So we started with the basics: what is marketing?

And according to our textbook (MKTG: Student Edition, by Lamb, Hair, McDaniel, Thompson South-Western, 2008, p. 3), marketing is “an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating, and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.”

I’ve seen some pretty hot debates on other blogs about whether marketing is appropriate for libraries. And I think I understand a lot of the reasons why we “hate” marketing: we hate the hard sell, the inappropriate product placement, the inappropriate products! — and the sheer idiocy of much of the communication, aka advertising, that we see all around us.

And yet, I think this is a great definition to guide us in how we manage our libraries. Think about it:

  • We need to genuinely create value in what we offer our patrons, what will really help enhance their lives – not just give them what we think they should have because it’s the new hot think we heard about at a seminar, or insist on maintaining something they don’t want because “you can’t be a real library if you don’t have ___________”
  • We need to get the word out to our patrons that we’ve got what they want. As much as we’d like to believe people will walk through our doors because they should, the fact is there’s a lot of competition for their time and attention and we have to get our there and let them know what we have to offer
  • We need to deliver products of value, which relates back to the first bullet point: while our intentions are for the best, we often end up offering things not because we’re focusing on our patrons first, but for our own reasons – we want to be cutting edge, we think all good libraries should be offering it, etc.
  • We need to manage our customer relationships – look at our policies and procedures and make sure they enhance our mission, and that policies that were written who knows how many years ago are still enhancing the goals and objectives we have today
  • We need to benefit the stakeholders. Taxpayers work hard for the dollars that support us, and they deserve the best value we can give them for their money.

Libraries should market. Libraries need to market. It’s our job.