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

Module PlanningPLANNING


Who plans?

Process Steps


Strengths & Weaknesses

Market Research







Module Overview overview

Module Product product

Module Promotion promotion

Module Internet internet

Module Ohio ohio



Site Index



Supervisor Tips


Contact OLC


What are the barriers?

What are you facing?

Internal strengths and weaknesses are assessed in the marketing audit and environmental analysis step of the marketing planning process. The next step in the process is market research. With careful and thorough market research, you can learn from users what challenges and barriers need to be considered. Identifying challenges, threats, or barriers is the first stage in overcoming them.

Internal Challenges

Not everybody likes change. Some resist change. Some avoid it. A few may still be in denial from the last set of changes! The main result of a great new marketing plan might easily be described as MORE CHANGES and MORE WORK! Staff who have been around for a while have already seen and done everything, or at least feel like it. Will this be a challenge in carrying out a marketing plan?

Examine other weaknesses identified as part of the marketing audit. Change what you can, cope with the rest, and consider how a marketing plan will affect or be perceived by staff and users.

External Forces

How will library marketing be perceived in the community? What are the external forces at play that will affect a marketing plan. Is the Force with you -- or against you!

  • If there are changes in your community economically or politically, spell out in the marketing plan how you will emphasize the contribution a new service might make to the community.
  • If funding is going to be particularly difficult, look at alternative resources and find out what your customers consider worthy of supporting financially.
  • Look at the demand for a product, the number of people in a group who can actually be expected to use a product/service. And then look at the competition. In the marketing plan, you may need to promote what services you have that bookstores and video rental stores don't (the word "free" comes to mind!).
  • If some users feel that everything is free and easier on the Web, plan how you can demonstrate the advantages and benefits of library databases and research services. Are you prepared to offer services to online communities?
  • Occasionally the library receives "bad press" or is not valued (vocally!) by an influential member of the community. How can you market to offset that image?

Quicker beats better

In many instances, competition for the library is a matter of convenience and time. If a trip to the library isn't convenient, "better" resources may lose out to "quicker" resources. If the library web site isn't easy to access and understand, users will go to other sites. If library hours are insufficient or inconvenient, users will go elsewhere.

Marketing to Millennials

Libraries market to all generations, but the Millennials represent special challenges. Eight key realities of the Millennial generation have been suggested:

  • "They are a truly distinct cohort that eventually (i.e., when immigrants are factored in) will become larger than the Baby Boom generation. They are special, sheltered, confident, team-oriented, and high achieving. They live with and believe in rules, feel pressured, are very conventional, are risk averse, and embrace technology. They are digital natives in the land of digital immigrants. They have new and different expectations about how to gather and use information."
  • "They are saturated with media options. Nearly half of the Millennials now have broadband connections in their homes. The “home media ecology” has become much more complex in the past 30 years. If Millennials cannot be with the device they love, they love the device they're with."
  • "Their technology is mobile. About half of them have cell phones, and about half have MP3 players. They are into time-shifting in a big way. Appointment media (e.g., the 10 p.m. local news) have little attraction to them."
  • "The Internet plays a special role in their world. They are not necessarily more intense users. They are much more inclined than their parents to seek info about movies and TV, play online games, use IM, download music and videos, read blogs, and share their own creations."
  • "They were born to multi-task. They expect this. They like to begin a research process by going online and browsing around. They think of librarians as info support, akin to what we think of as tech support. They live in a state of continuous partial attention."
  • "Millennials often are unaware of or indifferent to the consequences of their use of technology. Copyright violations are a case in point. Over half the Millennials do not care much if the content they are downloading is protected by copyright."
  • "Their technology world will change radically in the next decade. We are in the midst of several accelerating J-curves. Computing power, communications power, spectrum power, and storage power are all accelerating. Smart environments (real-world environments) are coming, with chips embedded in door knobs, farm fields, and our clothing."
  • "The way they approach learning and research tasks will be shaped by their evolving techno-world. It will be more self-directed, more tied to group outreach and group knowledge, and more reliant on group tagging."

Eight key realities of the Millennial generation, ALA TechSource Blog post of CIL keynote address highlights by Lee Rainie from Pew Internet and American Life Project.

The marketing process includes an analysis of the threats and challenges that will affect your marketing efforts. Report the analysis in your marketing plan and include strategies that will overcome the barriers.


In your plan:

  • Report the possible internal and external barriers included in your audit. What aspects of the community or library organization would make it difficult to achieve your goal?
  • Discuss possible ways to overcome the barriers.
  • If you do not have access to a library marketing plan, look at sample library marketing plans from Module 2 or Sample Marketing Plans from NSLS and Members. You may also look at online plans for several types of business available on a commercial site. Choose one or two of the non-profit plans to scan. These plans are more complex than the plan you will be working on in this module, but will give you an idea of the way that marketing audits, market research, and the whole planning process are reflected in the final marketing plan. SWOT information is covered in the situation analysis or environmental scan sections of these plans.

Marketing plans


What's new in library marketing?

Online communities grow, affecting user expectations and offering new marketing opportunities.

Explore other sites on the Web for additional information.

Challenge: marketing to Millennials

Identify barriers