I did not know what to write this month. And I’m sitting here, watching the clock tick by, and getting so much more frustrated.


So I pulled out an old strategy: I went to a website that randomly pulls one of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies out of a deck to help get past a road block. And the suggestion I got was “When is it for? Who is it for?” And while that’s a great consideration for a blog, it’s an even more important consideration for library marketing.

We serve a lot of people. In fact, some libraries (maybe even most public libraries) say that they serve everyone in their community. And while this is a lofty goal and one we should certainly aspire to, it isn’t true. We don’t have unlimited resources. There is only so much time and so much money, and so we have to pick our battles. When we decide to focus on one group to extend our reach, it’s an important part of prioritizing our library services. But when picking these groups to prioritize, it’s important to prioritize your marketing materials as well.

When I’m creating marketing materials for my libraries, what we do is influenced not only by our skills and budget by also by the type of person we are trying to reach and the time frame in which we need to reach them. In other words: When is it for? Who is it for? This weekend, one of our clerks is running in a 5K dressed as a superhero with a banner on her back. Another coworker will be handing out goodie bags at the event with information about summer reading. Who is this for? The race audience and supporters. That’s why we’ve got a runner in costume who will draw the eye with a giant sign on her back. When is it for? Three weeks before people are supposed to start signing up for summer reading. Our programs are finalized so we can start announcing them while also getting our message into a new space for us.

When marketing programs and services, consider these questions when making choices:

When is it for?

  • Will people have time to see this poster or brochure? Or do we need something with more immediate impact like a social media push?
  • Do we have time to complete this particular outreach method? For instance, do you have time to build a landing site for summer reading or National Library Card Sign Up Month?
  • Do we have time to partner with other organizations to help spread our impact or get them to hand out our literature? Are we going to do this long enough for a word of mouth campaign to take hold?

Who is it for?

  • Who can do something with this information? For instance, even if it’s a kid’s event, parents are the one who makes the attendance decision.
  • How do people like to be reached? Some people like e-mail, others text, others social media, others passive browsing on a website, and still other brochures. Make sure the audience for the service is being met in the appropriate way.
  • Does the audience have special needs? Older people respond better to larger typefaces, serif fonts, and paragraphs without hyphens in them.

I know that so many of us gravitate towards flyers, brochures, and bookmarks because that’s what we’ve always done. And if this meets the when and who of your audience, keep it up! But if it’s not, consider new formats, new timelines, new skillsets, and new horizons that may help engage audiences that have never been targeted before.