$250,000 vs. $8 million.
That’s the spread between the amount my library spends on programming and the amount they spend on collections.
I bet if you checked your library, you’d find a similar story. So why, my dear friends, do library marketers spend the majority of their time and effort promoting programs?
Please understand me. I’m not saying that library programming isn’t important or worth promoting. Library programs nourish the soul of our community and offer cultural and educational opportunities for those who might not otherwise have access to them. Most library programs are a valuable and important part of the library’s mission to serve the community. And they deserve to be marketed!
But most library marketing teams spend their energy and resources promoting those programs. And they miss an undeniably important fact about library usage. Library cardholders want the books. They’re checking out books. That’s why they signed up for a library card!
A study by the Pew Research Center published in September 2015 shows 66 percent of library cardholders use their card to borrow books. Only 17 percent attend a library program, class, or lecture. Think about what people say when they sign up a library card. Most are going to tell you they are excited to check stuff out! We take it for granted that people know we have circulation items–books, magazines, music, and more. We need to stop that.
If we want to compete with Amazon and other bookstores, we have to promote our main asset–the collection. People are hungry for information about new stuff in the collection. And every time I talk to someone about the library and I mention that we loan eBooks, eAudiobooks and downloadable music, they look at me like I have two heads. We’re spending a ton of money to build our collection and our customers don’t really know it’s there. When they want a newly released book, who do your cardholders think of first–you or Amazon?
Before I was a library marketer, I worked as a television news producer. That means I put together each night’s newscast, decided which stories were told, in what order, and how they were told. Every year, our news director would bring in a consulting firm whose job it was to help us improve our shows and increase our viewership. I was proud of my work as a journalist. But when I was presented with the feedback from focus groups, it was clear that most viewers were watching my show for the weather. Hearing what was going on in the world was nice, but what they really wanted to know was whether it would rain the next day.
In television news, weather is king. In libraries, the collection is king. Collection marketing is a valuable investment for every library. The best way to market the collection is through targeted emails. In the next few blog posts, I’ll be sharing some secrets for targeted email messaging–things I’ve learned in the 18 months that we’ve done so at my library.
But you can start collections marketing right now through social media–especially Twitter and Pinterest– and by featuring books on the front page of your website. Create themed book lists–you can enlist your collections development department for help with that task. Talk about new books and popular books in your podcast or on your blog.
For a few minutes every day, spend some time marketing your collection. It will increase circulation and will help reinforce the image of your library as a place of vast resources in the eyes of your cardholders.
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