Rostoucí význam marketingu knihovních zdrojů a služeb
Aline Soules, Kresge Business Administration Library, University of Michigan Business School, USA


First, let me thank you for this opportunity to be here and also for your hospitality. It's truly an honor to have been invited and I want to offer a special thanks to Vladimir Karen and Jiri Kadlecek of Albertina Icome Praha, and also Hana Pessrova of CERGE-EI. All of them have extended themselves to me and I'm grateful. I also want to bring you greetings from the University of Michigan Business School and my colleagues in the school and in the library.

When Vladimir and I met at the University of Michigan Business School, we got into a discussion about the new technological world and how we were going to keep libraries and librarians relevant and, indeed, still in existence by the time this revolution comes closer to fruition. That discussion, combined with what I saw on the web for previous Inforums and my belief that we need to be more visible, pro-active, results-oriented and customer-focused, led me to the growing importance of marketing library resources and services. I have also been influenced by my twelve years at the University of Michigan Business School, where marketing and customers are terms of familiarity and comfort.


In fact, that's where I'd like to start—with terminology. In spite of the fact that I am speaking in English about English-language terms, I believe the principle generally holds that terms like marketing and customers are not necessarily terms of great comfort for librarians unless they work in the corporate sector. Our culture tends to use terms like patrons and users. In an article in College and Research Libraries News a few years ago, an academic librarian objected to the term customer and subsequent letters to the editor confirmed that she was not alone in her view.2 Her argument was that patrons, unlike customers, should be taught to be self-sufficient. How ironic that today, we worry about whether we will be needed when so many people choose to do their own searches on the Internet and come up with something that often satisfies them. We tell them that the Internet is chaotic, full of irrelevancies, and insufficient for their needs, so they should be using our expensive, content-laden resources. We tell them that their searches are rudimentary, so they should be consulting us for more sophisticated, structured search techniques in order to get better results. That's what it's all about, isn't it—connecting content and customers through access and service? So why aren't they listening? And why aren't they calling us in droves? And what happens if they stop coming altogether? As organizations seek greater efficiencies, even universities and governments will not support the cost of providing resources and services if those resources and services are not used, and if librarians cannot articulate how their roles add value.

Who We Are and How We Are Perceived

We traditionally think of librarians as shy, retiring, bookish people who do not take charge, do not make decisions, and do not assert themselves. Librarianship is also thought of, at least in the West, as a primarily female profession, further stereotyping the general image and assumptions about librarians. In 1988, David Fisher analyzed the findings of psychological research conducted over the previous thirty years to determine if there was a distinct personality type for librarians.3 He discovered that there was no evidence to support that assumption, but he also discovered that librarians seem to want to make things worse for themselves and confirm the stereotypes.

Recently, Marilyn McDermott, of Mohawk College in Ontario, Canada proposed that the personality type likely to choose librarianship as a career, based on her personal observation (confirming Fisher's conclusion about reinforcing stereotypes) and the major research connecting type to careers/occupations is not the personality type needed to succeed in the "new" academic library environment.4 According to McDermott, the Myers Briggs personality type test is being used extensively in corporate America to match and move employees into jobs that make sense for their personality types. There is also a scheme by Richard Bolles that links to "Holland codes" (standard research for occupational decision-making and matching). McDermott's argument is that library schools and library managers should take some of this type of research into account in recruiting, selection and placement.

Another view is that of Daniel Goleman,5 best known for his book Emotional Intelligence. Speaking at the University of Michigan Business School, he discussed the skills that enhance professional effectiveness, career success, and organizational performance. In addition to technical competence and cognitive abilities, there is emotional intelligence, which includes personal competence skills such as self-awareness and self-management, and social competence skills such as social awareness and social skills. Contrary to McDermott, Goleman is not in favor of personality testing by corporations because people can change over a lifetime and be inappropriately labeled. He believes such tests are valuable for self-development only.

As a result, individuals, such as those of us here, must decide what they are best suited for, how they can develop personally, and how they can move into this new paradigm, which is clearly more overt, more pro-active, and more competitive than it has been in the past. Librarians must also be prepared to deal with the stereotypes that the image has long held, and that will not be easy. Above all, librarians must be willing to change and make an effort to do so.

Our Environments and Defining Our Profession

In addition to stereotypes, we are confronted with our environments and defining our profession. Librarians in the United States take so many varied and different forms it is no wonder that non-librarians have trouble understanding who we are and what we do. This, in turn, implies that we agree on our mission and core values, which is not necessarily the case. What is the common denominator among the following?

