At a recent RAILS Marketing Group meeting, the group discussed the types of partnerships that libraries have established and why. While many mentioned some of the typical partnerships that libraries have with local businesses and schools, the La Grange, La Grange Park and Thomas Ford Memorial Libraries, which are all within a two-mile radius, did something more innovative. These three libraries have been collaborated with each other, as well as with libraries in nearby communities.
In addition, the La Grange Park, Thomas Ford and Lisle Libraries shared my marketing consulting services during a period when they did not have dedicated marketing staff members. Since much of what libraries do is similar from community to community, some of the ideas and materials I developed for one library fit well for the others. For instance, a Library Editorial Style Guide that I initially developed for La Grange Park needed very minimal revision to be personalized for the other two libraries, and they shared the cost. Similarly, as I worked with each library to create their marketing plans, some ideas worked well for them all, and we were able to identify possible opportunities for collaboration.
One collaboration was among the Children’s Departments of the libraries. They were each using Every Child Ready to Read and were interested in promoting the ways that libraries support educational learning standards. The three department heads and I met to discuss marketing strategies, and were able to share some of the materials we developed.
Another area where collaboration made sense was related to teen engagement. Rather than continue individual teen advisory boards that had few members, the youth librarians at La Grange Park, La Grange and Thomas Ford consolidated them into one area-wide group. The three libraries also provide space in their newsletters for the others to promote one program in each issue that does not duplicate their own. The result of these collaborations is saved staff time, broader promotional opportunities, improved idea generation and, ultimately, enhanced services and patron engagement.
While not all libraries have potential collaborators next door, or don’t share a marketing specialist, nearby libraries may still find collaborative marketing to be of benefit. To get started.
- Identify libraries of similar size or in communities within a nearby radius.
- Invite them to a meeting, with a facilitator, to identify common goals and marketing strategies, and possible areas for collaboration. You may consider planning separate meetings by department, or start with just the marketing staff.
- Actively share your ideas and materials with your collaborative group. Consider planning regularly scheduled meetings to continue sharing.
Tari Marshall is a communications specialist who has worked with the American Library Association and a number of public libraries. She was awarded a Silver Anvil from the Public Relations Society of American for a marketing program for the American Library Association.