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Magazines > Marketing Library Services > May/June 2019

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MLS - Marketing Library Services
Vol. 33 No. 3 — May/June 2019
Library Marketing Basics
by Kathy Dempsey

By Mark Aaron Polger.
Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019.
315 pp. Paperback: $38. 978-1442239630.

While this book is called Library Marketing Basics, don’t let that title fool you into thinking its information is so rudimentary that you don’t need to read it. Unless you’re someone who’s studied nonprofit and library marketing in great depth, this is a book for you.

Author Mark Aaron Polger has, in fact, studied marketing for years. As an academic librarian, he’s done plenty of research and reading on this topic, and he logged in more as he wrote this book. Polger also has a wealth of experience leading and working on numerous local and national library marketing initiatives, including ACRL’s Library Marketing and Outreach Interest Group, the Library Marketing and Communications Conference, plus ALA’s PR Xchange Awards competition and its accompanying promo-swapping event. In addition, he founded the open access, peer-reviewed Marketing Libraries Journal, which launched in 2017 (

The “basics” this book talks about are really the underlying tenets of marketing. Unlike many other books, Library Marketing Basics doesn’t simply share the marketing actions others have taken. Instead, it explains what you need to understand in order to choose the best marketing goals, plans, strategies, and tactics for your particular situation.

In the interest of full disclosure, Polger is a colleague of mine; we have worked together on numerous projects and have become friends. But that’s not why I’m giving this book a positive review. (Those who regularly read my reviews know I’m not afraid to address both positive and negative elements of books in my field of expertise.) If there’s any friendly aspect to this review, it comes from a shared background of library marketing work and a shared belief that our peers need a better understanding of this field so their efforts will be more effective.

That said, I was able to review this book so quickly (it was just released in March) because I read the manuscript before publication. Polger invited me to contribute the book’s Foreword, with the blessing of publisher Rowman & Littlefield. Let me share a bit of that Foreword here:

This book, Library Marketing Basics, is one of the tools you can study to help you achieve marketing greatness. It’s different from many of the library marketing books that have come out in the past five years or so. Those books have been filled with case studies, which share ideas and tactics for implementing projects. But they seldom explain where the ideas came from or why particular tactics were chosen.

This tome, however, explains how to start at the proper beginning, with market research. … Studying Library Marketing Basics will enable readers to understand the what, why, and how of the craft. I think that’s incredibly important. It’s vital to realize what marketing really is (and is not), and to grasp the tenets behind it. People who’ve done that are more likely to implement projects that are successful.

Another reason the word “basics” fits this book is the breadth of content it covers. Any book with a first chapter titled “What Marketing Really Is” looks good to me—especially when the last chapter is titled “Advocacy: An Integral Component of Marketing Your Library.” Another part of my Foreword highlights how complete the content is:

And [Polger has] included all the concepts you need to know about, from Advertising to generation Z. Library Marketing Basics gives you a broad look at the field, which includes campaigns, plans, brands, analytics, social media, search engine optimization, etc. But those are just the A-level topics you’d expect from a marketing book in 2019, right? In its quest to be complete, this one also mentions measuring return on investment, understanding eye-tracking studies, using perceptual maps, listing elements that should be part of a marketing plan, identifying touchpoints, and more. If it relates to marketing, it’s probably in this tome. And Polger considers, and offers examples from, all types of libraries.

Another reason I recommend this title is that it’s sort of an academic version of my own book, The Accidental Library Marketer (TALM; My 2009 book is purposefully non-academic, and it contains less information on social media (which was not as pervasive then) and other technological tools (some of which didn’t even exist when I was writing). My book and Polger’s are based on the same marketing principles but are written with different styles for different audiences. Even if you’re a TALM fan, I recommend you read this new book before writing your next marketing plan, especially if you work in academia.

Kathy Dempsey has been editor of Marketing Library Services for 25 years. Her email addresses are and
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