who is the library customer? – marketing 

Every library, no matter the type is concerned with serving their customers in the best way possible.  What concerns me is the homogeny that is the library customer.  I see it in the school library where I work…it is fairly easy to predict those who “go” to the library.  Yet, that homogeny simply is not representative of the demographic to which the library belongs.  This leads me to ask several questions:

  • Who is “going” to the library?
  • What are they “doing” in the library?
  • What do they “take away” from the library?
  • What sort of investment do they have in the library?
  • Who is missing and why are they missing?

Hackley Public Library


I am particularly fond of Kathy Dempsey’s The Cycle of True Marketing diagram because it begins with research.  Research is such an important step to understanding who our customers are as well as who we would like to be our customers.  A better understanding of our community will help us create a relevant program or service for our target group.  Here’s a shortlist of demographic variables, much of which can be answered quite easily, such as population or employment.  (Again, I’d appreciate it if you let me know if I overlooked a variable.)  Others are more challenging, to uncover unknown segments in our population, such as recreational activities or hobbies (ie. archery, belly dancing, or beer brewing clubs).

  • population
  • social structure
  • economy
  • education
  • employment (including largest employees)
  • geography and neighborhoods
  • local politics
  • groups, organizations and associations
  • recreational activities or hobbies
  • community events
  • local experts

Our school library had a very successful morning event last week with over 80 people in attendance.  It was a pleasure to see parents, grandparents and guardians come in to read with their children over a morning snack.  Yet, I couldn’t help but notice that those who attended did so because of their high value of literacy.   What if we want to see the children who struggle to read or whose parents don’t typically show up attend our library events?  My questions took me back to seeking an understanding of the demographics of our small community and how we can use that understanding to create an event for those who we would like to see in the library.  So, it’s back to step “A” in the marketing cycle…it’s not a defeat…it’s a challenge.

Chief of Staff of the Army Reads Seuss

I came across this photo gallery of the World’s Most Beautiful Libraries, but something bothered me about it…later, I realized that people were missing from most of the photos.  It is symbolic that humanity should be absent in order to capture the beauty of their physical space; as if the presence of people would mar it.  While I appreciate the iconic beauty of these libraries, I much prefer to see libraries filled with people and activity.  If we want to encourage visiting the physical or virtual library space, images of welcomed activity speaks volumes.

“To serve our community, we need to know our community.”

Vancouver’s Library Square