Should Libraries Engage in Marketing?

Recently, various libraries around the world have been actively and aggressively participating in marketing. Librarians have come to understand the importance of application of marketing principles in their libraries. There is no denying the fact that marketing, as a tool, helps further the goals that an organization sets for itself by focusing on the lifetime value of a customer. And the same fact holds true for libraries as well, which have been facing increasingly stiff competition from the modern changes.

What is a library?

From their inception, libraries have been indispensable to help propagate intellectual freedom and impart knowledge to the masses, irrespective of their age and vocation. Libraries are the most accessible centers for learning. They strengthen the ability of people to make informed decisions. Libraries help connect people with various ideas and information from around the world. Advancement and growth in every aspect of our lives depends on our ability to have an all-around understanding of our circumstances. Being the cornerstones of our societies, libraries are built to provide an avenue for such an unrestricted comprehension. Thus, libraries offer people a place where they can gather information, discuss it without any restraints posed on them and allow the outcomes of human endeavors to be based on facts rather than opinions or misconceptions.

What is marketing?

Marketing is a set of activities that helps an organization in identifying and addressing the needs of an individual in a way which compels the user to indulge in a voluntary exchange of goods or services. Marketing is essential for achieving organizational objectives because it engages the targeted market space in a meaningful way. In any context, it should not be seen only as a means to sell a product or service, but as a range of principles that can help the organization to meet the needs of the users.

Marketing in the context of libraries

The idea of employing marketing techniques for libraries is relatively new since, traditionally, marketing was associated only with business that are involved in direct commerce. However, libraries have been quick to adopt marketing in order to increase their reach and serve the current users in a better way. Even if a library is able to maintain a constant stream of users coming in daily, can the library be certain that its users will be using all of the services it has to offer in the most efficient way? When it comes to libraries, marketing strives to provide correct and sufficient information to the user at the right time. Adopting the marketing approach can enable a library to make a market plan, understand the users’ needs and formulate a strategy that adheres to its mission and fulfills its vision.

How can marketing help libraries?

Proper conception and implementation of marketing activities can help libraries in identifying the principal services that should be advertised and then go about communicating the services to the users. When a user is exposed to a piece of information about the library through marketing, not only does their curiosity grow but also their demands and expectations. This provides the library more room to grow and continue expanding without experiencing a stalemate in terms of ways to serve their targeted demographic better. Marketing will help libraries in instilling confidence in the users for continued funding of these pivotal institutions. It will also help libraries in securing additional sources of revenue to maintain their existence, should the sponsorship available from the public dry up.

Importance of marketing strategies in libraries

A marketing strategy helps the library in understanding the state of its services, products and information center. It facilitates the library in deciding what changes should be incorporated so that the library space can evolve to adopt better practices. Finally, marketing strategy helps the librarians in identifying the steps that will be required to realize the plan for their library. Marketing strategy sets a standard of quality to which the library must then adhere in order to realize the changes for its betterment. The various tools employed in marketing strategies such as posters, contests, segmentation, word-of-mouth marketing etc. help promote the existing products and services. Marketing strategy serves as a proactive stance to ensure that a library will not only survive but also thrive in the ever-changing market.

Hurdles in marketing libraries

The concept of quid pro quo is very relevant when it comes to marketing a library for its services and products. Libraries have to provide something first and take the initiative before they can reap the benefits. Marketing is such an involved process that it requires input from various domains. Librarians often consider it as extra work that is not as effective for their libraries as it is for the conglomerates or even local businesses. Many of them have a wrong connotation about what marketing truly entails and rely completely on the publicity and promotions instead of brainstorming a proper strategy. When such efforts do not give ample returns, they find the practice of marketing as a waste of time.

Marketing also requires financial input from the libraries. Since many libraries in the public sphere are dependent on the generosity of public sponsorships and subsidies, they find themselves unable to actively participate in marketing. However, there are various kinds and even mixtures of marketing strategies like word-of-mouth marketing that demand almost negligible investments but are still quite effective in capturing the imagination of the patrons.

The struggle to remain significant

In the 21st century, libraries should understand that treading on an unplanned path in terms of how they should continue their services without understanding the needs of the users and fulfilling them will undermine their importance. The existence of a library depends on developing and securing the trust and loyalty of customers, who have been satisfied by catering to their needs in a timely manner. In today’s world, libraries face threats from the technological changes on a day-to-day basis. Their survival in the digital information age is not possible without marketing their services and enlightening the users of the wonders of libraries.

 

 

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