Marketing the Library

hand-895588_1920As part of my Masters course, I have just completed a unit on Marketing for Libraries. It was interesting to see how marketing concepts from for-profit businesses could be augmented to serve the purposes of the services industry.

While we are not ‘selling’ a ‘product’ in the traditional sense, we do still need to sell our services, and ensure that we promote the value we add. Through this unit I was introduced to a number of key texts that I can highly recommend for anyone trying to understand the basics of marketing from a library/information organisation’s perspective.

First, Ned Potter’s The Library Marketing Toolkit (2012) is a brilliant and simple overview of everything you need to know. Chapter one especially introduces the ‘seven key concepts’ which I found really rang true. For example, marketing the benefits and not the features!

A classic example is databases: we often say things like ‘we subscribe to 30 databases which you can access via the library catalogue’. We market the features; what people want to know about is the benefits. As library consultant Mary Ellen Bates says (2011), the way to market databases is to say ‘we provide you with information Google cannot find’. This, after all, is where their value to the user lies – this is why they need the library, so they don’t have to pay to subscribe to these databases for themselves. They don’t care about the how. They care about the result: the information they need,unavailable elsewhere.

I have thought this many times but never been able to so clearly articulate it. We frequently market things from the Librarian’s perspective and what we think users care about, but this is often wrong.

Another useful text is The Other 51 Weeks: A Marketing Handbook for Librarians by Lee Welch (2006). It also provides great summaries at the end of each chapter. However, being over 10 years old, there are some things (such as social media) that it doesn’t deal with as effectively as other books. I found Marketing and social media: A guide for libraries, archives, and museums by Koontz and Mon (2014) a really great resource, and it actually provides much broader information on marketing that just social media.

Of course, there are countless articles on this topic and they are well worth researching for information on one particular aspect, such as what are the best promotional tools. These books are a great starting point however and really got me thinking about how we can improve the way we market ourselves. What do you think you can improve?



Koontz, C., & Mon, L. (2014). Marketing and social media: A guide for libraries, archives, and museums. Maryland, USA: Rowman & Littlefield.

Potter, N. (2012). The Library Marketing Toolkit. London: Facet Publishing.

Welch, L. (2006). The other 51 weeks of the year: A marketing handbook for librarians (revised ed.). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, CSU.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s