Instant Ideas and Collaboration

Feature #28: Marketing in Libraries

Our next will be on Tuesday 1st Sept from 6:30-8:30! And our Topic is Marketing in libraries.

We will share stories, insights and advice. The marketing chat agenda is also now available! Why not add your own questions?

Our feature this month comes from Elizabeth Oddy, Elizabeth joined Newcastle University senior management team in 2007 as Head of Services and Operations. As Head of Learning and Research support services since 2012 Elizabeth leads the Customer Services and Academic liaison teams across the three University libraries and takes strategic responsibility for learning and teaching, and marketing and communications. Elizabeth started her career in commercial libraries before her interests in innovation and technology led to a move to Talis, and then onto the University of Wolverhampton in 2000. Her professional interests include e-learning, customer services and staff development.


A holistic approach to marketing a university library

In 2012 Newcastle University Library decided to treat marketing and communications as a strategic development area I would lead on. Our marketing and communication activities needed to be developed to:

  • ensure the library stays relevant to our stakeholders and customers
  • increase the understanding and uptake of the library’s services
  • protect and enhance the library’s reputation

Marketing – an integrated managerial process

Up until this point the library marketing activity had been publicity focused and rather chaotic in its execution. In my opinion marketing encompasses a range of activities including

  • Market research
  • Customer research
  • Customer and stakeholder relationship management
  • Service / product evaluation

I was interested in the Kotler and Fox’s 6 step developmental model (Kotler & Fox, 1995) that describes marketing as developing from a mechanistic and transaction approach through to marketing being an integral part of a service organisation’s planning.

Library-wide approach to marketing

There was no scope to recruit dedicated marketing staff, so we formed a cross library Marketing and Communications Group. We had a small budget and plenty of enthusiasm. Inspired by the work of Sunderland University Library (Grieves, 2010) and Ned Potter’s work (Potter, 2012) I developed a 5 year strategy and action plans to:

  • Shift from print to digital communications to improve impact and value for money
  • Plan marketing and communications systematically, whilst ensuring capacity to react quickly to new opportunities.
  • Build marketing and communications capacity and expertise

We began to plan customer research and publicity campaigns annually and encouraged all those working on service developments to consider incorporating marketing activities. An early “win” was that we invested more time in analysing all types of customer feedback and usage data we routinely recorded. This change in approach proved invaluable in summer 2013.

Maximising value of customer insight

Footfalls analysis demonstrated more students were coming to and staying longer in our libraries. We were questioning whether working on the basis 7.5 students to a seat was sustainable. However when the University set out its ambitions to recruit an additional 1,700 students for 2013/14 and a further 1,000 each year until 2018 we knew demand for study spaces was going to outstrip supply during the peak exam times.

Engaging stakeholders

Talking to our stakeholders was fundamental to getting this crucial space issue on the University’s agenda. The Student Union were helpful in demanding the Library and University did something about getting more space, as were the Faculties.

The University was very sympathetic and with some optimism we consulted students on what type of study spaces they required in February 2014. We used a mix of channels and approaches to engage customers and non-customers alike, including employing students to canvas students’ opinions for the first time.

Pop-Up Library is born

Finding space on an already crowded campus was proving difficult and we could’nt wait for a new build. Using usage data plus evidence from the space preference consultation, we gained University backing to temporarily take over a large conference building and configure it into a mix of 348 additional group and individual study spaces.

We were keen to call it the “Pop-Up Library”. It expressed its temporary nature, purpose and would inspire some fun publicity. Not everyone liked the name, including the University’s marketing department and debates raged across the University regarding this library’s lack of books. We quickly discovered a bit of controversy was helpful, as everyone was starting to talk about the Pop-Up Library.

Pop-Up campaign

Other University services became involved, new communication channels were opened, and we received offers of help and ideas. We quickly developed a promotional plan which outlined communication activities week by week.  It was a “live” working collaborative document where ideas were recorded as well as progress.  More creative members of the Campaign team came up with appealing and lighthearted ideas for promoting the Pop-Up Library including a distinctive visual identity.

A2                                              August

The Pop-Up splash was applied to a suite of publicity including vinyl banners, postcards, web pages and IT login screens. The pop art theme provided us with an easily recognisable style with universal appeal. Through creation of a range of pop art-themed graphics, we were able to keep e-communications both fresh and varied.

A3     A4

Pop art themed signage also transformed the King’s Road conference centre.



(See www.pinterest.com/newcastleunilib/pop-up-library-2014)

Once initial publicity ensured the Pop-Up library was well used, our focus turned to seeking student opinion on it.  Through this, we were able to evidence the need for permanent additional study space.

 Success and impact

Both the Pop-Up Library and the campaign received overwhelming praise.  We were allowed to “pop-up” again for exam times in 2014/15. The University purchased a building which is being refurbished as a digital library. Much interest was received regarding the Pop-Up visual identity and branding. Other libraries and our own University’s marketing department have sought permission to repurpose our artwork. Pop-Up Library banners also featured at the Hatton Gallery’s Pop art exhibition.

What Pop-Up Library experience taught us?

Evaluation of any marketing activity is now central to our approach. From the Pop-Up experience we need to:

  • Engage stakeholders and customers to develop a continuous 2 way dialogue
  • Develop and nurture partnerships with other University services
  • Be brave and take risks. For example the Pop-Up publicity did not conform to university branding.
  • Have confidence in ourselves and in our knowledge and experience of our communities.

Next steps

Customer and stakeholder engagement about the new library is well underway with its opening due in January 2016.


Grieves, K. (2010). How do you like your eggs in the morning? A simple 7 step toolkit for creating marketing plans that really work” Toolkit Workbook.

Kotler, P., & Fox, K. (1995). Strategic marketing for educational institutions. (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

Potter, N. (2012). The library marketing toolkit. London: Facet Publishing.



































About siobhanmac

Loves Libraries, Books, and Sunshine!

One comment on “Feature #28: Marketing in Libraries

  1. Pingback: #uklibchat agenda – Tuesday 1st September 2015: Marketing and libraries | #uklibchat

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This entry was posted on August 24, 2015 by in Feature and tagged , , , , .


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