The complex, evolving, 21st-century library is not just about books or resources; it’s not just about buildings and spaces. Despite providing a wide range of services, materials, unique programs and collections, subject area expertise, research assistance, and access to both print and online resources, libraries often struggle with effectively communicating all that they offer. Additionally, the ability of libraries to communicate their value and garner financial support is increasingly important when faced with shrinking budgets and competing needs.

When considering how to develop a strategic marketing and communications plan, it is helpful to conceptualize the work of libraries in terms of human interest stories that illustrate their impact on their patrons. Marketing in libraries is about building community and cultivating relationships. Thinking in stories offers library employees a framework for understanding all of their outreach, marketing, and communication efforts, while simultaneously humanizing the “marketing” work they need to do.

By using stories focused on library patrons to reach library supporters, libraries can shift the focus away from the need for them to “sell” themselves, and can instead begin thinking deliberately and thoughtfully about their users and their users’ needs. This, in turn, should prevent the development of communication silos and the proliferation of disconnected piecemeal marketing activities, and enable libraries to develop cohesive mission-driven marketing and communications strategies.

Author Biography

Clarissa has been the Communications Manager for Western Washington University Libraries since 2013, and has fourteen years of experience working in academic libraries. This past November 2015, she was a presenter at the Library Marketing and Communications Conference held in Dallas, Texas, where she spoke about the value of sharing library stories based on examples from Western Libraries. She is an alumna of Western Washington University, with a B.A. in Humanities and M.Ed. in Environmental Education.

Copyright statement

© 2015 Clarissa J. Mansfield


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