Library marketing has become a hot topic, with public libraries working hard to increase footfall and enroll new members. With regard to special libraries, some companies believe that since the library is in place, staff will automatically flock to it. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case despite the fact that their users are a captive audience.
Through years of working with Lucidea’s clients, we’ve seen ample evidence that special libraries have a lot in common with public libraries when it comes to the need for marketing, and we’ve observed some great examples of how to market effectively.
Providing a library can be a big expense for a company, including staff wages, buying of stock, journal subscriptions and maintenance fees for a library management system, such as SydneyEnterprise. The library needs to attract enough users to make these outgoings worthwhile, and senior management need to see the benefits of having a library.
Analytics and relevance
Analytics are very important to library marketing. For example, your library system will show how many end users you have across all sites. How many of these are regular library users? How many of them are occasional users? How many have never set foot through the door? Naturally usage levels will vary company to company, but monitoring levels over time within your own company will yield powerful insights. For example, you can run statistics to see how many people have used your OPAC during a specific time period, or see how many items specific users have borrowed in the past year. You may be surprised at the results; they will almost certainly highlight some marketing opportunities.
Is marketing only relevant to public libraries? Definitely not! A special library’s worth is also measured (in part) by usage. Once you’ve used analytics to uncover who is using your services and content, the challenge is converting the non-users. After all, the people already using your library are likely to continue. Demand for information is increasing, which means that the need for your library should also be increasing. Finding more ways of making your employees aware of relevant library services, proving that visiting the library is more reliable than searching Google, and showing how using the library can save them time and make them more effective in the long run is a battle worth fighting.
Library marketing delivers four main benefits:
- Higher usage. With more people aware that you offer relevant services, slowly but surely, people will use them. Increased library usage means more need for library staff, which in turn helps to preserve your team.
- Increased value to your organization. If you can show senior managers that the library provides a good return on their investment, they will keep investing. If the library meets its goals and objectives while providing cost effective service to staff, management will understand the value of the library. It is possible to work out a monetary value for the services you offer; presenting those figures shows that you speak the same language as your leadership and establishes credibility.
- Educated users. Making resources like online databases available and training staff in their use will accustom them to information retrieval techniques beyond Google searches. Spending time with employees, whether they use the library regularly or not, empowers them to be independent users in the future. In the long term this makes them more efficient and effective, and therefore more valuable to the company, potentially increasing profitability.
- Changed perceptions. Unfortunately, some people still see libraries as old fashioned and behind the times. If you can publicize your library by highlighting your innovative services and the cutting edge technology you offer, and build awareness through methods such as having a coffee bar or organizing a reading group, people will start to realise how beneficial, necessary and relevant libraries are. This can lead to a change in company culture and perception of the library.
While the task of marketing your library may seem daunting, the benefits are evident. Rather than running the occasional marketing activity, you may decide to create a full marketing plan and link it to your mission statement or yearly objectives. Give it a go and see what works for you.
Whitepaper on virtual special libraries; success factors, challenges, supporting processes and technologies, how professional development is affected
Skills for special librarians include staying current with digital skills in order to meet the needs of users and work effectively.
Skills for special librarians include intentional networking; identify interests and areas where you can grow. Be strategic in networking.
Content needed by special libraries is widely available in open formats; knowing what resources are available is important for special librarians.