The answer, in some form, is, once again, connecting content and customers through access and service. From the outside looking in, however, that mission is less easy to discern. Just as our environments are so different, so is the way we work. Collaboration, consultation, consensus and elaborate processes have been my personal experience as an academic librarian in three different institutions in two different countries. We decide things by committee. I expect the corporate librarian attends far fewer meetings than I do and because the culture is different, can make many more decisions independently and more quickly. For the information specialist, neither way of working has the least relevance. Speed is the key.


Who We Are Serving

In my library, our primary customers are the faculty, students, and staff of the University of Michigan Business School. Of course, we also serve the faculty, students, and staff of the larger campus, and further, as a publicly-funded university, we are open to and serve the community at large, but our primary customers are a very distinct group. Students are a good way of looking at customers because they may be students today, but tomorrow, they will be leaders in our community, movers and shakers in the corporate world, faculty of universities, and citizens generally.

The University of Michigan Business School hosts an annual combined meeting of its four advisory boards. During the latest meeting, Russell Epker, speaking on behalf of our Corporate Board which represents companies that hire our graduates, told us the skill set board members want to see in students who are selected for the program and later graduate. 6 See how well you measure up. Also compare these characteristics to the people in your organizations, the customers you serve, and the organizations themselves.

This is the new reality. Note, also, that communication is at the top of the list. Later in the same program, our Visiting Committee spoke to the issue of speed by complaining about the bureaucracy of government and universities. The spokesman, Bob Knowling,7 gave us his own lesson on speed. His company sought to acquire another company whose shares were trading at $27/share. By the time they were ready to make the deal, some four weeks later, the shares were at $127/share and he couldn't afford to close the deal. The next time he wanted to acquire a company, he told his staff that they had four days to make the decision. If everyone else is communicating and moving at e-speed, we'd better be doing it, too.


Data Gathering

The profession has endlessly argued for more data and more effective data, but we are far from achieving that on a regular basis. Just as we have succeeded in implementing library automation systems that can provide us with use data on our print materials for collection development purposes, we turn to the electronic world. Just as we create in-house CD-ROM networks where we can gather hit rates and get some sense of peak period usage, we turn to the web and rely on vendors to provide us with use data. We even build that requirement into our contracts, but somehow we find that we don't always get it. This is not surprising when you consider the conflict of interest inherent in relying on a vendor for such data. If use is high, the vendor will be happy to give you the information. What a good argument for increasing your purchase in some way. If use is low, however, what incentive does a vendor have for telling you? You might cancel your subscription.

The profession has spent decades on this issue. At base, there are standards. In the United States, these are developed and endorsed by the American Library Association, the Special Libraries Association, and the Association of Research Libraries. When the Dean of our School introduced the concept of Quality Indicators to our entire community, however, we in the library found the process very painful. In spite of our research,8 we could never quite make the process fit because library data is primarily input, not output, in nature.

The end result? The attempt lasted for a few years and was dropped for a number of units, including the library. We really didn't have sufficient quality output data and our profession's standards lacked credibility because the source and rationale for them is unclear. The most valuable element, an output measure, was our survey, and even that was problematic because our faculty, students, and staff are endlessly surveyed, so the response rate was low. The best part was the comment section, where we could identify specific concerns and address them one by one. Further, with the current technological revolution, many of our national measures are no longer valid because they are based on counting things. The Association of Research Libraries, for example, still lays great weight on such measures as the number of reference transactions at the desk, the number of circulating items, and the number of volumes held. Of what value are these in an electronic world? Only now is the Association beginning to explore electronic data gathering options and it is far from establishing what those should be, let alone determining how to collect them effectively.

Another element is the sources we use to foster ideas. Reading the literature of librarianship is essential, but what about other literatures? In my first library automation experience, I urged my colleagues to read articles from the airline industry as I saw parallels in our inventory control requirements. It had never occurred to them to consider such literature. The need to read in other disciplines in this growing interdisciplinary age is critical. Read a business journal. Find a parallel in industrial engineering, a field much recommended by the University of Michigan's new dean in the School of Information.9 Seek some reading outside librarianship to add dimension and value to your perspective.

Moving Towards Marketing and Relationship Management

With these issues in mind, let me now turn to marketing, a concept that has been with the business world since its beginning, and relationship management, a relatively new concept that has emerged as a key component in marketing strategy.

