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Marketing your library – Instalment 5

Timing really is everything! Well, almost ...


Developing the ability to successfully time your marketing efforts with outside world events is a crucial aspect to any marketing plan. However, successful timing can be viewed in different ways. For instance, anticipating what products and services people will need and when they will need them is one way to use timing. Timing, however, can also be using an anniversary or holiday to promote different features of your library. For libraries, there are all kinds of ways to use timing to launch events, deliver services and products, and create promotions that will generate the biggest impact possible.

Ready-made time

One of the easiest ways to start practising to develop your sense of timing is to use those events that are "ready-made" like anniversaries, holidays, memorials and current events. Since I have a degree in history, I love using historical anniversaries to promote the library. Current events are another excellent way to create timely library promotions. Your local and national news offers you a whole host of potential hot topics for possible display and promotion from information on the Middle East to all kinds of health-related topics. Another of my favourites is that if your library is named for someone or houses someone's collection, throw them a birthday party! While all these efforts raise awareness of the library, they do not really meet a library related need when that need occurs. What timing does in these cases is, hopefully, raise awareness about the library and the topic used in the promotion while also giving you an opportunity to think about using timing and practise a bit.

Time discovery

One of the best ways to really make an impact is to address a known need at the time that need occurs. This is much harder to do than using commonly known anniversaries and holidays. For instance, jewellery shops know they should advertise around Valentine's Day, but they don't know when your specific anniversary is. To really make an impact, you need to know what people want right when they need it. Impossible? Well, to hit every need right when it is needed, yes, that is impossible. But researching and spending time learning about what your users need and when is not only a possibility, but very good marketing.

Here is an example. The public library near where I used to live always develops a really good summer reading programme with all kinds of displays and events. One year, they added onto the programme by asking local schools for their lists of required summer readings. The library then advertised that they had geared the summer reading programme to include those books that students were required to read as well as resources about those books. It was wildly successful. This effort addressed a specific local need in a creative way, building on an already successful programme. It wasn't long before area bookstores also got their hands on those lists!

Asking for time

How to identify these specific needs isn't always easy though. You are going to have to be observant and talk to people. Monitor the local news and local events. If you are in an academic library, ask to attend school faculty meetings and monitor department and school listservs. Actually, asking people what they need, however, is always a scary prospect because they will almost always ask for things you can't deliver easily or at all. With that said, even though there will be things you can’t do there will be plenty of other things you can do. Be aware of the world outside the library doors!

More ideas!

  • Find out what the topics are going to be for local schools’ research classes and create resources for them to use.
  • Build collections and services for your area’s main businesses and industries.
  • Make contacts and relationships in your community and ask them for ideas.
  • Offer longer hours and study space during exams.
  • Listen to what people want and need.

Don’t forget to take a look at Suzanne Walter’s Library Marketing that Works! (Neal-Schuman Publishers, New York, 2004).