Influence: Competition and marketing

Libraries face growing competition from other information providers and must be proactive in marketing themselves.

Library book display around an internal garden
Woollahra Library at Double Bay

Libraries need to be proactive in marketing and promoting their services to ensure that they retain their ‘market niche’. Libraries are developing marketing plans and strategies to promote services and encourage clients to use library resources. These strategies are highly influenced by retail marketing as well as professional exhibition and display, which both aspire to a memorable experience – ‘the wow factor’. Advertising, improved visibility, unified branding, high quality design, library promotions, changing and professional displays and social networking sites all form part of successful libraries.  

The growing competition from other sources of information, education and entertainment is a significant factor for public libraries. Digital communication, media and entertainment provide us with extensive information that is current, topical and easy to access. It is notable that these changes have not affected the popularity of libraries or the number of visitations.  

The delivery of education services has also changed, with many institutions providing students with options for distance and open learning courses through the Internet and various adult education programs. This has reinforced the use of public libraries as a destination for study. 

The brand concept

Taking a holistic approach to marketing and branding is crucial. From the planning of the building to shelf signage, everything should reflect the library’s vision or concept. The library marketing strategy and vision will impact on planning and the development of the library brief, so it is important to establish a clear plan of action before embarking on building design and ensure that the building design is integral to the ‘brand’. 

Libraries generate enormous goodwill, are much loved by their communities and are ‘good news’ stories for local councils.  Library staff can be encouraged to generate ideas for increasing public awareness of what libraries have to offer at a local level. Being able to work with council communication and engagement teams to promote these good news stories through social and mainstream media channels is key. 

Community and learning

Libraries provide essential digital literacy support through public Internet access, computers, online resources and training that many people need to participate in today’s digital world. They support childhood and adult literacy and education through valuable programs and services at little or (usually) no cost to the user. Libraries can provide a unique ‘cradle to grave’ service to people of all ages and backgrounds. They will continue to bring people together and give them access to services, programs and support to improve health, quality of life and education prospects. Promotion of these programs and services and the role that libraries play in their community can be a key marketing message.

Integrity of information

In contemporary society, where information sources are so varied in origin and veracity, libraries are known as valuing the integrity of information, assisting people to identify and critically examine sources, and ensuring information is equally accessible to the full spectrum of community members. Ethics, and the lack of commercial motives, makes libraries unique and important in times where the complexity of information can be treacherous to navigate. 

Measuring benefits of libraries

Being able to measure what libraries are good at, and what they have achieved, provides a solid foundation for developing compelling local library stories and demonstrating the value and benefits that they bring to communities. The State Library’s Enriching communities: the value of public libraries in NSW shows evidence of economic and social benefits of public libraries and provide tools for helping libraries calculate their own contributions.  



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