5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Library Marketing

Marketing your library is hard work. Most library marketers are doing their best with a small or nonexistent staff and an even smaller budget. Library marketing messages have to compete with an endless parade of promotions from bookstores and retail outlets, most with the kind of money and marketing staff that a library can only dream about.

But there are some simple and mostly free ways to put more “oomph” behind marketing efforts at your library and give the promotions you produce better results. Put these 5 tips into practice and celebrate as your marketing promotions become more effective!

Digital promotions (eblast, digital signage, homepage graphic)
created by Simon Shakespeare



1. Simplify your posters, fliers, and bookmarks.

Library marketers often try to put all the information about a program or event on their printed marketing materials. This makes the piece look cluttered and less inviting to the eye. The use of white space or negative space increases reading comprehension by almost 20%. Use bold graphics or well-produced photos in your printed material to draw attention to the piece. Include only the basic, must-know information. Then direct users to visit your website or ask a staff member for further details.

2. Banish industry speak from your promotions.

To communicate more effectively with your customers, you need to talk like your customers. That means we have to stop using certain words that make sense in the library world but not in the “real” world.

For example, people (non-librarians) read magazines, not periodicals. When’s the last time you said “resources” in a conversation outside of a library? You probably used the word “tools” or “helpful websites” instead.

Our library recently discovered that people don’t differentiate between physical audiobooks and eAudiobooks. To our customers, they’re all audiobooks.

As a librarian, these may seem like simple concepts. But it helps to take a step back and remember that most of our customers have limited interactions with us, and library terminology is not ingrained in their everyday vocabulary. Using non-industry terminology is good customer service — something we should all strive to perfect every day.

3. Cut down on the number of promotions.

This seems completely counterintuitive to any marketer, but if you focus your efforts on strategic programs or services, you’ll see better results. Promote the services your customers really want and use. For example, collections are an overlooked area for library marketers. We take it for granted that people know we have books, especially new books. We should stop doing that!

If you have a service that demands a large portion of your budget and solves a big problem for many of your customers, then put your efforts into promoting that service and only that service for a cycle. A multi-tiered, long-term effort to promote one service will result in wider brand awareness and will increase use of the service.

Finally, choose program promotions with care. Pick programs that are interesting and unique to your community. Again, put a longer, multi-tiered promotional effort behind a few programs for better results. When you spread yourself thin and try to be all things to all people, you won’t resonate with anyone.

4. Start a blog.

You can use Wordpress, Medium or any number of free blogging sites if blogging on your library’s website is not an option. Create an editorial calendar and publish on a consistent basis. It’s okay if you only publish once a month — just make sure that your post goes up on the same day of the week and time of day every month.

If you are smart with your keywords, the SEO ranking of your website or blog will rise and you’ll attract more visitors to your website. Keywords like “homework help” and “reading recommendations” in the text of your blog will increase the chances that a search engine like Google will show your website to anyone typing those words into the search bar. Plus, search engines are constantly looking for new material on websites, and the more you post, the higher your search ranking will be.

It’s easier to create your own audience and maintain that audience than it is to chase the fragmented audience of most media properties. Television, radio and newspapers are no longer efficient and effective ways to reach your cardholders. Their audiences are dwindling. It makes more sense to build your own audience and target them with your own content marketing messages.

5. Put some money behind Facebook posts.

Most libraries have a tight budget, but there is usually some money set aside for promotions, and the most effective use of that budget is to boost your Facebook posts. The time and effort it takes to set up a boosted post is relatively short, and the process is easy enough that a beginner can walk through it without much effort. The platform has very specific targeting methods, so you can make sure your message gets in front of the right eyes at the right time. And, though it won’t confirm that this is the case, Facebook appears to reward businesses that boost posts monetarily by making sure the business’s other organic posts get in front of more eyes. It’s also a very affordable paid promotional option. An audience of 2,000 customers targeted on Facebook over a seven-day time frame will cost about $25.

I also encourage library marketers to set aside a portion of their day to research marketing trends and ideas. I love podcasts and I find it’s an easy way to learn about how other companies are finding success in marketing. I can usually figure out a way to translate what they do to the library world. Some of my favorites are Focus on Customer Service, Unthinkable and Brand Newsroom. Fifteen minutes of this research every day will make you a better marketer!


Angela Hursh

Angela Hursh

Angela Hursh left a career in the TV news business three years ago to accept her dream job as Content Team Leader for the Marketing Department of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. She is an advocate of collection marketing for libraries and specializes in targeted email messaging, and she also drives strategy for the content team's efforts to reach unique groups of library users. She loves to read and listen to audiobooks. Bernard Cornwell, Stephen King, Jodi Picoult and Philippa Gregory are her favorite authors. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, Chris, and their two daughters, ages 16 and 12, a dog and a giant hermit crab named Tiny Tina. You can follow Angela on Snapchat and Twitter @Webmastergirl or on her website, superlibrarymarketing.com.