Archive for the 'engagement' Category


Thanks to Kathleen for the info on libraries and their relationship to sustainability, particularly as it relates to the environment. I was speaking in my last post about institutional sustainability – but Kathleen’s post made me wonder: is it just a twist of familiar (and perhaps non-threatening) words that has us talking about accountability, particularly in terms of funding? If it were caged in business speak, would we be able to hear and participate? Is the conversation sustainability really more about pr or marketing? And, how much of what we do, or are willing to do, has to do with how we talk about it?

Are we more comfortable learning the process of “telling the library’s story” than we are with formalizing a marketing strategy? Are there ways in which this comfort zone becomes a box we can’t see outside of?

experiencing collections

From Laura at Library Crunch:

… libraries must craft their services and collections to reflect the needs of their individual communities. If your community is crying out for the latest in popular fiction or a collection of classics (or likely a combination of both), then by all means that is what you should provide. As librarians we are here to serve our users by providing them with the information and resources they want, not glare down our noses at them because of their reading choices.

Last year I interviewed Annie Norman, Delaware State Librarian, about how collection development is evolving for public libraries in Delaware. After the interview, Norman sent me the Dover Public Library User Identity-Motivation Study that the Dept. of Libraries had contracted with the Institute for Learning Innovation to understand public library users and their motivations in Dover. (Kudos to Norman for questioning how much we really know about what patrons want – and then offering segmentation as one solution for getting us there.)

Guess what? The study concluded that library users could be categorized as “experience seekers” more frequently than any other category. And the opportunity they discovered for this group? Community building. From the report:

All users believed that at a rudimentary level, libraries already act as community centers, allowing communities to communicate shared values such as cultural diversity or the joy of learning and reading. However, a disproportionate number of Experience Seekers spoke of the potential for libraries to expand this role by offering opportunities for them to come to the library for a wider variety of activities, such as:

  • Offering enriched programming such as classes, guest speakers, reading groups, etc. Users spoke of wanting an interactive exchange with experts, which is not available on television or the internet. In addition to presentations with personal accounts and/or expert knowledge, users wanted to be able to ask questions, and connect personally with the presenter.

  • Libraries could work harder at building community by offering individuals the opportunity to engage with others who share specific interests and learning preferences; all while providing a safe space to support identity-building and personal exploration. Again, a number of the individuals we talked with felt libraries could expand this role through both expansion of above mentioned programs as well as through the development of specialized groups or clubs.

I agree with Laura about service/collection development practices and policy. I would push us further: to expand our ideas of “services” or “collection” to include participatory experiences around the materials our communities show interest in and want to create connections around.

There’s first the resistance to the glaring down of noses. Second, the invitation to dialog and connect. (Does your library really listen?) Finally, there’s the appropriate appropriation of resources towards the meeting of true needs.

I’d love to hear from folks who may have practical examples of library invitations to patrons to experience their collections, or from patrons experiencing collections and materials in ways that wouldn’t be possible without the library’s invitation.

community-contributed content (for books)

I am super excited that as my writing of the first draft of our marketing chapter wrapped up, I had two fantastic conversations with library-land folks about writing selected sidebars. I’m really hoping this works its way into other areas of the book as well, because it’s a nice way for us to (1) engage more of the library community in the concepts and writing process and (2) get into a little bit more detail on a small section, concept, example, or what have you.

(And, wouldn’t you know it, it was super easy to just create a new collaborative document (using Google docs, formerly writely) to start to work on that stuff on the web together – and for me it’s all in the context of the writing / collection that I’m working on with Steven. I’m really starting to see the potential for something like this to be extremely powerful for quickly and easily collaborating with others for book-length projects.)
So, anyway, many thanks to Brian Matthews and Jill Stover for talking with me about these ideas. I’m really excited to see where they go from here. Please do check out their blogs for some stimulating marketing ideas for your library in the meantime.

social marketing

In the early 1970s, Kotler and Zaltman (1971) noticed that marketing ideas, processes and practices were being used to influence target audiences towards actions for the benefit of themselves, their groups, or society as a whole. They coined the term “social marketing” (as distinct from “consumer marketing”) and the discipline developed, primarily through health-behavior-related programs, through the last part of the 20th Century. Weinreich (1999) calls social marketing “an approach that benefits the people who are adopting the behaviors or society as a whole, rather than the organization doing the marketing.” More recently, the UK’s National Social Marketing Center (2006) developed a working-definition of social marketing as “the systematic application of marketing concepts and techniques, to achieve specific behavioural goals, to achieve a social or public good.” According to the Center, social marketing has three main elements:

  • it aims to achieve a particular ‘social good’ (rather than commercial benefit) with specific behavioral goals clearly identified and targeted;
  • it is a systematic process phased to address short, medium and long-term issues;
  • it utilizes a range of marketing techniques and approaches (a marketing mix).

