Recently I have found myself involved in my library’s “comms team”, in addition to my usual role. The work of the team involves marketing the library service. Marketing is not something I envisioned myself doing when I used to think about what my career in libraries would look like, but it is increasingly important for today’s LIS professionals to be clued up on marketing, as we increasingly need to promote and demonstrate the value of our services. As an increasingly important part of library work, marketing is something new professionals should consider brushing up on, if we are to develop our careers in this field.
As part of my marketing work, I attended a workshop back in December run by Ned Potter: ‘Marketing your library service: principles and actions’. The workshop was a great introduction to library marketing, and really complemented the brief introduction to marketing I had in the management module of my LIS masters course. At this workshop, we discussed a range of marketing techniques and ideas, all within the library context. Libraries can take ideas from conventional, commercial marketing, but they have to be adapted to the specific types of services we offer, making library marketing its own unique skill. We were given loads of practical tips that we could take back and use at our own libraries plus, as usual at these events, had a great opportunity to network. We learned about the different types of marketing: white noise, peripheral and line of sight. The main aim for libraries is to move from being white noise and into people’s line of sight. Other tips included asking for forgiveness, not permission with our marketing activities. These are all ideas that would perhaps be outside of the typical librarian’s comfort zone. Throughout the day, although we were using marketing ideas, Ned used the word “community” rather than “customers”. I think this is an important distinction for library staff, who are often reluctant to think of their users as customers, again demonstrating how different library marketing is from more traditional, commercial marketing.
Chatting to colleagues and hearing about their experiences can often be quite as valuable as the teaching at these kinds of events. The main things I learned from the people I spoke to were that marketing is increasingly a necessary activity for all kinds of libraries, and that others, like myself are having to take this task on in addition to their everyday duties. So unfortunately, there currently seems to be a gap between the necessity of marketing and the time library staff have to devote to it, but hopefully this situation is changing as the value of these activities becomes more recognised.
This all got me thinking about other unexpectedly important skills for LIS professionals. Have you found you’ve needed to learn new skills you hadn’t anticipated? Or found something useful that you didn’t think you would be able to apply at work? Has marketing been part of your LIS course, or would it be completely new to you? It would be great to hear some of your stories!
Photo from Pixabay, under creative commons.