Friday, December 19, 2014

Marketing of information products and services P- 02. Academic Libraries

इस ब्लॉग्स को सृजन करने में आप सभी से सादर सुझाव आमंत्रित हैं , कृपया अपने सुझाव और प्रविष्टियाँ प्रेषित करे , इसका संपूर्ण कार्य क्षेत्र विश्व ज्ञान समुदाय हैं , जो सभी प्रतियोगियों के कॅरिअर निर्माण महत्त्वपूर्ण योगदान देगा ,आप अपने सुझाव इस मेल पत्ते पर भेज सकते हैं -

Marketing of information products and services

P- 02. Academic Libraries *

By :jagtar singh,Paper Coordinator


The objective of this lesson is to introduce the concept of marketing to students of Library and information science, and to explain the context in which the concept of marketing can be applied to library and information centres’ products and services.


Marketing need for the library
Knowing the users
Market segmentation
Marketing Mix
The 7Ps of service marketing
Activities and methods of marketing
Further Reading .


Marketing, in common usage, is commonly associated with selling, while technically it is not so. While the process of selling refers to an exchange of product(s) for their value generally in terms of money, the concept of marketing has evolved from one oriented towards production methods, quality of the product, selling methods, needs and wants of the users (customers), to holistic marketing concept . According to the American marketing Association, it is
“the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” (American Marketing Association, 2007).
Therefore, the concept of marketing is not a single act or process, but a complex phenomenon aimed at creating value for the end-users and other stakeholders of a product or service, through activities including communications.
The concept of marketing, its constituents, is expressed in terms of n number of Ps, which was earlier 4, and is now 7, and it revolves around the product to be marketed. In fact the first of the Ps in 4Ps of marketing is the product, but with the growth of services sector across the globe in last few decades, particularly the last quarter of 20th century, the concept of services marketing gained prominence. In this lesson, we will be discussing later the Ps in the context of academic libraries.

Marketing need for the Library

On their face, the terms marketing and library do not fit together. Old school thinking might be that the library service, particularly in academic libraries, is just as essential a service in the academic setting as the formal lecture is, and therefore needs no marketing or advertising. In this sense, yes we do not need our libraries to market or advertise themselves or their services, but we are not talking of marketing in a traditional sense. The marketing need as emphasized by Ross in Matthews (2009) is not ‘marketing to’ but ‘marketing through’ the services to the users.

Knowing the Users

To market the products and services of libraries, the library and the librarians must know who are going to be their users or customers. This is the foremost requirement. Also needed alongside the user is to know about their information use requirements. The subject of ‘use and user studies’ is therefore an important component of studiers in library and information science. What do we mean when we say knowing about the users. What is it that college/university students, the largest segment of academic library users use the library for? Matthews lists some activities of students’ use of the library, albeit in a typical American library setting. Nevertheless, same/similar activities can also be there for students and researchers in libraries in developing countries like India, and the difference if any can be of degree of use for a certain purpose than the other

  • waiting for a friend
  • checking e-mail
  • watching YouTube videos
  • burning a CD
  • playing Yahoo! Games
  • recharging an iPod
  • grabbing lunch
  • printing out boarding passes
  • taking a nap
  • photocopying fliers
As he emphasizes, these kinds of activities don’t make it into programmes and plans of libraries, nor do they fit into the mission/vision statements and quality policies of the typical academic library. While the library and the librarians strive for nobler pursuits, such as building collections or providing information literacy programmes, library users live in a different world.

For them the library is merely one of the stops along the way of a very busy day, in which they constantly juggle complex social, personal, professional and academic responsibilities. If the academic library has to play a meaningful role in their lives, and library and librarians have to communicate with them, then the library and librarians will have to find out how can the library fit within their lifestyle. It is for this purpose that the library needs to market its resources and services through to their users.

Market Segmentation

In an academic library, students would naturally form the largest group or segment of users, but to effectively communicate with all its users, libraries need to focus on varied segments of users. In the words of Mathews:

“Instead of patron, let’s try a more accurate label such as customer,user, audience, group, class, community member, segment, student, professor, faculty, staff member, donor, oralumni. […]. To some librarians customer is a dirty word; it somehow belittles what we do. But in all honesty, it is the customer-supplier relationship that best describes the transactions of the typical academic library. We offer them a product or service, and they in turn choose to use it or not.”

