Libraries are Horrible at Marketing

The Results Are In and They Aren’t Good: Library Marketing” caught my eye a few weeks ago and it has been bouncing around in my head ever since.  The article reports on a marketing survey about how public libraries market themselves, effectiveness of marketing initiatives, and engagement within their communities. 

The results aren’t pretty.

The results clearly indicate there’s a disconnect; a canyon between what should be happening and what is happening within the marketing schemas of public libraries. In an era when the value of libraries are under scrutiny and library budgets are under siege it is essential that libraries communicate their value to users as well as non-users. A failed marketing practice is failed communication.”

While this article is specifically about public libraries, I can’t help but read it with medical librarian eyes.  I found myself nodding and talking back to the computer screen like a crazy librarian hopped up on caffeine.  I just kept thinking that medical libraries are probably just as bad or worse. 

How many institutions make it difficult to send out targeted emails to user groups?  How many institutions have decent front pages or information pages on their Intranet or Internet sites that employees actually read to stay informed?  How many of these same institutions only fill that information up with the institution’s marketing information and don’t allow departments (such as the library) post information? 

How many medical libraries rely on the website to post news?  The article clearly states that libraries don’t feel this is the most effective way to reach people.

Not only do we do a crummy job of marketing to our own users, we surely aren’t reaching non users.  I found an interesting article the other day, “Exploring factors in non-use of hospital library resources by healthcare personnel.” (Library Management. Vol 34. No. 1/2, 2013. pp.105-127.)  The study found out that the hospital libraries did a poor job of getting their message out.  Many people didn’t know there was a library, thought it was only for doctors or didn’t think it had information to help them. Those that knew about the library were misinformed at what exactly was in the library. 

After reading those articles my mind kept thinking, we have a serious uphill trek to make and we are wearing roller skates for it. 

I don’t have the answers but I know there are others who have ideas that have worked (and didn’t work) and might be willing to share them in the comments section.  Perhaps somebody can share how they can email large groups of people without falling afoul of the institution’s rules on mass emails.  Additionally, somebody might be able to share ways of getting their message out to people who may not think the library is for them like secretaries, nutritionists, social workers, etc.  How do you get your online message read? Where besides the library website do you post them?  Finally, one small plea… if you are using Facebook or Twitter to reach users please have engagement numbers beyond “Likes” in addition to your strategies.  I am tired of hearing about librarians who say they have a million “likes” on their Facebook page but nobody besides librarians are posting on their wall.  One way communication isn’t communication and isn’t engaging users.  That is no different than posting a flyer about library classes in the library staff break room.

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