In preparing for this paper, I had no trouble finding articles on marketing in the business literature. My biggest challenge was narrowing them to a manageable level. When asked by Inforum conference planners for a quote for the web, I chose the following:

At its most basic level, every member transaction, every interaction, every connection … —positive or negative—is marketing. In a strategic context, marketing drives the entire decision-making process and requires research that is objective, comprehensive and continuous. Marketing is strategic on one hand, the responsibility of everyone on the other. It is a philosophy, not a job—a way of thinking, not a department.10

This quote is from someone who works in the credit union industry and the reason I chose it is for its focus on one-on-one relationships, strategy, continuous data gathering, and attitude/philosophy, all in a very short quotation. It is also relatively easy to translate it to the library world. After all, what is a reference transaction, for example, but a one-on-one relationship? What is key here, however, is that it stretches far beyond the reference transaction and it starts with the impression customers have when they walk in the door and see—what?

What do your customers see when they walk in the physical door or the "web door?" Are those doors connected in theme and style? Have you tried walking in your own doors lately with an attempt to see them as if you'd never seen them before? What do these places look like? What do the signs say? What does the entrance or home page look like? What are visible staff members doing? How prominent are connections to staff or to help on your web site? Go through the rest of the building or web site with the same critical eye. Ask someone, a customer, to do it for you. Better yet, ask more than one. Make sure they are not librarians.

What do your customers hear when they call on the phone? Receive an e-mail from your staff? I make a point of calling our library at least once or twice a term to find out what response is being given at our front desk. This is particularly important in my environment where there are approximately fifty to sixty student temporary staff working in the library.

Regardless of the medium of communication, do you work to establish "brand identity?" Over the last few years, our School has worked to imprint its identity in people's minds. If I say "Coca Cola," you know exactly what I mean whether you are in Atlanta, Georgia, the company's headquarters, or Prague. This should be your goal. I have brought for each of you a sample of our logo and name. These are used consistently. We answer the phone "University of Michigan Business School," then add "Library" or "Kresge Business Administration Library." It is our job to participate in imprinting the brand name and brand identity on our customers.

I could go on with every detail in the library, but you get the point. As a profession, we have long wanted to help people and we have focused carefully on providing information, but we have not paid such close attention to the details that can actually make or break us.

I mentioned the web a few moments ago. The electronic world, in whatever form it eventually takes, brings a whole new set of enterprises—information architecture, web design, content selection, changes in writing requirements for this new medium, new requirements for organizing the content, and on and on. The very concept of a physical library may no longer hold, but the mission is still the same—connecting content and customers through access and service. It is important to imbed marketing into this new enterprise from the beginning and not as an afterthought. Let us not repeat our historical mistake.

On the subject of data gathering, Mr. Goldman writes:

Quality, objective research is what allows marketing to be so effective. Without it—without knowing what member perceptions are and why—any strategic decision executed in the name of "marketing" is a pure gamble. As the old adage says, "You can't manage what you don't measure." Similarly, you can't fix what you don't know is broken. Without objective, quantifiable data to guide it, true marketing is impossible, and the organization as a whole is blind.

Mr. Goldman is President of a firm that provides employee and member perception research surveys to the credit union industry so he is naturally in favor of research. But note that what he is discussing is perceptions. I began this speech with a discussion about the perception of librarians, both from librarian and outside perspectives. Now I am broadening that to the full array of customer perceptions. Research does not necessarily always have to be about counting, although numerical data can be extremely useful. It can be about surveys (if you can create an incentive for a good return rate) or smaller focus groups or one-on-one transactions.

In our library, librarians are each assigned as "liaison" to sub-areas of the School. One might be responsible for accounting, finance, and marketing, for example, while another focuses on organizational behavior and human resources management. One liaison duty is to connect at least once a year, individually, with faculty members for a discussion about research, teaching, and other interests, and to solicit feedback on library resources and services. What resources and services do they need that they don't have now? We consult regularly, often by e-mail, to notify faculty of new potential print and electronic resources. Further, when we seek to contain our budget by canceling subscriptions, we begin with a list of least used items (both from circulation and in-house use counts) and follow up by consulting our faculty and, where relevant, Ph.D. students as well. This builds trust, trust that will be particularly important as we communicate less and less through traditional means and more and more remotely.

As another one-on-one activity, we have a suggestion board. Each submission receives a response within twenty-four business hours and responses are posted. I also see a copy of every suggestion and every answer that passes through the system, in addition to responding to appropriate topics myself. Our e-mail address gets a great deal of traffic, both in terms of suggestions and reference questions. Those queries are also turned around in twenty-four business hours. I consult with student government representatives, Ph.D. students, visitors, local community members, and others on a regular basis. I am often aware of impending issues through these suggestion mechanisms.

