I’m not saying it has to be cheese and wine … but …

Welcome to my first guest post – this one showcases promotional events in an academic library. 

A big thank you to my colleague Heather da Vanzo, Humanities & Social Sciences Librarian, Massey University Library, Wellington campus

Libraries do need to up their game when it comes to marketing. Having worked in a variety of sectors, most recently in the Academic sector it’s clear that Libraries have moved from collection based institutions towards service based organizations – I’m just not sure we’re communicating the value of our collection to our clients.

Currently being in a small team our marketing has to be sustainable, we’ve agreed that 2 promotional events a year is feasible. We aren’t talking huge events – just 20-30 guests – again manageable and for us it allows us to offer a “hands-on” aspect to the session.

Tailoring the sessions to client needs is crucial – it keeps numbers manageable, but also ensures a clear message. So far our target audience has been postgraduates, researchers and staff but his could change, depending on the resources we market and the venue.

Heather da Vanzo presents at a Massey University Library event at our Wellington campus

As always it’s important we don’t reinvent the wheel so we’ve designed a check list of logistical tasks. The checklist ensures we can divide the tasks amongst the team and utilize a package of templates including a door sign, poster, bookmark and invitation email. Apart from saving time, these templates retain some consistency to the Libraries “promotion” brand.  We can easily change the colour and logo to match the theme of the promotional event.

Really it’s been about getting staff and researchers into the Library space and showing them the Library has what they need. Assuming we are familiar with the purpose of the institution and the needs of the clients, Librarians are in the best position to make the match between client and resource.  Essentially show clients our relevance.

We have offered, cake and coffee, cheese and wine, catering which doesn’t break the bank; but creates a welcoming impression with the client and gets them through the door. And it strikes a chord:

“Great session…..very informative and clearly presented…makes much more impact when you get a presentation rather than finding the info out by working through the data……and let’s face it….mostly we wouldn’t bother…….great cake too!” Associate Professor Ciochetto

We’ve found promotional events a great way to build relationships, promote our resources and look competent!

Note: Photo and quote used with permission

Measuring the impact of marketing activities in academic libraries

The question of measuring the impact of marketing efforts is a fraught one, even in the business world. Check out what Farris et al. have to say on the subject from Marketing Metrics: The Definitive Guide to Measuring Marketing Performance (2nd ed, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2010):

In business and economics, many metrics are complex and difficult to master. Some are highly specialized and best suited to specific analyses. Many require data that may be approximate, incomplete, or unavailable.

Little wonder then that many libraries don’t tackle it – in the US, one study found that less than 33% of academic libraries evaluated their promotional campaigns.

Farris et al. offer this:

Under these circumstances, no single metric is likely to be perfect. For this reason, we recommend that marketers use a portfolio or “dashboard” of metrics. By doing so, they can view market dynamics from various perspectives and arrive at “triangulated” strategies and solutions. Additionally, with multiple metrics, marketers can use each as a check on the others. In this way, they can maximize the accuracy of their knowledge … Being able to “crunch the numbers” is vital to success in marketing. Knowing which numbers to crunch, however, is a skill that develops over time. Toward that end, managers must practice the use of metrics and learn from their mistakes.

Brian Mathews in Marketing today’s academic library: a bold approach to communicating with students (American Library Association, 2009) offers up some of the potential components of that dashboard:

Response-based advertising
For instance getting a customer to visit a website, or take advantage of an offer. The website could be a campaign-specific secondary page to better track statistics.

Market share
This could be calculated by counting the total number of users and dividing them by the total student population. For instance if 4000 students checked out a book at least once during the year out of a total student population of 10,000 then the market share would be 40%. And then we might think about the other 60% who didn’t borrow anything and how to reach them.

How did you hear about us?
This involves inviting students to share their experience. This can be done face to face or by using a follow-up email.

Web analytics
Analyse total hit rates and click-through rates to your website via tools such as Google Analytics.

A customer service survey administered by the Association for Research Libraries (charges apply).

A technique that can be used in focus groups, surveys or one-to-one interviews.

Dorm (hostel) surveys

Longitudinal studies
This involves tracking student usage over time – how do they find out about our services and how do they use the library over time? Mathews’ example involves selecting 6 new students each year, who he meets with once a semester throughout their degree. He notes this isn’t scientific but it allows him to get a feel for selected user groups and to learn about their experiences.

