Library Science

Library Marketing

Deepa, B. (2017)

Library marketing


Most of the library and information professionals have failed knowingly or unknowingly to recognize that many of the activities performed by the Library and Information centers constitute only a part of the marketing process may be due to misunderstanding of marketing and its application in the library environment. There is a disagreement with the basic tenets of marketing that places the emphasis upon the client rather than the product, the profit or the organization itself.

Like business marketing, the library follows almost similar marketing processes like concentration, equalization, and dispersion. But for the production of documents, libraries have little control over it. In library marketing, library and user’s demands are the market; users are the consumers; commodities are the information, documents and library services; sellers are the library staff and the buyers are the users.

In library marketing user’s satisfaction is the sole aim but has to care for the cost-effectiveness of the services rendered. If we have a look at the functions of business marketing such as buying, selling, transportation, storage, grading, financing, risk-taking and marketing information, we find quite a good amount of similarity with minor modifications of functions that a library has to perform. They are almost identical with the said information services such as interacting with the information retrieval system etc.


Historical perspective of Library marketing:

The idea of marketing library services is not new to the library world. The history of marketing library services began long before the concept was born.

Lutie Stearns talked about advertising the library at the 1896 ALA Conference. Thereby the word advertising was added into the librarian’s vocabulary.

A Swedish librarian who visited the USA in 1916 was intrigued by the way Americans “advertised” a library through leaflets in laundry bags. In the ’20s Kate Coplan started to use the windows of Enoch Pratt libraries in Baltimore for “advertising”, Joseph Wheeler wrote about publicity in the library and the British library pioneer Lionel Mc Colvin started library extension work and publicity.

Dr. S.R. Ranganathan’s five laws of library science was a major landmark in the ’30s towards library marketing.

Early in the ’60s the British chief librarian Harold Tollifee wrote public library extension activities, with the subtitle “a manual for the librarian and the student”. In 1965 Kate Coplan and Edwin Castagna edited the “Library reaches out”.

In 1963 the first course on Library public relations was arranged at Columbia University, New York. Early in the 1970’s the American Betty Rice wrote public relations for public libraries and the British pioneer K.C. Harrison wrote public relations for a librarian. At the same time, Allan Angoff compiled essays in communication techniques, called public relations for libraries. In Germany public relations were still hidden in the concept Offentlichaftlichen, Sibylle Selbmann’s book Zun Offentlichkeitsarbeit, Wissenschaffplichen Bibliotheken paved the way for public relations in the German libraries.

This short and incomplete back flash in the history of marketing library services shows that marketing surely is not a new library activity, only a rather new concept which can be looked upon as a product of advertising, extension work, outreach, publicity, and public relation.

As non- profit making organizations, libraries and information centres cannot avoid marketing practices in their operation and services. The advent of information superhighways has made the library and information centres more competitive and alert. The challenges faced by the professionals towards budget cuts, increased user based competition, private vendors, the outflow of information and complexity in information requirements are forcing the professionals to adopt the marketing tools for the betterment of the management of library and information centres. The profit or increased funding resources could be a result but that alone is not a reason to implement marketing in libraries. Increased customer satisfaction may result in an increased willingness to use and pay for the services offered. Marketing offers the opportunity to address changes in physical facilities, materials and services offered by the Library and the quality of professional help that is offered. Therefore, it has been said that the marketing of library services/products will be much more rewarding and effective if it also includes the marketing of Librarians and professional library services. After all, a building full of books is not a Library without a Librarian.


Application of marketing strategies in Library and Information centres:

Contemporary management practice suggests very strongly that marketing is an essential component of any organizational business plan. As an organization library and information centres also have the objectives to—-a) achieve a high level of customer satisfaction; b) they want to enhance the perceived value of their services and also want to ensure the survival of their respective institutions. To achieve these objectives, the marketing of library services/ products is a must. The majority belief is that the marketing concept was, “profit, sales and advertising” and it is confined to business firms involved in production activity for profit only. But Phillip Kotler, a marketing guru, and Sidney J. Levy have broadened the concept of “Service” from “physical products” and to “customer satisfaction engineering” from “pushing products”. Marketing is nothing but the process of planning and executing conception, pricing promotion and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create an exchange that satisfies individual or organizational objectives. Non-profit making organizations like libraries have been experiencing increased problems in the market place, declining customers, dwindling contributions, decreasing demand, etc. Marketing appears to be the only management function that offers this organization a hope. In the fields of library and information science, the term marketing means, “to create the demand and interest among readers to use the library resources and services”. Economically also Libraries are a big investment of Government in the form of books and other collectibles. The libraries can solve their problem of underutilization of library resources and services and user satisfaction by implementing the Marketing techniques. It has been advised that library survival is dependent on the acceptance of marketing as a fundamental management philosophy. The social and technological changes of our age as a reason for the need to focus on the customer and argues that marketing and planning is a natural partnership.

Every public and private sector business in our country has undergone enormous changes since the introduction of economic and financial deregulation and free-market policies of Government since 1990. The impact of this new set of policies is visible on every organization, institutions, and enterprise, etc. Libraries are no exception and have had to fight for adequate support funding for survival. Further Library and Information centres are bound to change the style, strategies and ways and means of providing services, which required reviewing the old paradigms and search for new ways of managing the environment. To reduce financial constraints on one hand and increased demand for services from the users on another handsome type of library services and products must be charged for.


For citing this article use:

  • Deepa, B. (2017). The factors of competency development among the working library professionals of the university libraries of North East India challenges and realities. Retrieved from: http://hdl.handle.net/10603/207716
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