Marketing and that slimy feeling

May 8, 2007

Yesterday I took part in an all day training that focused on marketing the library.  Marketing…I do know that one must get the word out about an event or place or anything if one would like to attract patrons, clients, readers.  But how do you do it without feeling that your soul has left you or tingles run up your neck as you shamelessly promote yourself or your product?  I think to some it comes quite naturally and they integrate their pitch into their very being.  For me, well I’ve never been much of a pusher.

So the trainer for yesterday’s program focused her talk on audience targeting as a way to bring more people to the library’s services without having to spend a lot of money.  She did have some good ideas but her style was a bit combative and scattered which left me feeling bewildered and worn-out.  How long can you keep the target audience in the crosshairs of your marketing brainstorming?  Some of us lasted and some fell out first with their attention and then right out of the room.

Marketing and the library.  You have to be very careful because you do want folks to come to the library but do not want to stoop to the level of seedy advertising that debases both the library and the patron.  I for one moved out of the realm of retail to shift the focus from the bottom line to customer service.  Simply–I love the human interactions and cannot just look at patronsas a money sign or other such de-humanizing symbol.  There is too much magic in the meeting of intelligent beings to compromise the exchange with calculated promotion.  But I do realize the difficulty of leaving one’s personal agenda aside to really meet someone in the moment.  I guess I have to ask myself what I am looking for in my contact with library patrons and the relationships I maintain outside of work. 

Are we here to really meet each other or to just sell a product?

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5 Responses to “Marketing and that slimy feeling”

  1. awareness Says:

    a bit bizarre of a concept……..what is it you’re marketing at the library? Isn’t a library where you lend books and such? Is this for fundraising? I’m thinking about where my husband works (the university library) and I don’t see where marketing fits except for fundraising.

    It is all in the meeting of an individual in the moment……that’s good respectful interaction and there’s nothing phony about it, dont you think? My feeling is that if this is how patrons are treated and approached, they will feel a sense of belonging and comfort. They will return again and again. Once that is established, there is a connection to a place…………and a desire to give becomes inherent.

  2. Matthew Says:

    Hi Awareness–Yes I believe that it all comes to that individual interaction and putting the focus there will either invite or deter patrons. That meeting of library staff and patron is not phony and is the true basis of the work that we do.

    Our library system will soon be looking for someone to head the marketing team and “sell” all of the products we have to offer: books, audiobooks, CDs, DVDs, programs, etc. Many public libraries see marketing as essential to compete with all of the other forms of entertainment and education available in society.

    I definitely have mixed feelings on the matter. I think that the general population needs to know what kind of services we provide (their taxes pay for it) but we as a library must be careful not to cross into the realm of pushy sales people. It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds.

  3. ottkvo Says:

    Matthew,
    Marketing can be done in subtle ways like the 10 friends theory. You know do something good/bad and the patron tells 10 friends who tell 10 friends…

    Or you can proactively promote. I don’t necessarily mean selling…but offering more services then just the place to check out books model. Why not have poetry night or game night or music night and advertise it as a weekly activity that anybody can come to. The important thing to remember is if you start, you have to follow through. This type of promotion will probably not build a client base right away but over time. This is a type of promotion but not the in your face type.

    The scary thing is if we don’t promote ourselves or expand our services…communities will close the library. We take up a lot of money that they can use for other programs. If half your population just sees you as the place to check out books, then why do they need you if they can go on amazon and buy the book for $1?

    We don’t have to be pushy, we just need to build a good reputation. And whether we like it or not marketing/promotion is necessary if we want to improve the way our communities see us. Even if it’s just word of mouth.

  4. Matthew Says:

    Hi Ottkvo,

    I like your ideas and I do understand the need to both promote and expand our services. I’m looking forward to the creation and filling of the position of Marketer for Libraries (or something along those lines). I actually think it is a long time coming and will help the library system out greatly.

    Coming from the world of retail I do have reservations about marketing that reflects a lowering of standards just to attract. I don’t think our library sytem is headed in that direction but that cautionary feeling is here with me nonetheless.

    On the positive side I think our libraries have a great reputation in the community and that legacy will help bring in future generations of readers, listeners, participants. As with many other library systems we are undergoing the great shift from book repository to multi-faceted community gathering point where media can be consumed and shared. What a great time to work in a library!

    Thanks for the expansion of the conversation!


  5. Everyone needs to market themselves these days, even charities and public services. I just can’t feel comfortable with it though, i totally relate to the issues you bring up!


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