Research: Do they know they know it? The perception of marketing by special librarians in New Zealand by Melissa Clarkson (2008)

I became aware of this MLIS project and asked Melissa if she would share her findings on this blog. I’m pleased to be able to reproduce the summary here (with her permission) and some thoughts she has shared with me via email, especially as there is so little literature on marketing and libraries in New Zealand.

Executive summary from Melissa’s research

This study investigates the gap between marketing theory and the perception of marketing by special librarians in New Zealand. The Marketing Mix or 4 P’s of marketing provides the framework for the research. A survey was distributed asking for all special librarians in New Zealand to respond. Four interviews were also undertaken to gather further data. The research found that there is a significant gap in the between marketing theory and the perception of special librarians in New Zealand. Most special librarians see marketing as promotion. Further investigation finds that a number of special librarians see the use of an intranet and the services they provide as promotion, indicating that there is some awareness of the marketing principles, but they are not aware that these are marketing principles. Findings show that attending a marketing course significantly improves knowledge and understanding of marketing principles.

Other thoughts from Melissa:

I chose this particular subject because I went on a marketing course and got very passionate about marketing. I realised that marketing is more than just promotion, and from my time in special libraries I realised it was something that special librarians did not appear to do well. My aim was to prove (or in a dream world disprove) the perception that special librarians don’t see marketing as anything more than promotion. A side goal was to make special librarians more aware of marketing and I feel like I have done this by actually doing the survey (and getting people thinking about what they know about marketing), and more recently doing presentations.

 One of the first questions I asked was “what is marketing” and 57 people stated promotion alone.  However, I did ask a number of questions, such as, “where are you placed on your intranet” and “what products do you provide” and even some around relationship marketing, and found that special librarians had an intranet presence, listed off a number of products they had, and admitted they often had coffees with ‘clients’ and formed relationships that way.  My conclusion is that special librarians aren’t aware that so much of what they do is marketing.  I also compared different demographics, so whether location, job position, qualification etc… made a difference.  The only thing that made a difference (aside from having attended a marketing course) were qualifications, with those who have international qualifications knowing more about the principles of marketing.

What is a concern is that a number of people perceive themselves as being ‘too busy’ to market. This is a concern because, without realising that the product they are offering is marketing, they often sell themselves short. What if they are offering the wrong service and spending all their time on something that isn’t meeting their clients needs? 

If you would like to read the research, like all other MLIS research papers, it is available through the VUW Library.

Article in Dominion Post on teenagers and libraries

Article on public libraries in New Zealand and their endeavours to appeal to teenagers – part of Library Week promotions.

The Dominion Post
13 Aug 2009








Click on the image and you should be able to read the article in the Library Press Display viewer.

The value of Twitter for marketing – and promoting the image of librarians

One of my colleagues (thanks Kirsty!) has pointed out an article on the value of Twitter. It includes this useful quote:

From a personal brand building and networking standpoint, the key is not to look at microblogging as individual posts, but think of the overall impressions and value that can be created over time. Each 140 character or less entry serves as a seed of an idea for an overall objective…

Rather, consider an overall objective and keep that in mind as decisions are made about what kinds of personal info, links to useful resources and promotional items are posted. Over time, you’ll build a footprint and identify within the Twitter community. Building that footprint will be far more effective if you keep overall objectives in mind, rather than random information. Unless of course, your objective is to build an identity as a scatterbox.

I’ve pretty much decided to use Twitter as part of my professional identity – although I may post some personal comments and links, my primary use of Twitter is to keep in touch with things happening in the library and wider information world. The point in the quote above about thinking of the “overall impressions and value that can be created over time” struck a cord with me. A while back when I had protected my updates (as I tried to figure out the whole online identity thing) I actually declined a couple of Auckland businesses – not being interested in their business (for locality reasons), and wondering why on earth I would be of interest to them. But it occurred to me – some of the most successful posts I’ve had on this blog have been from people looking for trend information. If a couple of businesses in Auckland want to follow me then maybe they might come across some useful trend information from me, and maybe just maybe they might realise librarians are useful people to follow 🙂 Wishful thinking- maybe? But for a profession obsessed with how we appear to others, really thinking about the impressions our tweets give could be a useful strategy.

Books on prescription

Books on prescription is a scheme run by Tameside Libraries, Derbyshire Libraries  and Tameside and Glossop Primary Care Mental Health Service in the UK. GPs and other health professionals recommend high quality self help books to their patients, who can then borrow them from the library. It’s an interesting and accessible expansion of the concept of bibliotherapy.