Social marketing principles can help libraries move the discipline of traditional consumer marketing into a context of libraries building communities. In addition to pulling the traditional “four Ps” (product, price, place, promotion) through a mission-based outlook, social marketers and others bring in a number of additional factors that are typical to mission-based projects. It seems to me that we should also be thinking about people, partners, funding and the value proposition.

See anything missing?

Also, this is an excerpt and we’re not quite sure how we’re handling sources yet, so please let me know if you want details on any of those mentioned here.

lbc + marketing @

I finally organized my smattering of online resources from the marketing/libraries research I’ve been doing into my account. You can find them through this search for lbc+marketing. Some of these are library-related, some of them are not.
Please, if you have others – let me know! I’m hoping to grow (and then weed) this collection as we get closer to final draft.


your fave library/marketing blogs

i’m curious – those of you already interested in marketing – what are your fave library related marketing blogs? please let me know so that i can add them to my feed while i’m working on this marketing piece.

and favorite non-library-related marketing blogs? throw a few of those in there too for good measure if you’d like.

and while i’m here: no-one replied to my latest question about how we should address the marketing/libraries issue. maybe that’s because no one has an answer about how to resolve the misconceptions around marketing and profit sector. or, maybe it’s because we’re already ‘over it’ and nobody (reading this blog) really cares about the misconceptions anymore. i’m curious about this (still) because i’m finding as i write this chapter that i keep using  words like “customer” and “product” – yes, even in the context of community building i find myself going there. it feels like there is a tension here that i need to resolve with some consistent use of language. or, am i just finding things to fret about and i just need to move on?

lost post

last night I posted a thank you to everyone who sent in email and comments on my last questions. and even more thanks for the short diversion. now i’m back to “the grind” and that is: thinking more about marketing and libraries so that i can get on with my present chapter.
i have no idea where my post went, so i’ll try to recreate it (how annoying).

the item (ok, one of them) that is left unsettled for me in all of my thinking about marketing and libraries is how we should talk about it. should we frame this discussion as “advocacy” or “outreach” and in a context of “this is stuff that libraries have always done – you can do it!” or should we just be a little more blunt and face the whole private sector business speak that we (esp public sector librarians) typically avoid?  business-folk are  ultimately better at marketing – they just are – and it’s not because they are smarter or sexier or even swarmier – they just have the training and experience that most of us did not get in library school. but does saying that put people off and make the concepts behind it (the practical stuff we really need to get to) inaccessible?

Would love to hear from anyone that’s responsible for marketing in their library. what’s worked for you in terms of talking about it with your colleagues?

five years in

Are you between five and ten years into your career as a library or information professional? If yes, a few questions for you:

-What has been the most surprising thing about your first five years? (This is another version of “What do you wish you had learned in library school, but didn’t?”) How did you cope or respond to this surprise?

-In what ways have you changed, grown, or learned now that you have a bit more experience under your belt? Have your early career goals or intentions changed?

-What’s the most effective way you’ve found to impact your workplace and the profession?

-What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve found to impact your workplace and the profession?

-How do you stay connected to colleagues and peers – in your organization and beyond?
Don’t feel you need to answer all of the questions – you can just pick one or two and add your thoughts. I’m taking a short break from the marketing stuff to think on the “staying engaged” aspect of community building and library practice and I’d love to have your perspectives! Please reply by comment or privately by email – I’ll contact you for confirmation before we put anything you have to say into print.

Thanks as always…

you know who they are

Please nominate your colleagues doing community building in libraries as Library Journal  Movers & Shakers for 2007. The form is quick to fill and it’s due November 1.

universal brands (that kill?)

Last week I had a surprising conversation with someone in my neighborhood who hadn’t realized that the library had become so much more than books. “Sometimes we go to the library with [insert 2yr old] for story time but there’s really no other reason for us to go there.” In spite of my own knowledge that we have work to do on “the library brand,” I still found myself wondering – how could he not know? On reflection, I realized that his perceptions match many of the community members we have yet to reach, and to serve. I seriously have no business even being surprised by this conversation!OCLC’s recent Perceptions report notes that the library brand is universal. To library users around the world it means one thing: books. “There is no runner up.” Perceptions is generous and optimistic about our brand. It’s everything that marketers dream of: ubiquitous, prevalent, understood. But how useful is all that if these perceptions aren’t accurate, and we’re not changing them. That is, what if the “purity” of our brand is … killing us?

Do staff in your library fret over whether or not “books” is our only connection to the folks we aim to serve. What other meaningful messages are there?

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