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On page 98 of Small is the New Big, Seth Godwin talks about a Fluffenutter recipe he found on the back of the Marshmallow Fluff jar. Apparently he things the stuff is pretty good (or at least appealing to kids) and says, “Suddenly there’s a reason for every household with kids to have Fluff instock, all the time. The Fluffernutter turns it from a dessert topping into a daily staple.”

What are the things we all do from the moment we get up until the moment we go to bed? How can libraries insert themselves into people’s daily routine – supply something they always reach for – become one of their daily staples?

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Jocelyn Harmon writes Marketing for Nonprofits, and we’ve been blogging back and forth about life, the universe, and libraries.

She recently put up a post called Don’t Market Like a Librarian, detailing her close encounters of the shushing kind of her childhood libraries and imploring librarians to change our ways. Now, we all know that the shushing librarian is juuuuust a little bit dated (even if Nancy Pearl, bless her, lent her image to the famous action figure), but Jocelyn’s got me thinking again about the nature of the holy grail of target audiences: the dreaded non-user. Are they the folks who encountered one too many real-life action figures during their formative years, and have sworn off us forever?

Jocelyn’s post talks about being guides to information instead of gatekeepers, using email and social media to communicate with patrons, and inspiring patrons to love and learn about information. We all know most of us have that and more to offer, but we’re not getting the message out to the important people like Jocelyn who were turned off by a library that in most cases, thankfully, no longer exists.

How do we reach the prodigal users?

Okay, I didn’t chronicle my Introduction to Marketing class the way I thought I would. To be honest, I think it’s because it’s an intro course and it’s not being conducted in a way which stimulates discussion: it’s all definitions and facts-as-the-textbook-sees-them. It’s left me a little frustrated, as I’d hoped for discussions relating to real-world situations between busy working people ecking out a few hours for some pertinent continuing education.

Oh well. I’m the type of person who appreciates the community setting of a classroom in focusing my own thoughts on a topic, so I’m getting a lot out of it from that perspective. I also feel that we throw around marketing and marketing-related terms a lot, and this at least has helped me get my vocabulary straight!

For the record, we’ve covered The Overview, Strategic Planning, Marketing and Social Responsibility, Global Marketing, Consumer Decision Making, Business Marketing, Segmentation, and Product Concepts, and will try to get through Developing and Managing Products, Nonprofit Marketing, and Customer Relationship Management before class ends next week.

It’s given me some things to think about, and I’m hoping Consumer Relations will be more interesting next semester.

The New York Times is running a piece on whether Americans are still reading. You can get the first installment here:

Rich, Motoko. Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading? New York Times, July 27, 2008.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/27/books/27reading.html

Of course the article comes to the usual conclusions: Americans aren’t reading as much PoP as they used to – and young Americans are eschewing POP for the Internet almost entirely.

Okay.

What the article didn’t assert was that Americans, young or old, are reading less than they did, say, 10 years ago, or 20, or 30. There have always been readers, and there have always been people who don’t read. There have always been kids who have gone to the library (or whose parents took them there) and there have been kids who have spent their free time doing something else – like playing. Some of those children grew up to read, and some of them didn’t.

Format: so formats are changing. Time for me to go out on a limb here: big deal.  I don’t care. PoP, audiobooks, DVDs, anime and graphic novels – libraries are in the business of providing information, and I’m happy to do that in whatever format my patrons want. I doubt it spells the end of libraries. Did the monks sit arround worrying that because of this new thing called printing, people just weren’t borrowing papyrus the way they used to?

Finally – to give this a marketing hook – different people consume information differently during the course of their lives. Doing marketing research to find out what patrons want and need and to try to provide it to them is the kind of marketing we need to do. As long as we do it, I think we’ll be okay.

There’s no way I could begin blogging about libraries and marketing without a huge acknowledgement to Jill Stover and her work at Library Marketing – Thinking Outside the Book. Jill has been looking at libraries and marking since at least 2005 (as far back as I could find posts) and her blog is a veritable wealth of information.

Unfortunately she changed jobs in February and her blog hasn’t been updated since then, but the information it contains will keep me coming back for a long, long time. Needless to say she’s first on my blogroll!

Nike’s famous marketing campaign says,  Just do it.”

I firmly believe that marketing is critical to libraries. And not the polite, non-profit style marketing many libraries have traditionally conducted—I’m talking about the solid, well-planned, purposeful, in-your-face campaigns conducted by the business world. I think libraries share more characteristics with businesses than many other non-profits do, and I think this, in light of the fiscal and political realities we face, is why we could benefit from a change.

I’m an assistant library director with eighteen years of experience in library administration and technology, plus a few more years of marketing research and project implementation thrown in from my Wall Street days. I don’t have an M.B.A., and my education is solidly “liberal arts,” but I’ll be starting an Introduction to Marketing course in a few weeks (and Consumer Research in the fall!) and using this blog to talk about what I learn with others.

Just do it.