We know that libraries need to create affinity for the “library brand.” The library card, used in all types of libraries, remains a symbol of our brand. It’s a daily reminder that the library is an open, trusted source that belongs to the cardholder; it’s the physical proxy that links the library’s core values of privacy, equity, intellectual freedom, and democracy to the individual library patron. This is perhaps why President Obama recently issued the ConnectED Library Challenge, which calls for library cards for all children to ensure access to a library. A library card is their key to the education, employment, entrepreneurship, engagement, and empowerment opportunities that libraries provide.
A spot on column from American Library Association President Sari Feldman. I like her imagery of the library card as the physical manifestation of all the library has to offer. The whole column is well worth reading. I agree with her comments on libraries needing to do more marketing/promotion. This is an area where libraries will need to tread carefully, and where Friends groups will need to lead the way. This is because nearly all public libraries are local government agencies and there is tremendous, nationwide hostility to government agencies advertising their services on the part of government funders. Some of the (misguided, in my view) reasons offered for this hostility include:
- Having money for marketing clearly means you have fat to cut, starting with your marketing budget.
- We should take no chances whatsoever on competing with the private sector – even where the private sector sees no market.
- Advertising by government agencies “artificially inflates demand for government services.”
- If you have to advertise, it means no one wants your services anyway. So we can eliminate your agency entirely.
Because these reasons do get bandied about in city councils and state legislatures, I think libraries dramatically ramping up their advertising budgets nationwide is a non starter. But getting Friends of the Libraries groups to spend more on marketing their local library might be a winner. It depends on what a Friends group is already doing for their library.
Overall, kudos to President Feldman for giving libraries concrete ideas to work with.