The State of

First, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who filled out the library marketing survey I sent back in May. The survey is my way of understanding the challenges my blog readers face when trying to market their library! I’ll use these results as a jumping-off point for posts over the next few months… answering some of your questions and encouraging you in areas where I think might be able to help you see bigger success in your marketing efforts. We’re all in this together!

And now, here are the results…

47 people responded from libraries across the country. It’s not a huge sample size but for a first survey on a small blog with a specifically targeted audience of library marketers, I’ll take it! 15 of the respondents were librarians, three were library directors, and 16 were marketing professionals with titles like Community Relations Manager, External Relations Managers, Marketing Coordinator, and Marketing and Communications Manager. About 32% of the respondents work for a library serving between 10 and 50,000 cardholders. Most of the others serve between 50,000 and 500,000 cardholders .


50% of respondents say there are between two and five employees in their library marketing department, 43% run the department by themselves! Many of the respondents are responsible for both marketing content and the website maintenance. In some libraries, respondents say marketing efforts, the library website, and social media are covered by committee, with several members contributing to keep all three tactics running smoothly. 58% of libraries have web team set up separately from their library marketing department.

Approximately 42% of respondents had no idea how much money their library budgets each year for marketing. 22% spend more than $20,000 and about 19% spend between $1000 and $5000. Some respondents said the money they spend on marketing comes from the overall library budget. Many told me they have less than $1000 to spend every year (OUCH).

Libraries overwhelming rely on printed material like posters, fliers and bookmarks, as well as social media and their website to market to their cardholders. 58% have a printed newsletter, 60% have an email newsletter. Only about 35% have a blog and only 32% use targeted email messaging. Some told me they print calendars of programs and classes. Others utilize outreach for marketing.


Only one respondent said their library is utilizing customer personas for targeted email messaging!!!! Another respondent says their library is in the beginning stages of creating an email marketing strategy. This pains me greatly. I totally understand why it’s not happening (budget) but I think we’re putting the industry at risk by staying at the sidelines in an increasingly competitive marketing space.  We need to do more convincing of our library administration to give us the money to market effectively. Targeted email messaging is one of the most effective ways to market to cardholders.

Of the library marketers who send non-targeted email messages to cardholders 20% send 1-2 messages a month and 10% send one a week.

Facebook is the overwhelming social media platform of choice for libraries. All respondents post there. That’s followed by Twitter (83%), Instagram (55%), and Pinterest ( 43%). About 17% of respondents say their library is posting on YouTube. There was one responded who said they used Snapchat-I need to pick your brain!


64% of respondents say their marketing is focused primarily on programs. 33% said they promote collections and programs. One respondent said they didn’t have a documented strategy. Others said they consider themselves to be marketers of library services.

The not-so-surprising takeaways

Library marketers are working with a small staff and a limited budget. We need to do a better job of convincing our administrators and our library board to give us a budget. It doesn’t take tens of thousands of dollars but I can’t even begin to imagine how you are expected to do your job properly with less than $1000 to spend a year on marketing. That’s absurd. There, I said it.

Libraries need to be doing targeted email messaging! It works!! I cannot say this enough. It has worked for our library and it can work for you, too.

Libraries need to spend more time promoting their collection and their librarians. When I worked in news, we all knew the truth:  People watch the news for the weather. This isn’t very encouraging for reporters, but survey after survey showed us it was the reality. In the same way, people come to the library for books. We need to do a better job marketing our collection. There are endless ways to do this: promote new selections, publish reading recommendations, gather reviews by librarians, and highlight great classics. An increase in circulation numbers is just as vital to a library’s success as an increase in visits… and the more books they want, the more visits you’ll get!

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.