Week 5 - Promoting mobile resources

This section of the CE class will focus on promoting mobile resources. Many of the resources that libraries subscribe to include access to a mobile resource, as I’m sure you’ve noticed the last few weeks.  Other mobile resources are free online.  How do you inform your patrons about these resources so that they can take full advantage of them? This section is broken down into the following three aspects.

1. Introduction to Marketing
2. Passive Marketing Techniques
3. Active Marketing Techniques

Introduction to Marketing

Marketing is becoming increasingly important for libraries in this day of Google and all things web-based.  It's important because we want people to know that we are here and that we can help them. That's job security. It's also important because we have a responsibility to our patrons to make sure that they are not going out and buying things that we are already providing for them.

In preparing to teach this section of the class, I found myself thinking of all the things I've tried to do for marketing in the past. Then, I decided to be a good librarian and do some research.  Below is the citation for a short article that explains the basics. 

Cole, K., Graves, T., & Cipkowski, P. (2010). Marketing the library in a digital world. Serials Librarian, 58(1-4), 182-187. doi: 10.1080/03615261003625729

Of course, reading this article is not required for this section, so I'll be summarizing what I thought were the main points while also trying to bring this back to the topic at hand - mobile resources. 

One of the first things mentioned in this article is that if you want to be successful at marketing your resources, you have to develop a plan.  The suggested method involves four steps: "researching your market, performing a SWOT analysis, formulating SMART objectives, and brainstorming the plan" (Cole, et. al. p. 183).

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. What makes your mobile resources worth using for patrons?  What are some weaknesses with regards to your mobile resources (are they only available for certain devices? Do you have to keep track of serial numbers?) .  Where are your opportunities for marketing these resources? What are the threats that you have to overcome (such as bias in resources, data collection)? You can see some examples of threats in the discussion board thread "Conflict of Interest."

SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed. I think the main point of having SMART goals is being sure that you know if you've achieved them. I thought it was nice to see that Cole mentions the need to make sure you keep the "why" in mind when looking at your measurements. That will help you decide what to track.

Once you get to the brainstorming session, the fun begins. Now, I don't remember where I heard this (maybe in an assessment CE?), but when you get to brainstorming, remember that there are no bad ideas. Just write down everything as it comes to mind (or is shouted out if you are brainstorming as a group).  Worry about picking out the best ideas later.
This brings us to the different types of marketing: passive and active.

Passive Marketing Techniques

Passive marketing is generally an ongoing effort to promote a resource or service in a subtle manner. A great example of passive marketing is the library website. Another example would be posting flyers.  These methods put information out there for your patrons and leave it to them to decide if they want to pursue more information or not. Following are some examples of ways that libraries are using passive marketing for mobile resources: Electronic resources pages that illustrate when a mobile interface or app is available, LibGuides for mobile resources and Websites for mobile resources.  Keep in mind that since these are ongoing marketing campaigns, there is ongoing maintenance to be done. For example, you may need to update your webpage when a vendor changes which devices their app will work on.

Electronic Resources Pages Illustrating Mobile Apps

Mobile Resources LibGuides

University of Iowa - Hardin Library for the Health Sciences

University of Missouri, Columbia - J. Otto Lottes Health Sciences Library

Albert Einstein Medical College - D. Samuel Gottesman Library

LibGuide on Mobile Resources from D. Samuel Gottesman Library

Mobile Resources Websites

East Carolina University - William E. Laupus Health Sciences Library

ECU Mobile Resource Page

University of Virginia - Claude Moore Health Sciences Library

Posting Flyers

I don't have a pretty picture to go with this method or a story related to only mobile resources. However, I am a big fan of flyers. When I worked at Laupus Library at ECU, we had a marketing plan that involved rotating out posters and flyers every month in the Fall and Spring semesters (we would often stick to just one flyer for the whole summer). There was a two sided poster stand near the heavily used elevator on the main floor and then each of the tables in the information commons had a three sided flyer holder in the center of the table.  The flyers would match the posters (with one side of the triple sided flyer holder being devoted to computer use policies).  The topics for these flyers varied depending on new resources (like when we got DynaMed) or services (such as online help sheets and tutorials). Full disclaimer: Laupus does have a graphic designer who put together all the posters and flyers, but it could just as easily be done with Microsoft Word or Publisher. 

In the past, posters were put up throughout the health sciences building to advertise medical history discussions or the library liaisons program, as well. 

What other techniques can you think of for passive marketing? Have you tried any of the above mentioned strategies? Feel free to start a discussion about this. Some folks have already shared their mobile sites in the discussion board with the entry "Doctors Going Digital."

