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Introduction

Most professional discourse among librarians presumes that reconciling marketing practices with our librarian sensibilities is a trivial matter, easily accomplished by launching a connect-­the-­dots marketing campaign. Alternatively, some assert that marketing is somehow alien or inappropriate for libraries. Even when librarians do address marketing, we focus mainly on the how of marketing practices and less on the what and why. Yet practicalities demand just the opposite—­fully understanding the concept of marketing must precede sound marketing practice.

Marketing, a bundle of tools and concepts originating in the business world, offers librarians a proven means to advance confidently through uncertainty while allowing us to demonstrate effectively the value we provide to stakeholders. When implemented properly, marketing allows us to create real value for users who would benefit most from our efforts while overcoming marketplace pitfalls that would otherwise derail us. Unfortunately, marketing’s potential to secure libraries’ success is too often stymied by our preconceptions. Namely, we tend to recognize that marketing can be useful, but we are generally leery of it, if not outright opposed to it. When it comes to librarians, marketing is a tough sell.

What we librarians lack is a deep appreciation of marketing as it relates to our own library service imperatives. Understanding, creating, and accepting a form of marketing that is not only palatable to us but also desirable in libraries is critical to leveraging its impressive potential. It is simply not enough to “go through the motions” of plugging in marketing tactics ad hoc. Librarians need to internalize marketing’s true meaning and implications so that we can lead with it rather than be at the mercy of some generic marketing checklist that does not accommodate our values. Consequently, this is not a how-­to book. I will not employ the outward-­in approach of mindlessly following the marketing dictates that anyone can discover doing a quick Google search. Instead, I will look at marketing from inside of librarianship. I will weigh marketing’s merits in order to do the important work of selling marketing to my audience before attempting to apply it beyond.