Tag Archives: marketing

The 10-Minute International Librarian #61: Think of the last time you attracted a non-user

 As part of libraries’ mission to serve every member of their communities, a key question is how to bring in new users.

Among those who do not currently regularly visit library buildings or websites, there may be some – or many even – who are missing out on opportunities that could help them.

To address this, we need to be able to identify what is holding them back from using libraries, and how to overcome any barriers that might exist.

What works in helping them to understand how coming to the library – or its website – can benefit them? What assumptions or concerns need to be tackled?

This is also helpful in advocacy, when you may well also be trying to convince people who do not use our institutions – or have not done so for many years – of why they are so important.

So for our 61st 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, think of the last time you attracted a non-user.

How did they find out about the library?

What had prevented them from using the library before, and what made them change their mind?

Think about what lessons you can draw for wider efforts to engage non-users, including among decision-makers.

Share your stories in the comments box below.

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! Key Initiative 3.3: Empower the field at the national and regional levels.

As we publish more ideas, you will be able to view these using the #10MinuteInternationalLibrarian tag on this blog, and of course on IFLA’s Ideas Store! Do also share your ideas in the comments box below.

Dreamers and Schemers: a simple recipe for library advocacy

Studies of human behaviour are often characterised by a distinction between idealism and realism, between emotion and logic, or between the heart and the head.

Some decisions and actions we see as being driven by instinct, optimism or by a broader sense of values, while others seem to come down to cold, hard rationality.

A Nobel Prize for Economics went to Daniel Kahneman for his work on the difference between choices made rapidly, based on feelings, and those made after deep consideration.

International relations also traditionally differentiates between realists (who argue that countries follow their own interests and use their power freely) and idealism (who argue that states promote their domestic values in their international activities).

How does this relate to library advocacy?

Previous blogs, notably in partnership with OCLC’s WebJunction, have explored the idea of how a range of individual strengths (described as personality types) can come together in order to make for effective advocacy.

At a simpler level, however, we can see library advocacy as requiring a combination of idealism and realism in order to achieve its goals. In other words – as set out in the title of this blog – we need both dreamers and schemers in order to succeed.

Why we need dreamers?

Idealism remains a powerful motivator of action. Fortunately, libraries tend to have this in abundance!

Our institutions are strongly based on values – the importance of equitable access to information, of service to all, of safeguarding heritage for the future, all without the motivation of profit or private gain.

Where these values – and the budgets needed to deliver on them – have been challenged, libraries have become stronger and stronger in defending them.

We have produced communications materials, brought together stories and examples of how libraries contribute to development and other community goals, and build networks of friends and supporters.

Work based on idealism helps to create a positive feeling around libraries, raising interest among decision-makers and voters alike. Even in less democratic systems, those in power often rely on the support of the people for legitimacy, and so will care about what they feel.

Done effectively, it also helps make the step from sympathy to active support among – something that is crucial if libraries are to benefit from the funding and laws they need.

Why we need schemers?

However, idealism does not always solve everything. The fact of acting in the public interest, or delivering on well acknowledged values, is not necessarily enough to bring about adequate funding or favourable reforms to libraries. Understandably, this can be disheartening.

However, we can respond by complementing idealism with a dose of realpolitik. We need to be both dreamers and schemers.

Sometimes, it’s a question of knowing where, when, how, and to whom to make your points most effectively.

For example, a campaign in favour of libraries in the months before a key decision is taken is clearly more useful than one just after.

The answer is to build up your understanding of how decisions are taken, and ideally your relationships with key people involved in the process. If you look, you may well find someone who feels warmly about libraries, and so who can help you. In turn, their advice and insights can help you increase the impact of your work.

There is also the reality that decisions to support additional funding, or favourable laws for libraries, are not always simple. There can be opposition, for example from those resistant to spending in general, other potential beneficiaries of money, or those who feel that better laws for libraries will disadvantage them.

This opposition can be based on values, or simply on concern about profit margins. It is important to think about the arguments that can be made against stronger support for libraires, and how you can counter these.

Of course, in doing so, it is usually best to avoid looking like you do not care about the views of others. Decision-makers often want to avoid ‘picking sides’ in order not to lose support. However, you can usually make progress by showing that supporting libraries brings benefits for all.


As highlighted earlier in this blog, libraries are often already strong when it comes to being ‘dreamers’. We know that our work is based on values, service, and the wider public interest, and are becoming better and better at articulating this.

A key area of development is therefore around how also to become ‘schemers’ – how to understand the processes that lead to decisions being taken about libraries, and how to influence them most effectively.

This is far from the world of pure private lobbying, centred on how to maximise profits for a particular sector (or its shareholders). Throughout libraries’ engagement in decision-making, our values can and should shine through – this is what sets us apart.


In short, we need both to be dreamers and schemers in order to make the best and most effective case for libraries into the future.

The 10-Minute International Librarian #43: Think about your brand

Libraries traditionally benefit from a largely positive public opinion.

However, general warmth about libraries as an idea is not the same thing as a clear impression of why our institutions matter so much.

Ensuring that people know clearly what they gain from having libraries – and what they would miss if they didn’t – can help not only in your own local situation, but also more broadly.

This is what marketers seek to do when they try to build up a brand around their company or product, ensuring that it stands out and gets noticed.

They work hard to understand what people think about them, and to shape these reactions through advertising and other forms of communication.

So for our 43rd 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, think about your brand.

What impression do your users have of your library? What words would they use to describe it?

And what impression do you want your users and community to have of you?

You can use your ideas subsequently to think about how you can communicate your work.

Let us know your most effective ways of ensuring positive perceptions of libraries in the comments box below, and check out the work of IFLA’s Management and Marketing Section for more ideas.

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! 4.4 Increase our visibility through excellent and innovative communications.

As we publish more ideas, you will be able to view these using the #10MinuteInternationalLibrarian tag on this blog, and of course on IFLA’s Ideas Store! Do also share your ideas in the comments box below.

The 10-Minute Digital Librarian #1: Update your presence on Wikipedia

Our first batch of tips on being an effective digital librarian will focus on how you can make use of digital technologies to raise awareness of your work and services.

At a time that there is active competition for people’s time and attention, and that people expect to be able to find information easily, it is valuable to use available tools to avoid getting lost in the crowd.

A good way of doing this is by making sure that you are present on the sites that your users are using. Wikipedia is a great example, as the 5th most visited site on the internet. Furthermore, other search engines often draw on Wikipedia entries in order to provide responses.

Your library may already have a page on Wikipedia. In this case, you can make sure that information is up to date. For example, do you have collections of particular interest, or is there something unique about the building?

You may need to create a new page – there are helpful instructions available on how to start. In doing so, you will need to remember to follow the rules for Wikipedia editors, and of course that you find external sources as far as possible for what you want to say.

To get inspiration, you can look at specific examples, such as Manchester Central Library in the UK, Berlin State Library in Germany, the Central Library of Buenos Aires province, or the list of libraries in India.

You can also participate in activities like #1Lib1Ref, using your expertise to improve the quality of other articles, benefitting all of Wikipedia’s users. There’s also a great community around Wikimedia (which covers the wider range of Wiki projects), in which many librarians are already active.

Good luck!

If you are interested in library marketing more broadly, you should take a look at the work of IFLA’s Management and Marketing Section, which provides a platform to share expertise and experience.

Discover our series of 10-Minute Digital Librarian posts as it grows.