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.

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