As Mathew’s says, ultimately there is no silver bullet when it comes to measuring impact and as Farris et al. suggest we need a range of metrics. Critically we also need to remember that this is part of a bigger task – we need to figure out what success would look like – which is all part of the goals we set as to what we want our marketing activities to achieve – right back at the start of the cycle of our marketing activities. For Mathews:

… success, from a marketing standpoint, is a combination of familiarity along with usage, across the span of a student’s tenure. The longevity of library use from day one until graduation is what matters


I feel instead of simply focusing on generating awareness or even just increasing use of resources, we should approach communication more philosophically by viewing our marketing as a chance to elevate the role of the library in our students’ minds. In this manner, our advertising encourages them to expect more from us. We are not just providing more books, more journals, more computers, or more staff to help them, but rather more relevance. We should aspire to smash their preconceptions of what a library is and instead demonstrate what it can become.

He proposes the following:

1. List all of the library products and services that are relevant to undergraduates
2. At the end of the academic year ask a random sample of thirty students from different classes and ask them to
a) tick the products and services they have heard of and
b) tick those that they have actually used.

This allows you to track the effectiveness of your communications and the usage of your library.

What tools do you use to measure the impact of your marketing activities?

A great promo video from an academic library

Check out Who will help me? from University of Alberta Libraries:

Why do I think this works so well? As well as featuring friendly approachable librarians, and having a great professional look to it, I think:

– the messages are clear and direct – it is not trying to overload the viewer

– it speaks directly to the student audience “are you stuck?” “who would be best for you”

it is visually interesting

– including the ipad helps convey they are up to the play with technology

A job well done I think!

One library (… insert as needed … ) to rule them all …

At the moment we are reviewing aspects of our subject guides on our library website – a project that is considering the use of Libguides. Seeing Anali Perry’s Scholarly Communication page on Arizona State University Libraries’  site got me thinking that maybe the Libguides software could be used to create a bunch of pages rather than just subject guides orientated at students. Brian Mathews takes this further when he asks Why not use LibGuides as your Content Management System? In this post he makes a further leap and explores the idea that academic library websites will eventually utilise a “universal design”:

I imagine in ten years there will be a definitive design that we will all use or purchase. Our sites will go the way of research guides. We all use to approach these differently, but then came LibGuides and the rest is history. (1200+ libraries in 25 countries use LibGuides—why aren’t you?) It seems that everyone is using this product these days—why develop your own clunky system when you can have something that looks slick and is easy for both patrons and content managers? In a matter of a few years LibGuides has quickly emerged as the solution for how we package resources by subject.

 So… what about a common Content Management System for us all? Drupal seems to be gaining traction—but it is a huge investment in terms of up-front time and expertise. I’m not ripping on it—it’s what we’re moving into but… what about just using LibGuides instead? What if we just used the LibGuides template for our entire library website rather than just as a wrapper for subject guides

I take a leap of my own now onto the subject of public libraries. Several public libraries in New Zealand have, or intend to, collaborate and use the same library system in a co-operative fashion. How far could we extend this? At the moment in New Zealand many local authorities are seeking to impose additional fees on library users which  threatens the concept of an accessible public library service. Would it be feasible to really strengthen the “library brand” and completely turn the idea of public library governance on its head. Shift the responsibility of the provision of public libraries from local to central government with consistent service delivery, fees, and sharing of resources across one mega-system. (Yep, the chances of central govt wanting to pick up that tab are zero, given that they consistently seek to devolve services to local government!). But could we be doing more of this ourselves? Working collaboratively on issues such as service standards, assessing the impact of our services and marketing messages for instance? What if everyone in New Zealand could have one library card they could use in any public library? How far would be willing to go to strengthen (and protect) the brand “library”?

Improving library tutorials by “making it their idea”

In The Library with the Lead Pipe has come up trumps again with another great post – Making it their idea: The Learning Cycle in library instruction. Working from the idea that:

very few advertisements tell people explicitly to do anything. They present information that leads customers to come up with the idea of buying their product on their own

… the author draws a parallel to this with using active learning and critical thinking to teach students library and research skills.

Key to this utilisation of The Learning Cycle*:

The learning cycle instructional method – giving students a new situation, asking them to make sense of it, and serving merely as a guide in their process – models the way people learn, and as a result, generates authentic, meaningful learning experiences for students. Compared to lecturers or demonstrations where students are told what the answers are and then perform exercises that verify that what they are told is correct, they are making the new knowledge out of their own ideas.

Not surprisingly this approach can be more time-consuming. One of the solutions is an idea proposed by Donald (2010)** that involves:

offloading most of the technical details to online tutorials and leaning models

Given we have now developed a range of online tutorials here at Massey, this could well be one way of utilising them and incorporating them as an extension of our library classes. 

*Cavallo, A.M.L. (2008). Experiencing the nature of science: An interactive, begining-of-semester activity. Journal of College Science Teaching, 37(5), 12-15.
**Donald, J. (2010). Using technology to support faculty and enhance coursework at academic institutions. Texas Library Journal, 85(4), 129-131 http://www.txla.org/ce/Collaboration/Donald.pdf