Can I interest you in a library?


What is the power of marketing? Well think about something bright red and bright yellow. Did your mind immediately think of McDonalds? What if I had said to think about a silhouetted figure dancing to music? Of course we would all think of IPods. For every ad you can remember there is either a succinct design behind it or an overabundance of repetition that has caused you to remember the ad at a moments notice. With this in mind, what is the value of marketing for libraries?

Marketing, or “branding” if you will, can often heated discussion in a library. Committing to a marketing campaign can often be as drawn out and detail oriented as negotiating vendor contracts for full-text access. Once committed though, a library can use tried and true techniques to push services, new and old, and maybe even catch the attention of a lax user. Creativity and originality are obviously keys to any campaigns success, but library-wide support must also play a large part in helping ideas stay strong.

Many academic libraries may be at the mercy of their institutions’ identity requirements. This restriction can often be used to their advantage as many of the details for design work may already be settled. The key to campaigns in this venue is, “knowing your audience.” For instance, to market a summer project where the libraries were changing from the Dewey Decimal Classification System to the Library of Congress Classification system, it was proposed the libraries adopt a theme of “Transformation.” This theme was meant to coincide with the upcoming summer blockbuster movie “Transformers.” This decision was made with the thought that the students were within that movies target audience and as well for the original toy line, and that even those with no vested interest in the movie would have probably been exposed to the original advertising at some point. Thus, having a “look-alike” poster with similar imagery, font, layout and tagline; would first get their attention and then have them at least recognize the signs source. To take a look at this poster, please view this web site.

Marketing can also help improve public services within the library. Having posters, bookmarks, stationary, pens, “take-aways”, web sites, and advertisements; which feature the same logo or library design sense, can often begin to give the library a personality. This personality is reflected in the professionalism of the staff and their desire to present a positive face with the library identity in mind. Such “branding” can even be taken to the next level with optional apparel with the library logo upon it. This isn’t to say we should be thinking “library uniforms,” (although I did once have a conversation about this topic that involved monocles, bow-ties, suit-vests, and ascot collars) but for some this mentality seems to be within reach.

Within this age of podcasts, RSS, and viral media; libraries need to rethink how they are talking with the rest of the world. There will always be a place for the traditional methods, but with the rise of new ways of using information so to must there be a new way of sharing that information with others. Maybe the next new trend in advertising will be adsurdist gifts? With the next book you check out, maybe you will get a library pickle, individually wrapped and labeled. Why a pickle you ask? No reason, other than you will always think about that time you got a pickle at the library.


  1. 05/03/2007 at 9:22 am

    Love the ending John, pickles! Is there a school of thought like yours about libraries right now? It strikes me as far outside the mainstream, and probably dead on.I like thinking about libraries this way, “branding” spaces (tastefully done of course). Seems you and I have some very similar interests: Take it easy.

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