Teenagers and young people in the 1950s in a library. Some are sitting at a table looking at magazines, while others search through the card catalog.
Photo courtesy Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

This past week, I spent three-plus hours in a room with 38 library marketers.

We worked together on all those pieces of library marketing that we don’t normally have time for.

We identified our libraries’ strengths and weaknesses. (My weakness: spelling).

We named our libraries opportunities and threats. We set SMART goals.

We identified our target audiences (hint: your audience is not everyone!). And we talked about measuring promotions to replicate success.

These are the fundamentals of library marketing. These are the building blocks that ensure your marketing will be successful.

This was the first-ever pre-conference workshop for the Library Marketing and Communications Conference, which returned in all its in-person glory. Shoutout to the dozens of readers who took the time to say hello to me!

I told the group that I knew, without a doubt, that I would learn something from them. And I did.

A room full of library marketers, sitting at tables and waving at the camera.
My 38 new best friends

Here are the four things I learned from this fantastic, dedicated, intelligent, creative, and curious set of library marketers.

Library marketers need time to think.

We are all doing too much.

We must make print collateral, send emails, schedule social media posts, attend meetings, make press releases, do outreach events, and then attend more meetings.

I asked almost everyone I met at LMCC how things are going at their library. And I lost track of the number of times the response was, “It’s been a little nuts.”

The idea of setting aside time to consider what is to be done, how it will be done, who will do it, and how it can be more effective, is an entirely foreign concept to most libraries. 

We don’t give our employees the time to work through strategic planning. There is no rest. At many libraries, the marketing is done by librarians who also have other duties. There’s never any time to breathe.

And then we wonder why it’s so difficult to create successful library marketing and communications.

That happens because we never take the time to do all the fundamental work that is necessary to ensure our marketing is effective. We’re building houses without foundations.

So, the workshop gave these library marketers permission to ignore email, text messages, chats, and outside distractions. They got three hours to focus solely on building the foundations for strong library marketing.

It’s important to create that space for yourself as a library marketer. I know it’s difficult. If you can’t attend a workshop, you can set aside time on your calendar, like you would for a meeting, to do this important background work.

Put your phone in a locked drawer. Turn off your chat program. You can even leave your physical workspace if you need to. When I worked at the Cincinnati Library, I would hide in the stacks when I needed to do this work.😉

Library marketers face the same struggles.

We did a SWOT analysis exercise, where each library marketer identified their library’s strengths and weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. And then we shared as a group.

How many of these do you recognize as your library’s weaknesses and threats?

  • A marketing team made up of one person, trying to do ALL the promotions
  • Difficulty getting people to take an action, like place a hold or register for a program after they engage with marketing
  • Having too much to do
  • Having no identifiable library branding
  • The approvals process
  • Threats to funding

The list goes on.

During this exercise, the library marketers in the room began to realize that they are not working alone on an island. There are thousands of library staffers out there who understand their struggles because they face those same difficulties. They felt truly seen.

Library marketers have a lot to celebrate.

As much as we struggle to do effective library marketing, we also have many, many, many wins to celebrate. We should be proud of:

  • Our social media engagement
  • Our impactful partnerships
  • The fact that people open and read our emails more than they do for any other industry!
  • We have so much great content to promote.

We don’t do enough celebrations in library marketing. That’s one of the reasons I started giving out Kudos in The Library Marketing Show and began recognizing libraries via #LibraryoftheDay.

You can help. When you see a library doing great marketing work, give them a shoutout on social media. Better yet, email them to let them know you noticed their amazing promotion. You can also nominate a library for Kudos on The Library Marketing Show.

A little bit of celebration goes a long way to boosting morale for library marketing. We can be each other’s cheerleaders!

Library marketers thrive when they have a friend.

Most of the attendees of the pre-conference session told me they are introverts. But when I asked this room full of strangers to pair up, the room got super noisy!

There were smiles. There was laughter. There were conspiratorial looks and nods of understanding. It was magical.

And it occurred to me… sometimes we just need someone who understands our work.

You may be wondering how you can find a library marketer to be friends with. One way is to join the LMCC Discussion Group. You can also join the Library Marketing Book Club.

Or you can message me on LinkedIn. Tell me a little about yourself and I’ll introduce you to a library marketing buddy.

Let’s support and encourage each other. When we work together, we strengthen the library industry and, most importantly, do a better job of providing service to our communities.

More Advice

Stop What You Are Doing! Before You Launch Another Library Event or Service, Take These 5 Steps to Define Your Promotional Strategy

Call It What It Is: Toledo Public Library Explains Their New Brand Strategy

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