In the case of NC LIVE, CCPL&IC sent out invitations to all North Carolina legislators, library trustees, commissioners, guests identified by the three collaborating libraries, and the press.

Three weeks prior to the kickoff, the Community Relations department designed formal invitations with Aldus PageMaker. We went to the NC LIVE Web page and downloaded the logo into Adobe Photoshop as a TIFF file. Then we placed the logo in our invitation’s graphic layout. We sent camera-ready copy to the printer, and mailed the invitations 2 weeks prior to the event.
If specially designed and printed invitations exceed your budget, there are several alternatives you can consider. “Quick copy” places such as Kinko’s and Office Depot offer inexpensive design and typesetting services. Or you can use 4 x 6” postcards available at stationery stores, or design them in-house using a page layout program (like PageMaker or Microsoft Publisher), print them on index paper, and cut them down to size.

Fliers are another quick and inexpensive way to alert your target audience of your event or service. However, keep in mind the importance of graphics. Graphics are pictures that visually “hook” the receiver into reading your message, but all graphics are not created equal! The graphic must be relevant to the information you are trying to get across. For instance, to market CD-ROM products, a graphic of a computer may not be the most effective symbol, and may actually bring to the receiver’s mind the notion of the Internet instead.

The Computer Services Department created a wallpaper screen for all our computers. The screen had the NC LIVE logo as its focal point, and announced its impending arrival to all customers who used the computer terminals 2 weeks prior to the kickoff. This wallpaper screen stimulated interest and generated questions about the service. Staff members were able to explain the service and personally invite customers to the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Information is the key
The meat of any marketing campaign is the information you choose to present to your target audience and the format you choose to present it in. Press releases are a popular way to inform a wide network of “newsmakers” about services available at libraries. Since a press release is often your only communication with the media, you have to provide as much information as possible. In the case of CD-ROM products and the electronic databases of NC LIVE, the information may be technical and confusing to the general public. So your challenge is to explain clearly what the service is, who will benefit from it, why or how it is important to them, where and when they can access it, and who will assist them with it.

When writing for the general public and the media, it is important to keep the information free of jargon and technical details that can confuse readers and blur the focus of your message. Think of press releases as mini articles that are ready to print and convey the exact message you want. Often the product or service will be new to the reporters, so the more information you can provide that they can use to build a story, the better represented you are and the better the chances of your press release being picked up for promotion. If you have pictures, by all means have copies made and include them with your press release, and be sure to provide captions and photo credits.

Here at CCPL&IC, we have a database of 118 area media representatives that we regularly use for press releases. If you don’t have such a list for your library, you can easily create one by looking in the phone book for the names and addresses of area radio and television stations, newspapers, and publications. If you are creating a list (or even updating an old one), be sure to contact each media rep and ask about their guidelines, contact person, and deadlines. The better you can cooperate with their tight schedules, the better you can plan your release and the better your relationship will be.

Don’t limit your exposure to one area or one type of media. We send press releases to media as far away as four counties over, because our users are a part of their audience. We also release news to a biweekly arts and entertainment magazine, the local cablevision community channel, and professional journals across the nation.

In the case of NC LIVE, the Community Relations department wrote the press release with emphasis on what NC LIVE is (a vast collection of databases unavailable via Internet), who benefits (everyone from students to homemakers to business owners to researchers), why it’s important to the lives of all North Carolinians (because it gives equal access to information to all residents whether they live in a small town or metropolis), and where they can access it (public library, community college, university, or private college).

The one area of NC LIVE we couldn’t cover in a press release was how it works. Because there are hundreds of databases provided by five different vendors, and because search methods vary from vendor to vendor, search methods could not be the focus of the press release. The priority of this press release was to announce the existence of NC LIVE and to invite everyone to the ribbon-cutting ceremony where they could learn for themselves through hands-on demonstrations. Consequently, in the press release we provided a short list of the content of a few databases to highlight the variety of information we were offering.

