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Good Read #006: It’s All About the User

August 6, 2010

I don’t consider myself to be an expert marketeer. While I understand the purpose, value, and need of promotional efforts, marketing has never been one of my strong suits. I continue to look to others for guidance and training in this area.

That is what drew me to the book Marketing Today’s Academic Library: A Bold New Approach to Communicating with Students by Brian Mathews. What I found was an engaging, well-crafted text with a clear thesis and a fresh approach to marketing in academic libraries. A quote from the publisher’s description best describes the purpose of the book:

Most library marketing intended for undergraduates promotes the collection, reference and instructional service, and occasional events such as guest speakers or exhibits. The guiding principle of Marketing Today’s Academic Library is that marketing should focus on the lifestyle of the user, showcasing how the library fits within the daily life of the student.

Bottom line: In all academic library marketing efforts, the student–the library user–should always be front-and-center.

The book flows well from chapter to chapter and is filled with valuable insights and advice for anyone interested in employing marketing strategies for their library. And, yes, while the book is specifically targeted towards those in academic libraries, there are useful nuggets of information to be found for those working in any type of library. I would even argue for its benefit to other departments on the academic campus or anyone serving students in general. If nothing else, Mathews’ insights on understanding today’s student are worth reading.

Mixed in with philosophical discussion of marketing to students, you will find plenty of practical advice and examples of how to engage in the various stages of marketing efforts. As a result Mathews has presented an excellent resource for those wishing to engage in library promotion and, more importantly, improving the student experience.

A few quotes from the book…

My objective in not to persuade you that libraries should embrace marketing methods, but rather to demonstrate the possibility of creating a richer library experience. (p. 1)

Promotional efforts must be social in nature, aimed at starting conversations instead of simply treating our users as a captive audience. (p. 2)

…instead of simply focusing on generating awareness or even just increasing use of resources, we should approach…our marketing as a chance to elevate the role of the library in our student’s minds. …We are not just providing more books, more journals, more computers, more staff to help them, but rather more relevance. (p. 141)

A basic outline of the book…

Chapter 1 — Making a case for marketing/advertising in libraries

Chapter 2 — Understanding the characteristics and activities that help define today’s students

Chapter 3 — Understanding student “need states” (that is, what they need in the academic setting)

Chapter 4 — Understanding and identifying those things that the library has to offer

Chapter 5 — Techniques and tips on ways to conduct marketing research in order to guide your advertising campaign

Chapter 6 — Realizing the importance of building relationships with library users and ways to go about doing so

Chapter 7 — Strategies and techniques for branding the library and its products

Chapter 8 — Presentation of practical “building blocks” that can make up the various pieces of a promotional campaign

Chapter 9 — Advice on designing the promotional message to be shared

Chapter 10 — Measuring and assessing the promotional campaign

Chapter 11 — An offering of practical lessons learned along the way by Mathews as well as a collection of promotional campaign examples

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Work in an academic library? Looking for ways to effectively promote your resources and services to students? Want to “elevate the role of the library” for your students? I recommend Mathews’ book.

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