Marketing of Library and Information Services


M. Ravichandran
S. Dhinesh Babu
Asst. Professor, MBA Department
Mohamed Sathak Engineering College
Kilakarai-623 806


The foundation for a great marketing plan of library and information services is to examine the library mission, values, and philosophy of service. Then analyze library capabilities and research customer needs to find out what works or what needs improvement. And then it is essential to use the analysis and research to establish goals, select strategies for promotion, develop the marketing plan of action, implement, and evaluate how well the libraries meet their goals. The results of evaluation can be used  to make changes or to develop a new marketing plan that responds to changes in the library, in the community, and in the world of information. Marketing is not exclusively for businessmen. It is the "science of strategy," and its main objective is to make client (user) satisfaction, so it is necessary that the librarians are welcome to act enthusiastically on marketing applications. Telecommunications, Information Technologies and Database Technologies have been acting as key elements in this process.


Marketing of Library and Information Services (MLIS) is the process of planning, pricing, promoting, and distributing library products to create "exchanges" that satisfy the library and the customer. MLIS is ongoing and dynamic due to the changes in the need patents of the customers and change in library service itself. The MLIS process determines the decisions and activities involved meeting the needs of customers. MLIS requires careful planning and begins with understanding the mission of the library. It can help in developing the mission of the library, establishing a positive image for the library in the community, and determining the best way to provide services to users.


As libraries shift more services to the Internet, the library web site becomes increasingly important as a product (service) in its own right and as a major tool in marketing other products of the library. Libraries can use the Web to provide services, to market services, or as part of the marketing process. The advent of new technologies such as dramatic increase of digital storage media; convergence of telecommunication and broadcasting, the availability of wealth of information resources accessible through the Internet and also reduction in cost of computers in the marketplace, make it possible for librarians to introduce IT products and services to fulfill information needs of their customers. Libraries in advanced countries are begun to undertake digitalization projects to convert their national in-prints into digital formats; some make them available through the Internet. Library as "reservoir of knowledge" must market its IT products and services in order to reach out to its potential users. Introducing IT products and services as an integral part of library services, accompanied by good advertisement as well as introducing systematic user education programs will encourage library users to come to library.


The MLIS-based products and services refer to sources of information and knowledge contents that are available in electronic forms such as books, CDs, videos, journals, journal articles, data bases, films, audio digital products, online publishing, public domain and commercial online databases available through Internet and other propriety databases available through various private network providers. A number of libraries have subscribed to Information sources in CD-ROM. The different types of library Services are public libraries, academic libraries, workplace information centres, advisory services, business consultancy services, and subject gateways, organisational web sites.


* Customers' requirements
* Scarcity of  resources
* Maintaining relevance
* Visibility
* Valuable community resource
* Rising expectations
* Survival
* Beneficial to library image


Most librarians do not market their library products, since they do not know how to market, or do not know how to do it well.  The following are the barriers in promoting library and information service products.

Money and attitude: Lack of funds is often used as a reason not to market. However, marketing library services is not simply a matter of spending money on promotion and advertising. Marketing is also a matter of improving the customers' experience of library services. Since the library staff interact with customers, theire attitudes have to be changed in such a way to understand what shapes customers' experiences and how to market library services to those customers. And majority of library staff do not have positive attitude. 

Lack of training and education: Often librarians do not promote library services well due to lack of training and knowledge of marketing tools and techniques. Despite the growing literature on library marketing, there remains a lack of familiarity with the total marketing concept among librarians.

Confusion: There is confusion about what the term marketing means. Much of this has to do with the interchangeability of terms such as 'promotion', 'public relations', 'publicity', and 'marketing'. There is also confusion about marketing libraries; the perception is that marketing is a business tool and not applicable to library settings, exists in this context.

Complex and complicated task: Marketing is a complicated problem for libraries because of their wide range of products and services from books to Internet access, and an extremely diverse audience that ranges from children to seniors, public officials to business people, students to faculty, and so on.

Passive vs. active stance: Rather than selling the library on its value and let the people to know what the library or information center offers, librarians often wait for customers to come to them. Rather than pushing out responses to anticipated information needs to customers, librarians wait for customers to stop by the facility or stumble across the library web site.


MLIS requires a critical analysis of the marketing mix (the 7 Ps of Marketing mix - product, place, price, promotion, Participants, Physical Evidence and Process) to identify the nature, features, benefits, and value of the products to the customer. The development of an effective marketing strategy requires the specification of the marketing mix. These concepts are utilized in the for-profit sector, but a good library-marketing plan will also profit (in the most altruistic sense, of course!) by examining products offered and assessing the value of the products to the users. Market research helps to determine what library users are looking for in the way of product features such as variety, quality, and design, and what benefits such as good performance, quality, reliability and durability users demand in services, systems, programs, and resources.

Table 1.  7P's of Marketing Mix in MLIS

7 Ps



Products or services of the general reference and information service department. This is, of course, the information, reference, and ancillary services that add value such as personal assistance, referral services, online database searches, document delivery, and interlibrary loan.


Pricing of use of the library is usually that of the time and effort the user spends traveling to the library, as well as the time and effort spent searching for and examining materials and cost of a foregone alternative activity.


Place of service, based upon knowledge of the market of a library, is essential in order to identify users and their discrete information needs and wants. Also, this location element has effect upon how the library can best access their product offerings. To expand the service area, the library may have branches, bookmobiles, or electronic access, FAX, and telephone calls, etc.


Promotion includes utilizing persuasive information about general information services, and communicating this information to target market segments that are potential users. Five kinds of promotion include: publicity, public relations, personal representatives, advertising, and sales promotion.


All human actors who play a part in reference and information services delivery, namely the library's personnel.

Physical Evidence

The environment in which the reference and information services are delivered that facilitates the performance and communication of the service.


The procedures, mechanisms and flow of activities by which the reference and information services are acquired.


Marketing is the analysis, planning, implementation, and control of carefully formulated programs designed to bring about voluntary exchanges of values with target markets for the purpose of achieving organizational objectives. Libraries will be utilizing the Web to provide services to an increasingly sophisticated and demanding computer user by providing access to the worldwide information that people and organizations need in a timely, convenient, and equitable manner.


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M. Ravichandran
S. Dhinesh Babu
Asst. Professor, MBA Department
Mohamed Sathak Engineering College
Kilakarai-623 806

Source: E-mail July 15, 2008


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