Library Marketing for Public Libraries from the Ohio Library Foundation
Marketing training on the web for public library staff

Module OverviewOVERVIEW


>What Is Marketing?

Why in Libraries?

What are the steps?

Marketing Audit

Market Research

Plan & Strategies




Module Planning planning

Module Product product

Module Promotion promotion

Module Internet internet

Module Ohio ohio



Site Index



Supervisor Tips


Contact OLC

Marketing Defined

Meeting needs of customers


There are several definitions of marketing and more than one way to describe the process.

Example one

"The process of planning and executing conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives."

[Dictionary of Marketing Terms, 2nd edition, edited by Peter D. Bennett, published by the American Marketing Association, c1995. Also see Glossary of Marketing Definitions from IFLA.]

Example two

"A social and managerial process by which individual groups obtain what they need and want through creating, offering, and exchanging products of value with others."

[Kotler, Philip, 1997, Marketing Management, 9th edition, New Jersey, The United States, Prentice-Hall International, Inc.]

In libraries, the "exchange" part of the marketing process may consist of continued taxpayer support in exchange for valued library services.

Example three

"Marketing is the wide range of activities involved in making sure that you're continuing to meet the needs of your customers and getting value in return. Marketing is usually focused on one product or service. Thus, a marketing plan for one product might be very different than that for another product. Marketing activities include "inbound marketing," such as market research to find out, for example, what groups of potential customers exist, what their needs are, which of those needs you can meet, how you should meet them, etc. Inbound marketing also includes analyzing the competition, positioning your new product or service (finding your market niche), and pricing your products and services. "Outbound marketing" includes promoting a product through continued advertising, promotions, public relations and sales."

[Free Management Library]

The key is "process."

Planning and research are a key part of the process. Effective marketing requires quality research in order to assess what the library has to offer, what the users want, and how to match the two. The process includes several steps before publicity and promotion begin.

What is the process?

  • Know the library -- who are you, what is your mission?
  • Find out about your users -- who are they and what do they want?
  • Create products and services that users want.
  • Develop a plan of action with promotion strategies to market selected products to targeted users with appropriate methods.
  • Be sure you're doing it right -- establish measurable goals and evaluate how well you've done.
  • Start over!

Can you do too much?

Be careful what you wish for! What would happen if the library suddenly had twice as many users in the facility or visiting the web site? What if every program suddenly required limiting attendance? If you had more phone calls, and more visitors, and the lines for checkout extended out the door like the opening of a movie premier? Perhaps it's enough just to keep your regular users informed! Working through the process can help you determine when you've done enough.

Marketing is the process of planning, pricing, promoting, and distributing goods and services to create "exchanges" that satisfy the library and the customer. Marketing is ongoing and dynamic because customer needs and library products change. The marketing process determines the decisions and activities involved in continuing to meet the needs of customers.


Look in your favorite library and information science glossary, in marketing books in the library, or in online marketing glossaries for definitions of marketing.

  • Find at least three definitions of marketing. They won't all be the same, but all libraries aren't the same, and one will work best for you.
  • Do all of the definitions mention or imply a "process" of planning that includes several steps?

Why market libraries?


What's new in library marketing?

New ways to market: Library 2.0 news, ideas, resources, blogs, podcasts

Explore other sites on the Web for additional information.

Tutorial, trends, glossary


Market research course materials