New Marketing Trends

Marketing Ideas for Non-Profits and Libraries

The M Word helps librarians learn about marketing trends and ideas.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dreaming About the Future of Libraries

Dreaming about the future... isn't this something we all do? What will our personal lives be like in the future? Our families? Our libraries?
If you're like me, then you think about the future of libraries a lot -- maybe a little too much. The possibilities are vast. But we need to do more than dream about them -- we need to think hard, study, and then act to create the future of libraries.

**photo of Michael Stephens and Kathryn Greenhill at Library Camp2009, Uploaded to Flickr on October 3, 2009 by rosehortonau, borrowed from Kathryn's blog**

There is a lot of blog & conference chatter out there about this topic. But at the moment I want to point you to a particular post that I liked. It's on Kathryn Greenhill's blog Librarians Matter. If you don't know of Kathryn or her work (she's an Aussie), it's well worth checking out. I had the pleasure of meeting her this past spring and shortly afterward, speaking at a conference with her in Delft.

At any rate, this post, called "Community Dreaming at Library Camp Perth 2009" is full of food for thought. But my personal favorite section is titled "What do we need to stop doing so we can do other things in the future? What to drop." I point to this one on The M Word because, whenever I talk about true marketing and all the work it involves, the message I get back is "we don't have time for that. we're too busy already." My answer is usually, "well then, drop some of the unimportant things you do, because marketing is essential."

So what might librarians drop to make time for more important work? That was something that the folks at Library Camp Perth talked about, and what's in this post. Suggestions include "bean counting" and "recataloging." I can add things like "shelving" (at the risk of sounding snarky -- let the non-MLS folks, student workers, & volunteers do that!), "endless committee meetings" (where little is accomplished), and "filling display cases." Seriously, if you want to have collections and activities that really appeal to your users (and potential users), if you want to convince important people of your value, if you want to keep your funding, then marketing is essential. Is recataloging or shelving as important? Think about it...

What else would you like to give up so you'd have more time for marketing??? Let's discuss!!


Virginia @ Where You Hang Your Hat said...

I hesitate to say it but perhaps programming? I used to work in a small branch where we really struggled to get adults and teens in for our programs. Perhaps it would have been better to focus on marketing and get a larger or wider group of patrons in to pull from for programming? Or maybe marketing research would have revealed that there wasn't a strong need for adult library programs in our community.

I'm speaking off the top of my head here; what I really wanted to comment is just that I'm happy to see someone making the case to librarians that marketing is ESSENTIAL. I hope it isn't too late before the rest of the field gets on board.

~Kathy Dempsey said...

Thanks for weighing in, Virginia!

I think that programming is the perfect thing to cut back on -- or at least put on hold -- until some serious marketing is done. Because as you suspect, good marketing research will tell you what types of programs (if any) will attract people. Why waste time, money, and effort on events when you don't even know whether anyone cares?

Let me say this loud and clear for all the readers out there: You should not be having programs without doing marketing research (the first step in true marketing) to see whether people even want them!

And Virginia, if you're happy to hear someone saying that marketing is essential, then you'll probably like my side business, called Libraries Are Essential! (

OK, who else has ideas of what to eliminate to make time for marketing?? We'd love to hear from you...