Ways to Market Your Library
Although the country’s public libraries served 298 million people in 2010, state governments had cut funding by 38 percent and the federal government by 19 percent in the ten years prior. Fiscal austerity was cited as the reason, but few public services can claim the extraordinary success or breadth of reach as a library. Public libraries remain incredible assets in every community, despite funding cuts.
With 84 percent of Americans using the internet and e-book readers becoming increasingly common, leaders might think libraries are redundant or unneccessary. However, those same leaders are underestimating the value of these libraries as community and cultural centers. As libraries face increasing pressure to deliver more services with less resources, maximizing their marketing budgets to deliver a positive message becomes ever more important.
So how might libraries adapt to ride this revolutionary technological wave and market themselves as pillars of the community?
Library users are increasingly wired, and it’s incumbent on all services – not just libraries – to meet them on their virtual turf and speak in a language that they understand. Libraries can no longer assume that clients will come to them – they need to put themselves where their current and potential clients already are, which is online.
First, take advantage of basic SEO strategies to ensure that you’re among the top results on search engines. Is the information on your website comprehensive and complete? Is your website’s metadata accurate, concise, and descriptive? And has your website undergone a recent content audit to ensure that there is no duplication of content or, worse, dead links? Submitting content to other local websites, like governments, schools, or community services will also help improve your online presence and search results.
Create social media profiles and, if possible, dedicate a staff resource to maintaining it and proactively engaging your clients in discussion. Promote your events and services, as well as those of others in the community, and position your library as a local cultural thought leader. You can also use social media to offer immediate help and assistance to your clients by responding to any questions or employing “social listening” strategies to find conversations that you can contribute to.
Finally, view any marketing efforts as part of an ongoing and overarching strategy rather than individual one-off promotions. Different versions of your message, delivered across multiple formats, will reinforce that message and reach people who may not have otherwise heard what you have to say. One-off promotions expect too much of your current and potential clients. It’s more important (and more realistic) to build up an awareness of the services you offer over a period of time, so that when your clients require something you provide, your library is top of mind.