The following is an extract from Marketing Your Library’s Electronic Resources: A how-to-do-it manual by Marie R Kennedy and Cheryl LaGuardia.
The Library Marketing Mantra
It’s actually becoming almost a mantra that libraries need to market themselves and their products (services and collections) better, because:
(a) we’re in an economic climate in which every penny needs to be justified
(b) along with justifying the need for resources to get them in the first place, there is a heightened expectation among those funding libraries (colleges and universities, towns and cities, businesses) that they will see a palpable return on that investment (ROI; more on this later)
(c) competition with information-fulfillment systems outside libraries is increasing, although the competition may not actually be offering products that are anywhere as good as those of libraries.
We perceive a considerable need among researchers for greater knowledge about library e-resources. Based on that need, we librarians must make it our business to market our e-resources to patrons (rather than just add new e-resources to our web portals and hope for the best). “If we build it [subscribe to it] they will come” may have worked for a baseball field in Iowa (Gordon and Gordon, 1989), but it is not a successful marketing strategy for library e-resources.
ROI versus Value
ROI has, unfortunately, been a library buzz-acronym in the recent past. We say “unfortunately” because it automatically places a business construct on institutions that are inherently not businesses, but service organizations (that is, libraries). An Internet search of the term returns results that are distinctly focused on a business model. If you’d like to read more about how ROI relates to library impact/valuations, check out the ALA online bibliography, Articles and Studies Related to Library Value (Return on Investment).
Literal ROI studies don’t make a lot of sense to us because those measures are based on corporate production values alien to a library’s mission of service. However, qualitative measures of a library’s impact make a ton of sense, and we strongly support Jim Neal’s arguments in his ACRL paper Stop the Madness: The Insanity of ROI and the Need for New Qualitative Measures of Academic Library Success (Neal, 2011). We reaffirm Neal’s thesis that the
academic library needs to be present to anyone, anywhere, anytime, and anyhow,
although we feel his statement can apply more broadly to all libraries (Neal, 2011: 425). In his paper he argues that libraries and librarians must be more entrepreneurial, and in that process, we need to:
ask ourselves fundamental questions. Can we offer additional information or transaction services to our existing customer base? Can we address the needs of new customer segments by repackaging our current information assets or by creating new business capabilities through the Internet? Can we use our ability to attract customers to generate new sources of revenue? Will our business be significantly harmed by other companies providing some of the same value we currently offer? How do we become a customer magnet through electronic commerce? How do we build direct links to new customers? How do we take away bits of value digitally from other companies? Can we use the Internet as both a tool for global learning and scholarly communication and for technology transfer and entrepreneurial activities? (Neal, 2011: 428)
If you examine all of Neal’s questions, you’ll note that every one of them intimately relates to library electronic resources—their selection, acquisition, accessibility, and ubiquity. We believe the libraries that are able to answer Neal’s questions informedly, based on their users’ needs and expectations, are the libraries that will thrive in the “mutable future” Neal foresees.
This is an extract from the first chapter of Marketing Your Library’s Electronic Resources: A how-to-do-it manual by Marie R Kennedy and Cheryl LaGuardia.