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Marketing strategy for the library services

The word Marketing Strategy has many definitions one can find on internet but the one in Oxford Dictionary seems more authentic and has a large consensus. According to the Oxfor Dictionary, “ A marketing strategy is a plan of action designed to promote and sell a product or service, we use a number of marketing strategies to grow our business.” The sole purpose of business marketing strategy is to attract customers. Since the library sciences has a close connection to customers, hence, it must have its own strategy to market its services for prospective patrons. Experts in relevant fields have already designed numerous strategies. The Library practitioners also have presented a few strategies in order to attract more users in their libraries in order to use the resources and services for optimal benefits.
Academic libraries have become imperative in the age of information technology, where the libraries are no more the sole custodian of knowledge. Information-oriented organization worldwide has adopted a marketing strategy to promote its resources and services in the entire community among prospective and incumbent users. This raises a question: why do librarians want to market their library resources?; what is needed to accomplish their plan? ; how much is their plan going to cost? and how long is the plan going to take to complete?
Firstly, the librarians should define the project in order to create a marketing plan for their library services. In this step, one can identify the full description of their project such as, what precautionary measures should be taken in marketing the library services and resources. In the next phase, the librarians must keep the idea of the current marketing trend in his/her mind such as what are the current trends and what needs to be implemented while adopting these trends among customers. Here, the customer of the library meant the patron, the nature of readers, whether librarians deal with higher educational patrons or students at bachelor level. The other things include the physical availability of library, how can the library serve its patrons with current information and what is the current status of the information available for the members.
The next phase of marketing library services is based on the idea of SWOT which analyses the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities. Under this step, the librarians are evaluating their performance, on the steps which have already been implemented. In this phase, the librarians are preparing themselves for an action plan, here they must define the marketing strategy bearing in mind the goals and objectives of their services. Here, the librarians are selecting an appropriate channel of communication and mechanism for reaching this target market. After knowing the whos and whats of the library, the librarians will be in a position to plan further steps. At this point they would acknowledge three main components in mind which are timeline, staff and budget through both micro and macro approaches. In the succeeding step, the librarians should measure the feedback on the effectiveness of the action plan. For measuring the marketing strategy of their library services, the librarians must use both quantitative and qualitative methods as feedback for decision.
In this last step, the librarians must make an assessment of whether the path which they laid out for their team are going towards success or failure. This is essential for actionable knowledge. In the assessment process the librarians identify the critical evaluation which allows them to ask why have we done this and more important is how did we do? Here librarians are writing the progress being made and thoughts prior to initiating this strategy for marketing the library resources and services. In-library scenario, the marketing is not about selling items, but about collaborating, intentional planning and reaching out to familiar resources. Numerous strategies can be employed in order to implement library marketing but, a very few of the aforementioned, if adopted, will boost library services up to the mark. Creating a marketing plan as an outgrowth of strategic planning will allow the library as an entity to evaluate the specific needs of its most important user groups students, faculty and administration—and to then focus its funding priorities on the most needed resources and services.
Many libraries have begun to realize that adopting marketing technique and strategy to promote library services, the above principles in the academic library will better understand the needs of users, funding of the libraries and utilize the channel of communication more effectively to achieve greater efficiency in delivering the product and services to their valued clients. Information explosion, technology revolution, escalating library costs and web-based commercial services are key elements to develop marketing strategy among library professionals. Librarians can market their services and produce more efficiency by following above principles. Marketing strategy is not only building a good image for academic libraries, but also recognizing library staff in any organization.
— The writer is working as Library Officer in Institute of Strategic Studies, a think-think based in Islamabad.