Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Effective Outreach Techniques for the Promotion of Library Information Resources in Academic Libraries in Tanzania: A Case of Sokoine National Agricultural Library

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Effective Outreach Techniques for the Promotion of Library Information Resources in Academic Libraries in Tanzania: A Case of Sokoine National Agricultural Library

Article excerpt

Introduction

The word "outreach" is used to describe a wide range of activities, from actual delivery of services to dissemination of information. Boyce and Boyce (1995), point out that while the term outreach is used extensively in library literature from the mid-sixties on, a specific definition is not readily offered. Outreach is often used interchangeably with synonyms such as extension and the phrases "service to the disadvantaged" or "unserved, "and "community "or "inner-city service." As a tool to help expand access to information services, practices or products, outreach is most often designed to accomplish one of the following (or some combination): directly deliver information services; educate or inform the target population, increasing their knowledge and/or skills; educate or inform people who interact with the target population (like librarians, health officers); establish beneficial connections between people and/or organizations.

In the present era where ICTs are changing rapidly, academic libraries are facing a variety of challenges such as ongoing budget cuts, application of new information technologies, changing internal and external environments, and changing demands of research and teaching. The libraries would use some managerial tools to assist them to overcome these challenges in the future through effective promotion and marketing of the services they offer to clients. As put it by Helinsky (2008) and Webreck Alman (2007), today, academic libraries are no longer the only choice for students, faculty, staff and other clients to go to for information. To attract clients, generate non-user awareness, and raise awareness of available services and resources, libraries need to find ways to promote services and resources to clients as effectively as possible. As such, promotional approaches are used to convey the availability and value of services and resources to target clients and should be designed to cause library users and non-users to act (Helinsky, 2008; Webreck Alman, 2007). These approaches must be developed in such a way that they gain user attention, providing a reason for the library's services and resources to be selected over those of competing services (Chartered Institute of Marketing, 2009).

Literature review

Marketing as a tool for library outreach activities

Information technologies change rapidly. Information products and services are in a multiplicity of formats in libraries. For libraries and information services to stay viable in the current environment, it is important that they adopt promotion strategies to help meet organizational mission, goals and objectives. Promotion as a marketing tool has long been associated with the selling of a product in order to make a profit, but was extended to the non-profit sector including libraries in the 1960s (Enache, 2008).

For libraries, marketing is about a set of activities including understanding client needs, determining market niches, identifying products and services, building client relationships and creating 'marketing mix' (de Saez, 2002; Potter, 2012; Rowley, 2003; Welch, 2006). Unlike traditional marketing that is organization-focused and for a specific product, libraries and information agencies are client-focused organizations focusing on clients and meeting their needs, and need to adopt services marketing (Welch, 2006). Services are the intangible products that libraries now have to promote in order to compete with external competitors. Libraries face numerous challenges such as restricted funding and increasing user expectations, as they identify, develop, deliver and monitor service offerings that are superior to their competitors. However, these challenges offer opportunities to provide better services for users by redefining customer relationships through the use of marketing strategies to build and strengthen ongoing relationships with customers (Rowley, 2003). Relationship marketing is relevant to services marketing and creates much value because it builds a viable and long-term relationship with the clients that seek to use resources and services so that the customers are retained (Rowley, 2003). …

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