Friday, June 16, 2006

Marketing is empowering

I was more than impressed by an article out of Minneapolis about how libraries there, "aren't just changing physically. Libraries are becoming less about books, and more about people". In many respects, librarians' efforts at the Minneapolis Public Library strike me as great marketing practices. In this case, the MPL has targeted the immigrant population in the community and has designed services to fit their specific needs by offering language learning tools, a Homework Center, and a library bookmobile that engages people outside the library. They also have immigrant group liaisons who meet with newly-arrived Somalis, Hmong and Latinos and expose them to the library's offerings. One nice touch that I especially liked is that staff members wear small pouches around their necks that were handmade by Hmong immigrants in an attempt to make the immigrants feel welcomed.

In addition, the Friends of MPL devised a People's University whereby they get university professors and local experts to speak at libraries for free!

To my way of thinking, this is marketing at it's best in that librarians are creatively tailoring services to fulfill unmet needs and delivering superior, sincere, customer service. I like how the article's author summarized MPL's initiatives, as she noted, "Now, instead of simply being reservoirs of information, libraries are actively engaging people in transforming that information into knowledge."

Really, these efforts boil down to one very important theme: empowerment. Librarians are empowering patrons, in this case immigrants, to learn skills that will enable them to be successful. Empowerment is perhaps libraries' most valuable competitive advantage. I don't see the Google's of the world reaching out to underserved communities and offering them instruction, lectures, customized programming and research assistance for free, and all for the sole purpose of making people's lives better. I believe that librarians will need to seize upon this advantage in marketing our services so that we can demonstrate our value and continue to help people. As I see it, libraries' value doesn't reside in the databases we own, the books we buy, the classrooms we provide or the computers we offer. Libraries' value is with the empowered user who can now write a business plan, discover a new way of thinking, understand a foreign language or connect with loved ones. Good library marketing results in a deep understanding of patrons and their needs so that we can best connect them to those resources and services that allow them to turn library resources into something truly valuable. Marketing, in this sense, is empowering.

Categories: creativity_and_inspiration | new_news

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