2 May 2013

Marketing Your Library's Electronic Resources: A how-to-do-it manual by Marie R. Kennedy & Cheryl LaGuardia (Review)

With libraries typically spending an increasing chunk of their budgets on e-resources, ensuring these products are both visible and accessible to our users has become crucial. As our digital libraries continue to evolve outside of our physical spaces, the links between the library and its resources are sometimes not as obvious as we would like them to be. As Kennedy and LaGuardia put it, the adage of “if we build it [subscribe to it], they will come" can not necessarily be relied upon in an environment where there is intense competition for our users’ attention.

The first key point the authors make is that one-off marketing events won’t work in isolation, they need to be part of a bigger plan. In this context, a nine-step cycle for developing a marketing plan for e-resources is presented, but in truth the structure could be applied to nearly any aspect of library services. Indeed there is a lot of detail on general issues such as the process of developing a marketing plan, and communicating a deliberate, clear and consistent message to your users. This could be interpreted as either a strength or weakness of the book depending on the reader's individual needs and motivations. The activities and processes that the authors discuss will undoubtedly provide a solid grounding in marketing for librarians in most contexts. However, whilst the text frequently links back to the area of e-resources, it often does not extend beyond the general. As a reader looking for specifics to take away, I was somewhat disappointed in this respect. For example, from memory I can’t recall a single mention of Twitter, and a quick look at the index lists a mere two pages under “social networks and marketing techniques”. Discovery interfaces get a similarly brief mention, when it would have been possible to devote an entire chapter to this area alone.

That said, Kennedy & LaGuardia do an excellent job of summarising the relevant literature in the area, although as a result, at times it is hard to hear the authors’ own voices and experiences coming through. Throughout the book there are extracts from various libraries’ marketing plans, and the last third or so of the book comprises sample plans and forms, which provide useful guidance and ideas for those developing their own strategies. There are also some nice quick reference aspects, such as the list of marketing techniques based on Kennedy’s (2010) previous research on pages 52 & 53. This provides some at-a-glance inspiration for practical ideas for promoting your e-resources, including techniques such as calendars, VLEs and user guides.

Whilst the book is certainly well-written and contains high quality information, at times I question if the level of detail included about writing a marketing plan is necessary, when there is a wealth of other resources and publications users could have consulted for such information. This approach would have freed up some space for a deeper analysis and discussion of specific promotional and marketing techniques for e-resources, and how effective (or otherwise) they are. Instead the book is very much a one-stop shop, and for those already familiar with marketing plans and strategies and looking for highly specific advice, this can be a little frustrating. For those completely new to the area however, this is certainly a book that will serve as a useful toolkit from start to finish - if there is such a thing as a finish in marketing!


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