Library Collection Chess

Our Collection Development Manager recently sent me this quote and I immediately wanted to share it with my readers. It is a profound statement about the biggest mistake most libraries make. They don’t market their collection. I want you to stop making that mistake!

In TV news, we know that viewers don’t really tune in to watch our show for the news. They watch for the weather forecast. I’ve found a similar principle applies to libraries. People come to your library for the books, CDs, DVDs, and magazines. The programs are great. Author visits are fun. Book clubs are engaging. But if you took away the foundation of your organization–the collection–then it wouldn’t matter how many programs or book clubs or author visits you lined up. People would not come.

So why aren’t more libraries marketing their collections? I think it’s because they take it for granted that the collection will market itself. It will not.

Think about your weekly grocery shopping. There are certain products you love and buy regularly. You know exactly where they are located in the store. You know how much they cost. You know how much you’ll need to buy to last you until your next trip. The store I frequent recently had a “pumpkin everything” display. The display, which was eye-catching and colorful, contained a pumpkin-flavored breakfast cookie infused with protein which I decided to buy. My kids ended up loving it and now it’s a regular part of my grocery list. When I went back to the store to buy more, the pumpkin-everything display was gone and I had to find the cookie in the cookie aisle. It was on the very bottom shelf. I would have never spotted that product had I been left to my own devices.

The Secret

The same is true of your collection. You may have a strong segment of cardholders who regularly pick up physical books or download eBooks from your library. There are plenty of easy and successful ways to further market your collection and entice these readers to do more reading!

Your first step should be to establish a great working relationship with the collections manager of your library. The collections staff will have the best knowledge of new books, popular books, and books that they think are wonderful but aren’t getting much circulation. All of these are opportunities for you to step in and do a little marketing.

It will work, I promise you. It’s pretty easy and customers are happy to receive these messages. Who doesn’t love to talk about great books and make reading recommendations?

There are dozens of ways you can market your collection. You can send targeted emails to cardholder clusters. You can spotlight books on your website. You can spotlight books on social media. We’ve had a lot of success doing this on Pinterest.

Here are some basic ideas to get your started. These have all worked for my library.

Market your new arrivals.  Check your new arrivals regularly. If you see a book by a popular author,  a book that’s getting a lot of press buzz, or a book with a great cover, market it.  My library does four targeted eblasts a month… one for print lovers, one for eBook readers, one for audiobook users, and one for parents. Each of these messages introduce the recipient to three new books in the collection with direct links to the catalog for easy checkout or holds. We typically see a 30 percent open rate on those messages and an average of 107 percent increase in holds. They really resonate with readers and they are an easy way to get your new books get into eager hands!

Market popular authors.  Your library statistics will give you a clear picture of the authors who are popular with your readers. My library keeps a Top Ten list and we update it each month. So when I’m looking for books to promote, these authors are top-of-mind. Our Library has a hot author service, which connects fans of popular authors with new books by those authors as soon as they are released.

Market popular genres.  Do your readers like mysteries? Are they into Amish romance? Do you get a lot of circulation for sci-fi thrillers? Ask collections to point you to a few great books that might not be getting a lot of circulation but are worth a read… then do your marketing!

Market read-a-likes. My library does this once a month. We pick a book and then ask someone from collections or a branch manager to put together a list of books that are similar to that initial book pick and then we publish them on our website, generate interest through targeted eblasts, and promote them on social media.  Our first Readalikes email message had a 32 percent open rate and a four percent click-through rate and brought us a 17 percent increase in holds for the nine titles on the list.


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