So an academic library has to offer its services to its users that are traditionally segmented as undergraduate students, postgraduate students, researchers, faculty, staff, and others. But the role of segmentation is not merely to group users by their broad category, and design services and frame rules accordingly, but also to identify which groups of users use which library services and why, so as to develop systems, programmes, and strategies to increase user interaction of those segments of users from all such broad categories named above that use the library very less or even not at all, or in other words the potential users. If  user segmentation, the market for the library, is segmented and programmes are developed to turn potential users into voracious readers, then the marketing activity of a library is a total success. For the segment that is already using the library services to the most, special incentives and benefits that relate directly to their academic activities in the college/university can be of immense value in marketing a library through its users. In fact, a library can market its services better by providing customized and personalized services for each segment of library users. 

Marketing Mix: The Ps of marketing

Marketing is generally explained in terms of 4Ps. These are: Product, Promotion, Price, and Place. In a world, where the focus is increasingly being put on the customer, the 4Ps are reworded to form the SIVA model, which is nothing but new terminology focused towards the customer as shown below:

Product is    Solution
Promotion is    Information
Price is    Value
Place (Distribution) is    Access

Three other Ps added to the 4Ps are People, Process, and Physical Evidence.

The 7Ps of services marketing

In case of services, the 7P terms are used, but as the services have their unique nature, their meaning and implications vary from that of these terms in case of goods or tangible products.

Product: There is no tangible product, only it may be packaged in a tangible form. Moreover, the service can be heterogeneous and perishable in which the aspects of production and use (consumption) are merged together and are inseparable.  Access to library services to a user being one such example of this kind.  A user is offered access to use a library and some/all of its specific services that can be availed by visiting the library personally. In this case the user is free to browse the collection, use specific services such as reading room and reprographic services, access to digital content held by the library/online content accessed by taking the help of library staff, circulation, etc. Some of the common product inventory types that a library offers include:

Resources: commonly books and periodicals, and also specialized resources. Resources are the backbone of the product a library offers. Users are generally not aware of the variety or depth of resources that their academic library holds or can provide access to through inter-library loan services or other cooperative activities. A library that wants its users to know what it has must offer the keys to its resources, the catalogues of its all collections, to its users. The catalogues, lists and other metadata resources must be updated, and be in such a form so that they are easily understood to users. Staff support in locating resources is a corollary to the resources but if these are provided, the resources of a library, as a product, would attract even more number of users through word of mouth, as users would share their positive experiences with their colleagues. Similarly, a resource located in the catalogue, but untraced in the shelves and elsewhere would also bring a negative image in the mind of the users, unless a satisfactory reason for its not being traced such as circulated, sent for binding, or otherwise in use elsewhere is offered to the users.

Space: Space is one of the best features that libraries have to offer. Collaborative workspaces are increasingly more prominent in modern study environments, along with other features of academic libraries such as computer labs, and comfortable seating areas that are also becoming common. Libraries should market its study and other areas in such a way as to bes serve the purposes for which various students and other users, as discussed above, use their library for.

Cyber Space: Aside from the physical environment of the library, one should also take into account online and cyber environment. With a large number of and transactions and information occurring online, library’s cyber space is also a key location for awareness of products as well as for the delivery of services as much as are possible in a library. This includes library websites and other academic websites such as course management systems. Libraries in the countries of the less developed world may not have highly developed web presence for delivery of services though many libraries are experimenting with social media and Web2.0. But it also must be kept in mind while using Web2.0 tools that libraries and librarians do not fall prey to misleading jargon of Library2.0, 3.0 etc while using Web2.0 tools and technologies.

Support: The reference desk, though not as popular or common in the libraries in India, as it is in the west, is an iconic symbol and perhaps one of the most defining service attribute of a library, besides other points such as Circulation and Periodicals. In each of such areas, libraries can serve and market themselves as products if the staff offers more than just what is needed by users for that area/section, e.g. circulation. A library has to provide users with integrated academic support services and research help, such as assistance with writing assignments and projects.

Equipment: Academic libraries, particularly university libraries and large college libraries, are now beginning to offer a wide range of equipment, and in developed countries even supplies. If we think of all of the tangible objects that can be found in the building other than collections, from furniture and computers to printers, scanners, and photocopiers, then it becomes clear that technology plays a large role in higher education, and libraries serve this need by providing technology products and services for access within its premises.

Experiences: The concept of experiences is more abstract than the previous product categories. This pertains to personal emotions and memories associated with using the library. At a basic level, if we imagine the feelings of your students while they use all the different sections/parts of the library and how library and its facilities and services help him/her for the purpose for which the user comes to the library. By viewing each library interaction with a user as an engagement opportunity, library staff members can use such opportunities to make users gain exposure to the full range of products that a library makes available for them.

Pricing: It is very difficult to assign costs to various factors associated with services, and therefore putting a price to services is a tough job than doing it for goods. In case of tangible goods, pricing can be easily done by calculating the costs of its inputs or raw materials, in the case of services, several other costs such as those associated with labor and overhead also need to be considered. Many libraries, particularly academic libraries, generally charge a non-refundable annual fee for use of the library from its users.

