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The library value deficit

Michael Germano (John F. Kennedy Memorial Library, California State University, Los Angeles, California, USA)

The Bottom Line

ISSN: 0888-045X

Article publication date: 23 August 2011




While the great recession may have concluded more than a year ago, the lingering effects of state and local budget contraction and austerity are having a highly negative impact on libraries and librarians. The future for publicly funded libraries as institutions that promote learning, literacy, knowledge creation and entertainment is increasingly doubtful as publicly funded libraries across the country are seeing unprecedented levels of budget cuts. While the immediate cause of such reduced funding seems rooted in budgetary pressures, the reality is that library financial support is traditionally premised upon a publicly held assumption of goodwill for libraries and the societal benefits they represent. In order for libraries to survive the economic downturn and austerity measures put in place by government budgets, they need to rethink the role, purpose and benefits of library marketing in favor of a more sophisticated approach that conveys the unique value of their library and its offering to their specific user population. This paper aims to address this issue.


Informed by the author's extensive experience in marketing information services, the paper discusses the current trends in library marketing, especially those aimed at conveying the value of libraries, and ties them to relevant scholarship in the areas of services marketing and value creation.


Assumed goodwill is inadequate to the task of competing for financial support in a post‐recessionary environment where expenditure of public funds is highly scrutinized. In order to survive long term, libraries of all kinds must take on a more sophisticated view of library marketing that focuses on value creation. Eliminating the old model of presumptive value in favor of one that utilizes the marketing process in order to communicate the competitive viability of libraries as place and content providers to their users in the form of targeted benefits that convey value, is critical. Simply put, if libraries hope to receive continued support in today's challenging fiscal climate they must elevate marketing to a critical operational function while focusing that marketing effort upon communicating the library's benefits and value to the users it serves.

Practical implications

As a librarian, adjunct professor of marketing and former sales and marketing manager for a large information company, the author relies on his years of experience to convey a more purposeful sense of library marketing that is directed at communicating a library's unique value or worth to its users based upon an understanding of their needs, the benefits to them specifically as well as the competing options available to them in terms of information acquisition.


The paper shares specific ideas regarding the purpose, role and benefits of library marketing that are connected to improving perceptions of the worth of libraries and the perception of value to a specific community as a means of engendering future support for them.



Germano, M. (2011), "The library value deficit", The Bottom Line, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 100-106.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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