This article from the UK's Guardian entitled, "Libraries to be 'new channel' for direct marketing" describes how some libraries have agreed to allow advertisements to be placed next to the due date slips in the books they circulate. To clarify, these ads don't come from the libraries themselves, but from private businesses. Here's what a director at the direct marketing company had to say about this tactic:
There are hopes to take this idea nationwide, though not everyone is happy with it, as noted in the article.
'"The inserts are put in the book at the first page as you're handed the book to check it out," he explained. "They're going to be inserted right next to the panel with the return date on it, which means that everyone will look at them at least once."
"We're looking at somewhere between 500,000 and 300,000 a month at the moment," he said, adding that if 300,000 slots were sold a month the participating libraries could hope to see income of around £10,000."
I'm not a fan of this approach at all, and I'm a marketing enthusiast! The proponents suggest that this kind of advertising promises big revenues, which may be true, but at what cost? One of our most substantial assets, in my opinion, is our brand - a brand that is based on more than books. Our brand also represents trustworthiness and unbiased information services, which these external ads undermine. No matter how much we need additional funds, we should never relinquish our competitive advantages for short-term gains, particularly when doing so could damage those advantages in the long-term.
This direct marketing approach hasn't reached the U.S. yet, but it's not a stretch to say that it could do so in the future. We've already had similar debates over corporate sponsorships and 3rd party entities like coffee shops occupying our buildings. But this crosses a line, in my opinion. I'm interested to know how this might strike you UK readers out there.