Alternative Sources for Marketing Research for Libraries

By Mueller-Alexander, Jeanette M. | Special Libraries, Summer 1991 | Go to article overview

Alternative Sources for Marketing Research for Libraries


Mueller-Alexander, Jeanette M., Special Libraries


In an increasingly tight market during an economic downturn or recession, it is essential for economic survival that libraries and information centers analyze themselves and their markets. More and more libraries are required to justify their budgets and "prove" that they fulfill their mission. One way business "proves" or analyzes their position in the market is by conducting surveys and studies of consumers. Surveys are one part of a larger document called a marketing plan. Every library needs a marketing plan, just as every business should have one. It shows the direction and methods needed in your public relations and marketing efforts for achieving total market penetration. For librarians, that means when people speak of finding information, the automatically think of the "Library." Based on our own statistics and the number of people who do not use libraries, this condition cannot be true now.

This particular image problem, and hence one proof of value, that Sirkin discusses in her recent article "Marketing Planning for Maximum Effectiveness," [1] was highlighted by Alan Hald, Chairman, MicroAge, Inc., in his speech to the delegates at the Arizona Pre-White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services. He was astounded that, when he suggested placing information relating to Arizona's strategic economic development plan in the state's libraries, business people were flabbergasted. It simply never occurred to them that the libraries might, or should, contain business information they might need! [2] Such lack of product or corporate recognition, even on such a generic level, is part of what a marketing plan combats.

In addition to doing a marketing plan yourself, what other options are there for librarians to have a marketing plan or any market research done? In the course of my research and through experience, I have found the following options:

1. market research firms;

2 marketing department of your parent organization;

3. research institutes/centers at colleges and universities;

4. friends of the library groups;

5. graduate library school students;

6. marketing students, both graduate and undergraduate;

a. marketing research classes;

b. internship;

c. marketing senior papers, theses, and dissertations;

d. American Marketing Association Student Chapters; and

7. writing a grant proposal.

Before beginning discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of these options, let me provide some brief comments on the necessary preparation prior to trying any of these options. Being prepared for active participation and definition of the market research you want is critical to its success. As a reference librarian, I need participation of the client in the reference interview to increase the likelihood of a successful transaction. Since you and the market researcher(s) will be interviewing each other, it is important you understand your library's and parent institution's missions, goals, and objectives to successfully negotiate the market research project. Strategic plans, long-range plans, and/or short-range plans can also be used to assess what it is you want to know. In preparation for these discussions and how these documents fit together as part of a marketing and publicity plan, the writings of Philip Kotler, especially the ones on nonprofit and professional services marketing, may be helpful. Christou, [3] Gallimore, [4] and Sirkin [5] are librarians who have translated some of this material into the world of libraries. These readings can help in doing a preliminary analysis of the market, resources, and mission prior to initiating the discussion for a program. These steps are important to establishing a project's boundaries. According to Kotler, [6] it is even more important for nonprofit organizations because, until a crisis arrives when it may be too late, few nonprofit institutions even consider a systematic approach to public relations and marketing. …

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