Library Marketing Toolbox

30 07 2007

After reading about that PLA grant, I’m ready to share my project/grant proposal with all of you.

Over the next eight months, I’m going to be putting together a website called the Library Marketing Toolbox (working title). I’m going to be working with nonprofit marketing and advocacy folks, as well as some traditional marketing people to develop a set of tools to help libraries begin their own campaign of promotion. There will be four separate toolboxes on the site: advocacy, marketing, fundraising, and public relations. I would also like the site to have a social networking component, so that librarians could share their own experiences and successes as well as critique the effectiveness of the tools on the site (so they can be revised in the future). Some of the marketing-specific tools would include a database of creative-commons/open-source stock library photography for use on websites and posters, templates for flyers or pamphlets, and creative ideas for promoting the library within the community.

Since I want this project to be maintained and updated, I’m pitching a course on advocacy and marketing that would be taught at my graduate school. This course would teach future librarians about advocacy and marketing, but also give them hands-on experience in designing tools for marketing and advocacy. Students would revise and add to the toolbox website each year, and launch a marketing campaign to promote it to librarians.

The funding necessary for such a site would be minimal, since I hope to get the experts to work pro bono, but I will be writing a small grant in the hopes of possibly covering an adjunct professor’s salary.

I feel very optimistic about this project, but I will be the first to admit that I am not an expert in marketing. I only have a desire to learn, and share what I’m learning with others. I know there is a need for library advocacy tools, and even if the site has no earth-shattering revelations or cutting edge marketing campaigns, it will at least gather relevant information together in one place. My goal is to have tools that will help those just getting started create some quality marketing materials, but also to help those with the time/resources available develop a fully-realized marketing and advocacy campaign.

This is all a work in progress, and I welcome any input or criticisms you may have. Currently, the title of the site is sticking in my craw a bit. The tools that will be on the site truly encompass the idea of advocacy…but what is marketing if not advocacy? So even the title is up for slings and arrows.

Fire away.


I was just poking around on PLA’s website (why don’t they have an RSS feed!) when I found that PLA launched a Toolkit for Success at ALA annual this year. Since I didn’t go to annual, I hadn’t heard of this toolkit, which PLA charges $100 for ($90 with ALA membership).  Although I am disappointed that the name Toolkit necessitates a name change for the site I’m developing (far too similar), I believe Project M (new working title) will be a much different venture. The PLA publication sounds like a marketing manual which may be very useful, but there are many marketing manuals out there. What I’m trying to bring together are actual tools and resources that libraries can use to their benefit, and a social network to collaborate and create new marketing tools for the library community. I do plan to pick up a copy of the PLA’s Toolkit, but $90 seems a bit steep. Maybe I should write that into my grant…. 


PLA receives $7.7 million grant for advocacy training

30 07 2007

The PLA was just awarded a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation that will enable them to provide advocacy training to librarians.  Full press release here.

What a wonderful opportunity! I’m very anxious to see how they carry this out… I’d love to see their grant application to see how they’ve laid out the program.   There’s not a grantee profile up on the BMG Foundation website yet, but it looks like they had an existing desire to improve library advocacy, evidenced by this page with a dvd and brochure to help libraries get started in connecting to their communities.

If anyone knows where I could check out their grant proposal, I’d be very grateful! What an exciting time to be a public librarian.

The Big One

26 07 2007

Yesterday, I received my very own copy of Robin Hood Marketing, which I won free by being the first commenter to request a copy on Sybil’s Quality Service Marketing Blog a few weeks back (I guess the early bird does get the worm!). Thanks Katya and Sybil!

Although I initially checked the book out through ILL, I knew by page three that this was a book I wanted to write all over, so I was thrilled when the QSM Blog gave away a copy.

It will come in very handy in my huge impending multi-semester(multi-year?) project. I haven’t talked about it here yet (although it is more than relevant) because I need to organize my thoughts on it in a more logical way. The whole process is bigger than anything I’ve ever attempted before, and involves so many more people than just myself.

I’ve learned over the years that I am fairly controlling… I love it when delegation works, and I love watching my teammates succeed, but sometimes it just seems easier (and safer) to do things myself. I really have to watch myself here because I know that this could lead to overly-controlling, dominating behavior that crushes the creativity and input of others. I’m glad I was made aware of it early on while I can try and redirect those impulses in a more positive direction.

When all is said and done, this project will be about marketing, PR, advocacy, and fundraising, and it will also require marketing, PR, advocacy, and fundraising. It will involve professors, students, librarians, lobbyists, marketers, community advocacy groups, friends groups, big libraries, little libraries, and every library supporter who wants to participate. Heck, even ALA can pitch in if they want.