Place: In case of services, the service delivery is many-a-times, but not necessarily, concurrent with its production and cannot be stored or transported. In such cases the location of the service product is important. Service providers have to give special thought to where, when, and how a particular service is to be provided. In case of library services, where a user is to be provided access to the collection and its some/all specific services that a user can avail by visiting the library personally and those that can’t be provided to the user at his/her desktop, the service(s) delivery is concurrent with production. Some services, such as access to OPAC, reservation facility for a book, current awareness services, etc. can be provided to the user at his/her desktop via the Internet/intranets, which a user can avail from either the comfort of his/her home or any other convenient location outside the library.
Promotion: This refers to advertising one or more services a particular organization provides. This is needed because a service offering can be easily duplicated; promotion helps in differentiating a service offering from others in the minds of users or consumers. Thus, service providers offering identical services invest heavily in advertising their services. Library services, that are generally provided at a particular place are not generally advertised, because in the system of libraries and their information services, particularly in developing countries like India, is one based on cooperation , rather than competition. The mechanism of a user approaching several libraries is generally not the norm.

The final three elements of the services marketing mix - people, process and physical evidence - are unique to the marketing of services.
People: People are a defining factor in a service delivery process, since a service is inseparable from the person providing it. This also follows from the corollary of the fourth law of library science ‘Save the time of the user’, as ‘Save the time of the staff’. No wonder that many service providing institutions including libraries are focusing on people manning the organizations and investing in their training. If the library staff is trained and it undertakes activities to understand its users in a better way, then there are more chances of increased user activity in the library and their better communication with the library staff to meet their information needs.
Process: The process of service delivery is crucial since it ensures that the same standard of service is provided time and again to the users or customers. It also means that users are served with information in as less time as possible. If we extrapolate the fourth law of library science and the meaning of reference service as a personalized service, as given by Ranganathan, it becomes clear that user is the focus of services offered by library, and all processes of service delivery must conform to the highest professional standards to achieve efficiency and effectiveness in services. This can then be a strong marketing point for the library that it offers services of high quality in a least possible time.
Physical Evidence: Since services are intangible in nature, many service providers try to add some tangible elements into their service offerings so that the customer experience is enhanced and value is added. A bibliography in a neatly printed and bound packaged form is one such example. Although in the electronic form, when information can easily be provided to users in electronic form, this may not be needed, but wherever the physical or tangible element is there, library can innovatively market itself. Bookmarks giving information about library can be given alongside books being circulated.

Activities and tools of marketing

There is no single activity or process which alone can help market the library among its users, both actual as well as potential. Rather, an integrative and positive approach has to be followed by the academic library as a whole, including all its sections, departments, divisions, units in making library reach each of its users. Some of the activities it can undertake are:
  • Bring a regular newsletter/bulletin with students/other segments of users on its editorial board.
  • Prepare leaflets/brochures/fliers giving useful information about the library and its services and display these prominently within the library and the academic institution.
  • Develop a webpage of information about the services available via the library and how can one avail the services, including timings, special permissions, charges if any, etc. for each service to be used given clearly.
  • Develop a webpage/blog where users can interact online with the staff, as well as with other users. User feedback is of utmost importance in developing new services. These days users are using social media sites heavily. One can develop a social media site for the library for this purpose.
  • Organize events like online information searching, literary events, book clubs, lectures by faculty, alumni of the institution, etc. and other activities where library is not only the platform, but also the central place around which such activities get organized.
  • Organize book exhibitions on current topics as well as on special events.
  • Use SMS services on mobile phones, as the mobile phone has shown a very high penetration among all users, especially the youth. Use of this tool for reminding overdue book or for other services can have a positive impact on library services.
  • Use email for communicating with the users, and if possible, for providing ask-a-librarian services, to begin with only on working days/times and can be expanded as per the resources available.
Develop and display staff lists/names and contact details prominently within the library and elsewhere for giving users a feeling of personalized services.


Marketing as a complex of activities and processes that add value to the services that an academic library provides to its users is of immense value in modern librarianship in which users are relying more on the Internet, and other sources than on the library services. To bring back users to the library, or to make them use the spectrum of services that libraries offer, even if they are remotely located from the library, applying marketing concept using the 7Ps of services marketing, knowing the users, and market segmentation tools, is the need of the hour for a  modern academic library.

Further Reading

  • Mathews, Brian (2009). Marketing today’s academic library: a bold new approach to communicating with students. Chicago: American Library Association.
  • Wood, E. J., & Young, V. L. (1988). Strategic marketing for libraries: A handbook. New York: Greenwood Press.

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