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The Results Are In and They Aren’t Good

Post by Nancy Dowd
Posted February 05, 2013 in

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Just today, Library Journal published the results of their latest survey on public library marketing. With the intent to gain information about how public libraries market themselves and the effectiveness of library marketing initiatives, the results clearly indicate a disconnect; a canyon between what should be happening and what is happening within the marketing schemas of public libraries. In an era when the value of libraries is under scrutiny, it is essential that libraries communicate their value to both users and non-users. A failed marketing practice is failed communication. 

"In an era when the value of libraries is under scrutiny, it is essential that libraries communicate their value to both users and non-users."

The majority of the 471 individuals who responded were public library directors and managers. When asked about the marketing and communications channels their library used to sustain a presence in their communities, the usual contenders ranked the highest -- library website, printed materials, the local newspaper, and social media. However, when asked to relay how effective these channels were felt to be, the percentages dropped astonishingly low. For example, 95% of libraries surveyed reported using their website as an outlet for communication and engagement with their community; only 14% of participating libraries felt their website was the most effective means of reaching out to patrons. In one extreme example, 86% of libraries utilize social media as a marketing tool, but only 4% reported it as the most effective tool. 

The canyon widens as we dig deeper into the rest of the data. Only 19% of respondents reported having a marketing plan within their library, with 52% reporting that they need one. With over half of participants recording their need for a cohesive marketing plan, it's no wonder that only 32% of libraries rate their marketing as effective. When viewed in conjunction with 77% of respondents completely agreeing that library marketing increases overall community awareness of the library, one simple fact emerges: we need to build a bridge across this widening canyon. 

As we delve deeper into the results of the survey, interesting insights are unearthed but further questions are raised. In the coming months, I'll be addressing these questions, digesting the raw data of the survey, and uncovering solutions relevant to challenges facing libraries and librarians in the modern era. 

View the full results of the survey here.


Nancy Dowd is the Product Lead for LibraryAware. Her passion is helping libraries connect to their communities.