I’ve got to get this plan drawn up in the next 48 hours, so I’ll end the suspense then. But I’ll be needing all the help y’all are willing to give!

Blog comments as virtual focus groups

18 07 2007

It’s incredibly frustrating to read comments by non-library users on what they think of libraries, especially compared to bookstores. Take the following, posted by scunning (#14) on the Freakonomic’s blog post, If Public Libraries Didn’t Exist, Could You Start One Today?: (via)

Even if one doesn’t read an entire novel at the bookstore, they still replicate many of the same functions of the library, like house a diverse inventory of books, allow browsing by consumers in a comfortable atmosphere, and have reading programs for children…booksellers are doing a lot – perhaps even more – for encouraging reading in the US than public libraries. The selection at your average B&N swamps the average public library, and will continue to do so as B&N and other bigbox booksellers continue to expand into the suburbs, inner cities, and small towns.

It’s enough to make you want to tear your hair out, right? This commenter has already labeled himself as a “collector” who buys all his books from online retailers. Which indicates that he does not use the library (although he does get things for his children at libraries). So how can he possibly “know” that the average B&N has a bigger selection than the average library? What is the average library?

But wait… I’m not stepping on that soapbox today.

Today, I want to remind you that Mr. Scunning is a potential library user. I want to remind you that every commenter on the Freakonomics Blog for this post (or any post anywhere, really) is a potential library user. By writing a post on a non-library related blog, Freakonomics has, essentially, created a virtual focus group for us. That’s the data.

Instead of spending time writing up a point-by-point rebuttal to those comments (infuriating though they may be), why not re-cast them? What if you got those comments in your suggestion (in)box at your library? Hopefully you wouldn’t disregard them… After all, this [potential] patron took the time to tell you where they thought the library was weak. That gives you the opportunity to figure out a way to fix it.

There is some incredibly valuable information just waiting to be harvested from those comments. Our patrons and potential patrons may not always come to us to tell us what they think of our services, and any comment they leave on a library-related (heck, even bookstore-related) post can help us do a better job of serving our patrons, including those who don’t use us (yet).

We trust you…

14 07 2007

I’m tickled that Seth Godin mentioned libraries as places where people are still trusted with the honor system, but it makes me wonder… how long has it been since Mr. Godin has been in a library?

Last time I checked, we still put tattle tape in every material we put on the shelf…and patrons are continually embarrassed when we fail to fully de-magnetize our materials causing the gate to beep accusingly. 

I wonder what the rates of loss were that caused the tattle tape to become so ubiquitous…? Was it solely related to multi-media items being shelved on the floor instead of behind the desk?

We’re too close to our libraries

14 07 2007

How can that be possible? Well, when speaking of marketing, librarians have far too much invested in the institution of “library” to be able to effectively step back and call themselves “patron.”

We can’t rely on our experiences as patrons (or even as a customer) when deciding on policy, collection development, program development, or marketing, simply because we’re not the average consumer of library services. Advergirl’s latest post,The Worst Focus Group is You, really drove this home for me.  I’m the worst about saying “Well, when I use the library, I do x, y, and z” or “I use X product, and I think…”  I needed to be reminded that I am not a normal consumer.  I have blinders on for some things, and I’m too critical of others.  I do pick apart direct mail advertisements, and packaging and signage (help me!). I can’t help myself.

This is something I hope to remember when it really matters most. Focus groups are a necessary and worthy expense.  Perhaps some of that expense can be lessened if we pooled resources and did a national focus group, but that won’t represent our individual communities and the local lives of our particular patrons. So that’s something that must be budgeted for. We can’t simply put on our Patron hat for the afternoon and try and represent our users.  We need to ask them what they think. Keep taking their pulse…don’t try to put yourself in their shoes…just ask them what its like for them, being a patron of your library. Equally important to include in these focus groups would be those individuals who don’t use library services.

I need to learn more about focus groups!  Has anyone out there conducted one? What was the process like? Did you find it beneficial or disheartening? Any experiences with Web 2.0 based focus groups (if there is such a thing)?

Excuses excuses.

4 07 2007

I know it’s been a bit quiet around here lately.  My first summer session has a bit of overlap with the second summer session, so what with work, exams, research papers, and volunteering, I haven’t had much time to keep up with library marketing goings-on. My RSS reader folders are positively groaning under the weight of all those unread articles.

Let me make it through this next week and I’ll be back!