You Don't Look Like a Librarian

Marketing in Libraries: Yes, It’s Up to You!

When you hear the word “marketing” do you throw up your hands and walk away, because marketing is for advertising companies and not for librarians? I beg to differ!

What is marketing? To sum up: “Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers” (Wikipedia). Every portrayal in popular culture markets our profession, not always to the betterment of it. Every interaction you have with a patron markets our profession. Every time you fundraise, ask for a budget increase, plan a program, post to your library’s Facebook page–you are absolutely, positively engaging in marketing.

One of the most powerful ways we can change the way we are perceived – in popular culture and in real life – is to market ourselves and our skill sets better. But how? There’s a number of ways, but they boil down to: Toot your own horn! Be sure to advertise what you did, how you did it, who you benefited and how. Get program news out everywhere you possibly can. Outline in your fundraising flyer how many books/computers/databases last year’s fundraising efforts provided. Punch up your online presence!

Need some help? Check out these resources:

▪ The Accidental Library Marketer, by Kathy Dempsey and her overall web site Libraries Are Essential. Kathy has put together a thorough reference site for marketing in libraries.
Pop Goes the Library, by Sophie Brookover and Elizabeth Burns. A great book that outlines ways to corral pop culture references into your programming opportunities.
Marketing Library Services, a newsletter specifically to address marketing issues in libraries, including what worked and what didn’t.
popculture-l, the ACRL Popular Culture in Libraries discussion group, “devoted to the general discussion of popular culture materials and all types of libraries.”  It’s open to librarians everywhere, and is a great way to find out what other folks have done, or are considering.

There’s absolutely no reason not to use pop culture references in your own marketing efforts. You can make a connection to a large percentage of the population with a Hollywood reference, and once that connection is made, your value communications will go even better. Give it a try!

About Ruth Kneale

Ruth Kneale is the Systems Librarian for the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope in Tucson, Arizona and the author of You Don’t Look Like a Librarian: Shattering Stereotypes and Creating Positive New Images in the Internet Age. She was the Librarian and Webmaster for the Gemini Observatory in Hilo, Hawaii, and the Gemini 8m Telescopes Project. Kneale has written on computer topics for Information Outlook and Computers in Libraries, and publishes a regular column about librarians in Marketing Library Service called “Spectacles: How Pop Culture Views Librarians.” She started the website You Don’t Look Like a Librarian! ( in 2002, and a companion blog called Random Musings from the Desert ( in 2006.

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