During the last two decades, a major change and development has happened in libraries. A critical element for that has been the development of telecommunications and information technologies-ICT. From the 80’s the automation of libraries has received a great impulse, and many libraries have introduced more and more ICT equipment and its applications, creating their own web sites, generating compact discs, and producing leading projects. It has provided libraries with a more refreshing and distinctive touch and new directions are now conceived by libraries. The technological environment and the extraordinary growth in the use of Internet has definitely improved the cooperation among libraries and eliminated almost all restrictions. Academic libraries today look totally different than they did twenty years ago. Thanks not only to the technologies but also to the information agents. Economic changes, technological developments and other forces have reshaped and redefined librarians’ way of thinking.
The library in this era need to redesign the services and revision must be done to the information profession to meet the ICTs development and to give the chance for the library to grow from the regular types of libraries to the universal information services, and from a conservative library to a modern virtual library (Feria, 2000).
This increase of information technologies and the explosion of available information are the most obvious changes in academic libraries. The amount of human knowledge is doubling almost every five years; the number of students has almost doubled since 1970’s, same for the number of teachers and researchers with large diversity of user groups. And library users must learn to use different databases and interfaces successfully to be part of the knowledge expansion (Nims, 1999).
Information providers are now more diverse and the academic library is not the only provider in the higher education market like before. Users can get their information from other information providers. Using the Internet, they can access volume of information over the computer without coming into the library building or interacting with a librarian at all. In addition, libraries now face competition from traditional bookstores like online bookstores such as Amazon.com. Along with small shops that offer inviting environments to sit and read books, with drinks and friendly staff to answer questions. The revolution in information services that is taking place in academic libraries makes it essential that libraries design new services that meet the user’s needs better than other providers. With all that the idea of applying marketing principles to academic library services is greeted with hesitation and doubt (Nims, 1999).
In the last few years, the products and services provided by libraries have changed considerably. The challenges to library services from changes in educational approaches, the impact of technology, new methods for information provision and declining budgets have meant that marketing is now so necessary that it cannot be considered a separate function. It is the whole business seen from its final results; that is, from the client’s perspective. In determining new approaches, many libraries have come to appreciate the contribution that the marketing concepts can make. In designing the marketing mix and developing the marketing plan, the so-called 4Ps have become central to libraries – product, price, place, promotion. Any library using marketing techniques to develop its operations focuses on its products or services; the price paid, which may be in money, time or energy; the promotional strategies by which library collections and services are made known to potential clients, including publications, displays and participation in events; and the physical facilities or place from which services are made available and distribution strategies which increasingly use the Internet and virtual as well as real approaches. Positioning and politics can also be considered in the mix and incorporate positioning the product in the mind of the client and public policy and politics (Madhusudhan, 2008).
Marketing has been defined as the: “… analysis, planning, implementation, and control of carefully formulated programs designed to bring about voluntary exchanges with target markets for the purpose of achieving organizational objectives … [and] … heavily dependent on designing the organization’s offering in terms of the target market needs and desires and on using effective pricing, communication and distribution to inform, motivate and service the market” (Kavulya, 2004, p.118). True marketing is a repetitive process and a systematic approach for matching services and products to the user needs and desires. Marketing is the key ingredient in the success of any nonprofit organization (Koontz, 2004).
The study of the practices of library marketing activities of universities in Kenya, explores the marketing practice in Kenya academic libraries and what are the obstacles that face this practice. Result of the study prove the need for academic libraries to be more aware of their role in the academic atmosphere and show the library importance and relevance to the academic community by its contribution to research and teaching which is the main purpose of the university. By doing this the academic library can insure the support of the university. The study proves that showing the library informational role will prevent academic libraries from being marginalized by the institution that support the library. If they fail to do so the library risk being seen as irrelevant and lead to becoming more and more marginalized in the university educational process (Kavulya, 2004).
The job of marketing services is not as easy as marketing a product, the service cannot be returned and cannot be stored. Dissatisfied customer cannot return an unsatisfactory service as he can an unsatisfactory product. And a customer can often choose to perform the service himself. Successful marketing is characterized by four activities. First is market research to identify customer needs and wants, second is market segmentation to allocating resource to customer groups, third is marketing mix strategy which includes the products or services, priced, delivered and promoted; and finally the fourth which is evaluating the marketing effort (Tucci, 1988).
