Marketing Woes

Recently, I wrote about how R.A. Swigert encourages guerrilla marketing in libraries via the distribution of business cards in library items. It turns out that his post was precipitated by an even more disturbing story that he read in the Guardian Unlimited entitled, Libraries to be ‘new channel’ for direct marketing.

Color me unamused by British libraries willingness to distribute hundreds of thousands of advertisements along with their lending materials. They estimate that they will be putting as many as 500,000 ads in items each month! Since the ads will be inserted on the same page as the book pockets, every patron is sure to see the ads at least once.

The participating libraries (Essex, Southend, Bromley, Leeds and Somerset) will receive more than £10,000 in income from the relationship to supplement their operating budgets. Howse Jackson, the marketing company that originated the idea intends to take the scheme nationwide over the next few years.

At least one person seems as disturbed as I do about this perversion, Mr. Guy Daines, director of policy at the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. In the story, Mr. Daines is quoted as saying:

Like any other public sector institution finding a new stream of income is incredibly important.” However, he claims, there is a risk that advertising could put libraries’ place in the community at risk. “Free access and impartiality are at the core of what libraries do,” he said, “so any kind of scheme which seems to compromise that position of impartiality and trust has to be looked at very carefully.

This is exactly what I was thinking… Not to mention the thought of this cancer metastasizing into other aspects of library service. I find the thought of sitting at the Reference Desk wearing a McDonald’s uniform to be rather uncomfortable.

Would you like fries with that?

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~ by Woeful on January 13, 2008.

11 Responses to “Marketing Woes”

  1. Mr. Daines took the words right out of my mouth. Now you’ve got me all in a tizzy about this library marketing deal.

  2. I can see people logging on for their computer sessions, and being forced to watch ads for whateveryourbrandis before they can do what they need to do because the workstation was donated by the brand.

  3. Right on…it’s a slippery slope.

    With that, Woeful, I bid you good night. It’s my day off tomorrow! I intend on making the most of it. Good luck with the rest of your football games…

  4. What about having the official “FedEx/Kinkos Copy Center” IN the library?! You have to admit, that’d be kinda cool.

  5. Hello Daily! The public library is supposed to be a place that doesn’t care what brand you like, how much money you have in your pocket, who you vote for, or what you worship. We’re supposed to provide the same level of service regardless of these things, it’s a very socialistic institution. Everyone is equal in the eyes of the library, there is no class system in play once someone walks through our door. This is the beauty of the public library system.

    Commercializing the library can only lead to a bastardization of our ideals. I don’t want to turn people away who can’t pay more than .10 for color prints, or because they’re drinking the wrong brand of coffee. Yes, we charge a nominal amount for paper and ink, but we don’t do this to make any profit, we do this so we can provide the service at all. In the end, we lose a lot of money, but that’s OK because we’re not about money, we’re about service.

    I’ve thought a lot about corporate technology sponsorship as a way to improve the quality of, and the access to our technology. New computers and software every two to three years would be really nice. In the end, however, I think that this would set a bad precedent, compromising our impartiality, and ethical obligation to provide service to all indiscriminately.

  6. This reminds me of the zoo in the movie Fierce Creatures where every animal was used for marketing, like the tiger walking around wearing a Smirnoff ad.

  7. Seriously, can you imagine that? I wonder what The Well Dressed Librarian would think about this idea? 🙂

  8. Actually, while I hate the corporate marketing in libraries aspect of it myself. Maybe we should be putting cards and flyers and papers in our books about stuff going on in our library instead of someone else’s stuff. It’s kind of a good idea if it’s used for good!

  9. Hi P.C., thanks for stopping by! I think you’re right. Advertising our own programs is always good idea. In fact, it’s something I think we could all do a lot better. That said, I still don’t think it’s a good idea to “spam” (for lack of a better term) our materials for anything less than whatever we deem to be “big” events.

  10. Hmm, it’s just a matter of time now before the idea crosses the pond. All it takes is for some “enterprising” (read “asshat”) library administrator to propose it to a local board more than willing to allow it so they don’t have to fund the library itself, and there you have it. Sure, there will be some outcry from those of us who believe in the library as the democratic institution, yadda, yadda, but it will happen anyhow since we all know money talks and you know what walks. As for the FedEx/Kinko’s idea someone suggested in comments, I don’t think that is far off. I mean, a good number of libraries already have Starbucks or some other branded coffee inside the library. Is a copy service really that farfetched then? I am not saying it’s right; it’s wrong to turn the library into a commercial enterprise for those who can pay, but the cynic in me knows it’s only a matter of time.

  11. The problem with these “supplemental” fundraising strategies, is that they have an enormous potential to backfire in that the primary income provider (i.e., municipality) sees the revenue being generated by this “other” source, and then decides to cut the budget since it looks like they don’t need it anymore. Not a good thing when trying to get ahead…

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