If all this sounds familiar, good, but often it's not as familiar as it should be. There is a down side to this. It takes time. A lot of time. To be effective, we need to know the details of the research and teaching endeavors of the school and of each individual faculty and Ph.D. member. We need to know what our Master's and Bachelor's students are thinking. We need to know the issues on all our customers' minds along with their latest wish lists. We need to know about new technological endeavors that affect our customers and our own work—course web management, distance learning (we have programs in Brazil, for example), intellectual property issues, privacy issues, and on and on. If we do not, we will be unable to make recommendations on resources and services that are the "value-added" we supply and we will be unable to provide the expertise in areas where our customers need support. In addition, all of this data must be gathered in a timely and continuous manner.

When it comes to services, our most popular service for faculty is our document retrieval service. We regularly provide various notification processes on new titles and articles, e.g., a web list of new acquisitions, and tables of contents in both print and electronic form. Faculty members, of course, find other items of interest through their own reading and networking. Once they identify their needs, they ask and we deliver, through print and electronic means. From the days when it began in print form alone, this service has been our most popular service and has enhanced our reputation and relationships many-fold. As we now transition to electronic forms of document delivery, we use the list of resources tapped by our customers to dovetail our print and electronic information.

Another key success factor is how questions are answered. When asked for the top five articles on a subject, for example, what do librarians normally supply? Five or twenty-five? In our zeal to provide more information because we've found so much, do we avoid making a decision and give our customers more than requested or do we analyze the findings and provide five? At a meeting of special librarians a couple of years ago, two corporate librarians argued for outsourcing database searching to non-librarians and spending librarian time on the analysis. Many in the audience objected, but in the corporate world, this can easily be seen as a value-added element. Under some circumstances, I believe this would also be valued in the academic world, although the environment is more oriented to gathering as much information as is available when it comes to pure research. In either environment, however, there is a hard-to-measure need to determine what the customer really wants. It takes skill, interpretation, and communication far beyond the technical knowledge that enables the librarian to find the information in the first place. These skills are seriously tested as we attempt to analyze needs and wants across cultures, across language differences, across geographic distances, and across remote communication media.

When I chose the quote from Goldman in late February to meet the Inforum deadline, I had not found any library articles that really addressed the issue of relationship management. In the March issue of Information Outlook, however, there appeared an article by Larry Besant and Deborah Sharp entitled "Libraries Need Relationship Marketing."11 Their citations include a mix of sources from business and library literature, which is heartening in itself, and they outline the benefits of relationship marketing, which they describe as "a deceptively straightforward switcheroo on traditional marketing methods." The benefits include new, increasingly efficient ways to understand and respond to customers' needs and preferences, resulting in more meaningful connections with customers. For business, the bottom line is reduced costs and increased revenues. For libraries, I would translate that into reduced costs, more meaningful relationships, increased customer numbers, better customer loyalty and retention, and a sure way to prove that libraries and librarians add value.

We must move beyond simple promotion, although that has its place, to real relationships and, more importantly, real partnerships where the customer and the librarian are equal players in the information process and each brings expertise to the table. Besant and Sharp combined two different models developed by Payne12 and Gummesson13 and placed them within the library context.

Their combined list included:

Besant and Sharp also quote Herbert White, a former library school dean,14 who says that librarians do not market and never have. According to White, we count and report. We advertise. We orient and teach. I would further add that we talk to ourselves and not to those outside ourselves, such as the types of people Besant and Sharp quote in their article and the types of people we complain don't understand us. I recall a meeting of academic librarians in Michigan with a state legislator who told the assembled group that they needed to learn the political process in order to be more successful in securing state funding. Afterwards, I heard many librarians complain that he didn't understand us or our profession. What they resisted learning was that he held the purse strings and it wasn't up to him to learn our process; it was up to us to learn his.

What We Should Do

We need to change, to start with ourselves, to adapt to our ever-changing environment. We need to look at that list of student skills (so prized today by those who are in a position to hire) or some equivalent, assess how we measure up, and see if we can move towards the skills we don't yet have. Alternately, we need to create a compatible composite of individuals who can cover the spectrum of those skills. We need to take risks. We need to read widely, seeking parallels from other disciplines, and gather meaningful output data. We need to communicate with people, all kinds of people, and do it all the time. We need to be timely and we need to provide the information and analysis that our customers want. Now that there are alternate sources for information, we need to develop relationships and partnerships that are just as substantive as the resources and services we have spent so long developing. We need to nurture those relationships to create the loyal customer base that will do some of our marketing for us.


In the transformation of libraries, marketing will be the key to our success or failure. By marketing, I mean a broad definition of the term that not only includes promotion of libraries and their services, but also extends to customer focus, relationship management, collaboration, pro-active engagement, and the process of getting outside ourselves and our libraries to make an informed and energetic difference. This is antithetical to past practice, but essential for our survival in the digital age. As you meet this week, I challenge you to expand your discussion of resources and services to include this third component, equally critical to your library's success.