Home Pages

I realize that the majority of what I'm talking about here involves examples of marketing for electronic resources that have mobile apps or interfaces. I know that's not the only thing that libraries have to offer. Some libraries have equipment loan programs for things like iPod Touches and ebook readers. Maybe libraries are developing their own websites that are optimized for viewing on mobile devices. No matter what you are doing or have to offer, I think a good thing to do is stick it on your library's home page. Of course, caution has to be taken with the home page. It's prime real estate and there are a lot of competing resources and services that could go on a home page. Maybe consider adding a rotating banner to your page or rotating blocks of images near the middle of your website to maximize the marketing potential of your library's website.

Active Marketing Techniques

This form of marketing is much more "in your face," than passive marketing, and for that reason, it can potentially require more formal planning than the use of flyers, LibGuides, mobile resources sites, or website images or banners. Active marketing is meant to spark interest quickly and could be especially useful for new or timely information such as a new mobile app or interface. I would love to tell you that a great way to actively market your mobile resources would be to have some student workers wearing sandwich boards (or better yet, dressed up like a smart phone) hand out flyers all over campus, but I think most of us would agree it might be a little obnoxious (if you do it, send pictures!).  Luckily for you, I have some suggestions for other ways to actively market your mobile resources. 

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth campaigns can be a nice free way to spread the word about a new resource or service (like mobile resources).  There is a great article on this topic. (I'm pretty sure it's an open access article).

Barber, P., & Wallace, L. (2009). The power of word-of-mouth marketing... judy wright. American Libraries, 40(11), 36-39.

The basic idea of word of mouth marketing is to get your users to promote resources for you. Find your library supporters (I like to call them library champions) and show them your new mobile resources. If they like the mobile apps or interfaces, chances are pretty high that they will share that information with other people in their department and so forth and so on. Or, follow the example of
The Winnetka-Northfield Public Library District.  They worked on a strategy that had library staff on the front lines promoting resources, and they felt that it was highly successful.

During a lot of the orientation sessions I do for residents and med students, I will show them our Mobile Resources LibGuide and then I invite them to email me for suggestions or if they have questions or need a DynaMed serial. Usually, I'll have 2 or 3 people email me during the session asking for a serial number or recommendations for mobile resources they can get from the library, and during the next few days, more emails trickle in. It might also be a good idea to ask people if they are using any of the mobile resources the library subscribes to and see what they say. People tend to be more responsive when they hear about something from a co-worker or peer.

Emails, Newsletters, and Social Media

Do you have access to list servs? Do you have email lists that you are already using to talk with the people at your institution? Many liaisons like to do a monthly email to their patrons to talk about new resources and services such as new books or changes in library hours. This might be a good place to talk about the latest apps.

If mass emailing isn't for you, consider taking advantage of tools where your users choose to sign up for library information.

If your library has a newsletter or blog you might consider devoting a column to mobile resources or write an article about what the library has to offer. 

Finally, if it's appropriate for your users, you can take advantage of social media like Twitter and Facebook to help you promote your mobile resources.  Consider talking about mobile resources every month or semester or just whenever you find out about a new app or interface. 


Probably the most famous active marketing campaign I can think of right now would be the Old Spice campaign.

This video quickly prompted the famous New Spice: Study Like a Scholar, Scholar video by Brigham Young University's Harold B. Lee Library.

Of course, most of us do not have a multimedia center around to create highly professional YouTube videos that instantly go viral. Still, there's something to be learned from this sort of campaign.  Michelle Kraft wrote a blog post titled, "Friday Fun: Libraries with a Little Old Spice and New Spice" where she shares her thoughts on what libraries can learn from this sort of marketing adventure, and it's not all about creating commercials or YouTube videos.

Just for the record, I think creating YouTube videos is a fun and creative way to market library services. And, since I just can't help myself, here's an example of a video my former co-workers and I did promoting the Laupus Library Audiovisuals room and the Joyner Library Teaching Resources Center called PeeDee Visits Special Collections at ECU Libraries: Research First Aid. A shortened version of this episode was played live over the LCD screens throughout the library (which was one of the reasons we went with a silent movie theme).

What other active marketing techniques can you think of?


Library resources are changing constantly and lately, there seems to be a trend towards creating mobile apps and interfaces for things like databases.  It's our responsibility as librarians to find ways to let our users know what we have available for them or what might be available freely out in the world, and there are lots of ways to go about doing it. Below are some more resources that you might consider checking out for other ideas on how to further market the value of your library, librarians, and resources/services. 

Additional Resources

The Internet Squeeze: Active and Passive Marketing

Marketing Electronic Resources ScoopIt  (Discovered on the Krafty Librarian Blog)

ALA: Marketing @ Your Library

MLA: Library Public Relations and Marketing

Delicious Page for All Links Mentioned in this Section

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