The Future of Library Marketing

Well, that was fun!

I am back from a three-day trip to St. Louis, Missouri, where I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the fifth annual Library Marketing and Communications Conference.

It. Was. Amazing.

I learned stuff, made friends, and I felt supported as I was surrounded by 450 fellow library marketers. Here are the top six things I learned while at this spectacular event.

Library marketers everywhere are struggling with the same problems. We’re all fighting to keep our branding clear and consistent. We’re all stumped about the best way to market programs. We are searching for ways to find success in internal staff communications. And we all feel like we could use more support from senior leadership.

It doesn’t matter if you’re working at a public library or an academic library. It doesn’t matter where your funding comes from. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. It doesn’t matter how big your staff is! We’re all in the same boat.

Many of the people I talked with at the conference found these problems frustrating. But we also found some comfort in knowing that everyone is facing the same issues.

Library marketers are on the forefront of a major push to make our libraries more diverse, accessible, and inclusive. It seemed like every time I made a new friend, the conversation turned to diversity and inclusion. Library marketers are pushing staff and senior leaders to make service accessible to everyone. They are pushing to make sure people of all backgrounds have a seat at the table when it comes to important decisions. They want to make sure their marketing messages and their library’s service are open to as many members of the community as possible. It’s inspiring! And library marketers are tenacious. So, get ready, because we’re going to be changing things!

Library marketers are obsessed with data. I’m so heartened to see how many of my colleagues are in a constant search for data. They want to make sure their messages are getting to the right audience at the right time, and they’re using data to make sure that happens.

They use data to make the case for libraries to add services and to demonstrate the value and impact of programs and services. They’re using data to make work easier for front-line staff, to understand their current users, to find non-cardholders, and to send targeted messaging in various forms to diverse audiences.  It was fun to be surrounded by fellow data nerds!

Library marketers have conflicting emotions about social media. But they’re no longer afraid! Library marketers of all ages are willing and eager to learn how best to use each platform. but they’re also frustrated because most platforms make it so dang difficult to get any organic reach and don’t seem to have any plans to make life easier for nonprofits and social service agencies.

But we’re not giving up! The session on creating memes was one of the most popular at the conference! The insta-stories session also got a lot of buzz. And at my own session on social media success, I got a lot of in-depth questions from the audience. I also talked to some Gen X library marketers who were eager to learn about “younger” social media platforms like Instagram. I’m a Gen Xer! If I can do it, I have no doubt you can too!

And speaking of social media, one of the weird and frustrating things I’ve noticed about most library conferences is the lack of live-tweets, Facebook, and Instagram posts during the conferences. This was not the case at LMCC! If you were stuck in room sick, as a good friend of mine was, you would have still been able to learn from the attendees who used the hashtag.

The proliferation of social media posts were also helpful for attendees who are torn between attending two sessions. I was able to get a lot of tips from sessions I couldn’t attend by checking the hashtag feed.

And when one of the conference board members asked members to turn on a special LinkedIn feature to connect with other attendees, they did it! I made a lot of new connections.

Library marketers who don’t have a library science degree often feel judged and misunderstood by the librarians in their systems. This was really disheartening. I am lucky in that I don’t think the librarians at my library think less of me because I don’t have a masters in library science (or if they do, they don’t make me feel like they do!).

I spoke with a great many library marketers who came to this profession from journalism or from marketing jobs at big companies and brands. They have a sincere desire to do work that is meaningful and to give back to the community. I hope that librarians will begin to view the marketing staff at their libraries as advocates and partners. We are here to help make sure your work reaches a large audience and to help sustain the library industry by communicating its value to the public and to stakeholders. Let’s work together!

Librarians are too humble and don’t brag enough about the work they do. The clear consensus among library marketing professionals is that humility is holding back the industry.

We’re all working hard to make sure the great work of front-line staff gets noticed, applauded,  and rewarded. This important task is made harder when librarians aren’t willing to talk about what they do. We all agreed that librarians are amazing and their work doesn’t get enough recognition. Let us help with you that!

Check the Upcoming Events page for a list of webinars and conferences where I’ll be next. Let’s connect! Plus, subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.