Marketing in Public Libraries

When budgets are tight and staff time is already stretched between collection maintenance tasks and serving patrons, a marketing plan can be regarded as “nice to have” rather than an essential function in public libraries.

Why make marketing a priority?

Introducing a plan of measurable and cost effective marketing activities can help public libraries to increase circulation, attract new users, and build relationships with existing patrons.

Benefits of a marketing plan

Flexible: Public libraries are dynamic and your marketing plan should reflect this. Plan to experiment with activities until you find what works well for your library and what can be maintained long term. A great example is social media. Short of time? Don’t add more pressure by creating a page to be maintained for every social media platform, focus on 1 or 2 and keep content engaging to create maximum impact.

Audience Targeted: Public libraries attract a diverse audience and marketing activities can be tailored to target different groups of patrons. Consider patron communications: while email may be an effective tool to reach certain demographics, traditional mail via a library newsletter may be better suited to others.

Cost Effective: With some imagination, public libraries can make use of marketing tools at little or no cost. Examples include posting news on social media, developing a set of style guidelines so that promotional posters can be created in house, and encouraging patrons to opt in to email notifications and newsletters.

Easy to Monitor: The most important part of any marketing activity is the evaluation of its success. There are a number of tools that can be used at no charge to monitor website visits and social media success, helping to better plan future campaigns based on learnings from past experiences. collectionHQ’s Marketing Module offers an extensive range of tools which allow customers to experiment with new collections and displays, then evaluate their performance.

What are other libraries doing?

collectionHQ Marketing Module: collectionHQ’s Marketing Module enables customers to create and monitor promotional displays, generate posters, experiment with new collections and merchandising. Libraries using this tool have achieved increased interest in specific collections and as a result increased circulation. Experimental tools within the Marketing Module have offered valuable insight into collections and the success rate of promotional displays.

Events: National events such as Summer Reading Challenge or National Library Day offer public libraries the opportunity to join in with social media trends and conversations across the country. Many libraries use the public interest generated by these events as an opportunity to attract new members or to promote certain collections.

Blogs: Blogs provide the perfect platform to share news directly with patrons. Many public libraries use blogs to write reviews and announce upcoming library events. By enabling “shares” on blog pages, posts can be shared with a larger audience and potentially attract new users.

Social Media: Like a blog, social media allows libraries to communicate directly with patrons and share news in real time. As with all marketing activities, plans should be put in place to monitor social media success and evaluate which posts have been most engaging. Most social media platforms offer free reports to track engagement with certain content: from links to a relevant news article, to photos.

PR and Newsletters: Keep patrons up to date on what is new at your library by joining with local press to release library announcements, or circulating your own library newsletter. Keep costs down by offering an electronic newsletter that can be emailed to patrons regularly.

Marketing at your library 

The options are extensive. So how do you decide which marketing activities should be included in your plan? Introducing some metrics to your marketing experiments will help to suggest which activities provide the most return from your efforts. collectionHQ’s Marketing Module offers readily available metrics that can be applied to marketing experiments to monitor and evaluate their success. Other metrics to consider are the impact of your marketing practices on the number of new registered users, level of footfall, and frequency of visits from existing patrons. Surveys are another useful way to assess your patrons’ experience and expectations.

Marketing is a proven way of enhancing patron relationships and keeping the public library current. We hope the blog has helped to provide some food for thought to support your existing marketing plan, or to introduce a new one!



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