Other forms of information used to market and promote NC LIVE were brochures, banners, bookmarks, stickers, and buttons. A consultant for the Public Advisory Committee designed these materials and generously provided them to all 186 participating libraries for no or very little cost.

While this luxury doesn’t often come around, you can design promotional pieces yourself, or have them designed at low cost. But before you invest in pieces like bookmarks and brochures, assess your need for them and decide exactly what type of information you want them to convey.

If you plan to use any of these items to promote your CD-ROM products, consider the space available with each one. For instance, much less information can fit on a bookmark than in a brochure, so if you could only afford a bookmark you’d have to condense your information while retaining its clarity. At a minimum, you’ll want to include a special section on the availability and importance of your CD-ROMs or electronic databases.

Staging the main event
If you choose to stage an event, good planning and coordination are vital to its success. For NC LIVE, the big event was a ribbon-cutting ceremony during National Library Week. (All photographs were taken during this event.)

With any event, it is important to have a program mapped out well in advance. Decide who will speak, how long they’ll speak, what topic they’ll speak on, etc. Make sure that they are aware of exactly what will happen and what their role will be. Always call to confirm their participation about 2 days prior to the event—and always have a “Plan B”! Speakers can get sick, have family emergencies, or simply fail to show up, so be sure you have a backup plan.

Since we had blitzed the press with invitations and press releases, Community Relations briefed our staff well ahead of time of the possibility that the press would attend (although none actually confirmed they were coming). Since not all staff members are comfortable with the idea of giving interviews, we designated certain staff members to handle any press questions.

The start time for the ribbon-cutting was 10 am. Earlier in the morning, volunteer staff hung banners and a local florist donated balloons for each end of the carrels. Community Relations strung the ribbon and positioned the podium in front of the banners, ribbon, and balloons for maximum visual effect (known as a photo opportunity).

After a brief welcoming statement from Jerry Thrasher, director of CCPL&IC, the four directors from the Cumberland county library system each had 5 minutes to explain how NC LIVE affected their users. All four directors stressed that without the funding and collaborative efforts of all the library systems, none of the libraries would have been able to individually offer even a small percentage of the NC LIVE databases to their users. After the speeches, librarians were on hand to give demonstrations and, more importantly, to encourage and assist guests in using NC LIVE for themselves.

As it turned out, the press did show up! Three television stations covered the arrival of NC LIVE in their 5:30 p.m. newscasts. Coverage ranged from 35 seconds to 2 minutes and 35 seconds—all presenting NC LIVE in a positive and informational light. Interestingly enough, snatches of phrases from the press release were used throughout the TV reporters’ commentaries, driving home the importance of writing exactly what you mean to say in any press release! It’s exciting for libraries to be covered positively in the news since they rarely receive much broadcast attention.

If a ribbon-cutting ceremony is not an appropriate event to introduce your CD-ROM products, there are other ways to bring special attention to them. In the NC LIVE Promotion Idea Book, there are suggestions for holding special “open houses.” Designate specific times (like lunch hours) for Chamber of Commerce or community organizations or senior groups, hold general after-work demonstrations, or have a student/faculty/staff “Get-to-Know Demo.”

The Importance of Follow-Up
In the case of NC LIVE, the marketing campaign was large-scale and state-supported, and the service differed somewhat from our CD-ROM products. However, you can use any or all of the marketing strategies to promote CD-ROMs in your library.

For us, NC LIVE is a complement, not replacement, for our existing CD-ROM products and Internet access. CD-ROMs and databases like those offered through NC LIVE provide better-organized, better-quality information that is easier and faster to access than what can be found on the Internet. So if customers come in knowing only that they want health information, or commentaries on world literature, or encyclopedia articles, then CD-ROM products are a natural resource for them to consider. People today expect easier access to information, and electronic resources allow for this. However, if people don’t know your library has CD-ROMs, or they don’t understand the type of information that the products offer and the ease with which they can access it, then it’s time to market CD-ROMs a little more aggressively.