1. Market Research
The needs of the library users are the core of the marketing process. It is the user who drives marketing and ultimately shapes the product or service. Marketing is not just the four P’s (product, price, promotion, and place). Marketing is planned and executed process which includes marketing research to develop services and products, then evaluating the results and integrating the findings into future services and products. The majority of mission statements of academic libraries neglect the concept of letting the users’ needs dictate the services orientations (Nims, 1999).
Academic libraries need to be more persistent in investigating user’s needs by using Marketing approach to develop services that meet their expectations. It is not just marketing of already available services to the users but to find out what the users want (Kavulya, 2004). Marketing research is the function that links the information professional to the customer’s needs and wants. Marketing research can be done by reviewing internal customer data in the library and also by recognizing usage categories for materials that are being checked by students, categories like user types; students or faculty, date of entry, type of material, and so on (Koontz, 2005).
In the Saint Mary’s University library experience, Lefebure (2002) found that the Patrick Power Library had a very uninviting environment. The library building and the interior design was really uncomfortable. Although the library was known for its efficient, thorough and friendly service, the library seemed to be disregarded because few only knew how excellent the library resources were and how good was the service inside. The positive side of the library was undermined by the dim and tired appearance of the building itself. At the same time the financial resources were rare and not easy to acquire for renewal or redesigning the library. Even the electronic services were not known to all of the students and not many knew that inside the library there were many computers linked directly to the Internet with major electronic information services. So the challenge was to design a marketing campaign that would transform the library to make it a welcoming place (Lefebure, 2002).
By conducting a marketing survey to take the student opinion and thoughts regarding the library services, students “who are the main clients of the academic library” put more emphasis on atmosphere and ease of access through the Internet than the more traditional library methods. Students revealed what services would encourage them to use the library more; the majority of respondents in the sample group mentioned a coffee shop, and more resources. Other factors mentioned were updated materials; food and beverages allowed in the library; better climate control; atmosphere; lounge area; and better lighting. The final factor cited was promotion of the facilities. It was clear that the students themselves recognized that they were not fully aware of what was available to them. This experience demonstrates that market surveys and research do work if you ask the right questions, and not just asking the regular current users of the library. But surveys should also investigate the needs of students who do not come to the library. And the best marketing is word of mouth. Students often consult each other rather than approach the reference desk. Yet if the reference staff is efficient, friendly, helpful and solutions-based, the students will generate positive word-of-mouth about the service. On the other hand, good marketing is soon void if the student meets an unfriendly staff member (Lefebure, 2002).
Not many users have sufficient knowledge of the academic library, library services, and information technologies. And many students hold negative attitudes towards librarians. Mu (2007) demonstrates that 75 to 85 percent of college freshmen viewed the library as scary, overpowering and confusing. And the biggest challenge faced by reference librarians is to create a positive image. Librarians need to develop the ability to create a welcoming environment.
Although more and more librarians are getting familiar and comfortable with promotional activities and public relations, they often use marketing principles without realizing it. In the course of planning new services or evaluating existing service, many academic librarians assess their users and their needs, segment their intended users, and target services to certain populations. Marketing can assist libraries in determining their future and in identifying quality products, services, programs, and materials (Nims, 1999).
Relationship marketing, in particular, reflecting the mutual interests of libraries and the clients they serve, is being seen as a concept for libraries to embrace. Libraries after all, are built on relationships. Marketing is directly linked to the client’s perceptions of the services the library offers and the library’s interpretation of the client’s needs. In developing and maintaining relationships, it is essential that all clients are identified and their needs understood. Market research is a useful tool for discovering and understanding client needs and identifying better ways to meet those needs. If changing process is involved, it is always easier to change one-self than it is to change others (Madhusudhan, 2008).
2. Market Segmentation
Marketing segmentation means grouping customers for best product delivery and resource allocation to better promote the service to specific groups, for instance media type, graduate, undergraduate, and faculty. They could be also segmented by online users or walk in users, or the time they spend inside the campus, or by database users and physical items checkout (Koontz, 2005). The purpose of marketing segmentation is to target the customer rather than the product or the service. The aim is to provide services that satisfy individual rather than a generalized service. Taking into account the various market segments and their needs, market segmentation involves research to determine the quality of the library service and its contribution to the mission and the objectives of the parent organization. Data are collected looking at users’ awareness and attitude to the library service, customer satisfaction levels, and the major strengths and weaknesses of the library in terms of staff, resources, programs and facilities. Studying the organization and users helps create appropriate library services and programs as well as guide the planning of the right marketing strategy. This marks a departure from promoting …