I thought I had heard all the arguments for and against library marketing. At one end, I’ve heard people argue that if we’re offering products and services that people really want and need, people will come. As an addendum to that argument, it is often said that librarians need to spend more time improving those things than on advertising.

There’s some naivete in such statements. Patrons still need to hear about them and word of mouth will only go so far. Plus, we need to convince funding agents that what we’re doing has value.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those that would see us selling t-shirts, handing out flyers on street corners, and spending the bulk of our time Tweeting/ Instagramming/ Facebooking/ Vining/ SnapChatting/ Tumbling/ YouTubing/ Blogging every move we make. Sure, there’d be a possible initial increase in patrons but they’d get there and realize are offerings are scant, disorganized, and ill-prepared because our human resources are limited and all the focus went on promotions.

Fortunately, most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

Yet, PC Sweeney has managed to find a third angle that I’ve not considered before, arguing that the vendors of our products should be the ones who do the marketing. He uses Pepsi to make his point (and you can read his entire thoughts here), stating that people go into a store to buy Pepsi because Pepsi has convinced people they want it, not the store. Similarly he adds, vendors should be convincing the public that they want their obscure databases and if enough people want it, then libraries should get it and the patrons will show up. In this limited example, I think he has a point.

However, I have a couple of concerns. One: we’re about more than products, we’re about services. Two: vendors are not interested in selling to our patrons, they’re only interested in selling to us. Why? Going back to the Pepsi analogy, the store isn’t giving the Pepsi away as we would. Our vendors are interested in sales and we are not and that changes the dynamic.

Your thoughts?

– John Mutford