I had an amazing conversation with some people on twitter the other morning all about how libraries doing a really bad job of marketing themselves. I tweeted that “I believe that if librarians spent time money on marketing then we wouldn’t be constantly complaining about people perceptions of libraries” and that libraries need to drop a database in order tell people about the other 49. Well, I’m going to take it all back. I realized that I was wrong, the problem is not that librarians are refusing to market themselves, its that our biggest vendors refuse to market their products.
The problem is that it shouldn’t have to be librarians who are marketing and advertising the things that libraries are offering like databases and our various collections. The ones marketing their products to the public should be the ones selling those products to us. If some database company wants my library to buy their product, there should be a demand for their product. If nobody uses their latest proprietary database on the mating habits of the Great Spotted Alaskan Chinchilla, then my library just simply shouldn’t be buying it.
Why are librarians the one stuck paying for a product, and then having to pay to market that product to the people to make sure that demand is high enough to justify buying that product? Why do we have to do their work for them? This is not how it works with any other industry.
Here’s my analogy;
The mom and pop stores on the corner of my block carry all kinds of Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, whatever… But, not once have I ever seen an ad on FB, on TV, on the Radio, in the Newspaper from the corner store telling people how delicious Pepsi is. They might advertise that they have it, but they’d never advertise that anyone should drink it over anything else. You know why? Because Pepsi advertises that people should drink Pepsi, which makes people demand Pepsi, which is why stores offer Pepsi.
But in our case;
A database company sells their database to the library.
But that’s it! That’s all that happens! Then its up to the library to make sure anyone uses it or cares that the library is paying for it. The library has to convince the public that it’s a good product AND the library has to expend resources telling people that they library offers it. The library pays for the opportunity to offer a product nobody wants because the company that makes the product doesn’t spend any resources to tell people how great their product is. It’s as if libraries are paying twice for the product and being forced to do all the big vendor’s work for them as well.
But here’s something to think about.
If one of our database companies started using their money, not to advertise to librarians that they have the product, but to advertise to the people that there is a really great product offered at their local library, then the libraries would have to offer their product due to demand AND people would know that libraries are offering these products. Essentially, by advertising to the public about what their products are offering and how great they are and that they are available with a library card then more libraries would have to buy those databases due to increased demand and libraries would get more people to use their services. Because of this we will also get more engaged and educated library users and that translates into more library support which translates into more funding for libraries which in turn translates into more money for library vendors since more people will be demanding their databases.
What do you think? This was really just a quick and rough brainstorm that I had and it was too long for a tweet so I wrote a blog. Am I totally wrong on this idea? I’d love to know that I’m wrong.