“The ACRL Guidelines for Distance Learning Library Services (2000) assert ‘access to adequate library services and resources is essential for the attainment of superior academic skills in post-secondary education, regardless of where students, faculty, and programs are located’ ” (Nicholas and Tomeo, 2005). Additionally, the guidelines include responsibility for promotion of library services to both students and faculty in distance education programs (Association of College and Research Libraries, Distance Learning Section, 2004, p.4). As the number of distance education programs and courses grows, and as methods of delivery evolve, distance education librarians have pro-actively assumed the role of providing equitable services and resources to all distance students using the Guidelines as a framework. However, providing the services and resources accomplishes nothing if faculty and students are not aware of them. Effective marketing efforts are needed to maximize the awareness and use of library services and resources.
Prior to the internet and the availability of online research resources, many distance learning courses were self-contained, i.e., all materials the student needed were provided by the distance learning institution, making the need to market library services and resources unnecessary. With the rise of the internet and accompanying communication technologies, many services are now provided to students electronically. This makes it possible for students to access needed resources whenever and wherever they are studying. In spite of these advances and significant efforts by librarians to provide library services to distance learners, many faculty teaching distance learning courses and students enrolled in those courses remain unaware of the library services and resources available to them. These faculty and students “...provide a unique challenge for the marketing of library services, since they rarely visit the library” (MacDonald & vanDuinkerken, 2005).
As early as 1998, the literature contains references to articles about marketing the delivery of library services and resources to distance learners. Even though library resources are available, students are usually unaware of that availability (Riedel, 2004). Cahoy & Moyo (2005) studied faculty teaching distance education courses and reported “…a significant lack of faculty awareness of existing library services and resources available to the e-learning community” (p.2). Dermody (2005) found that because distance learners do not often come to the campus or the library, it is important to market the services to them. Marketing was the driving force of critical success factors for use of library services (Kunneke,1999). Promotion, one aspect of marketing, is essential “in order to successfully provide library support” (Ault, 2002, p.39).
The literature demonstrates that marketing efforts are needed to inform both faculty and students about the services that are available. According to Lebowitz (1998) even when students seek out library services, a marketing plan is necessary. Summey (2004) discovered that creating a marketing plan was critical to guiding the marketing efforts. Wolpert (1998) asserts that library services for distance education students should be viewed as a “new business opportunity, utilizing techniques of market evaluation and analysis” (p.21). MacDonald & vanDuinkerken (2005) emphasize that market plans need to assess the usefulness of the services provided.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Assessment: Methods of determining success, gaps, further directions, etc. in marketing activities.
Branding: A logo or other symbol of the library products being advertised.
Wiki: Derived from the Hawaiian word meaning quick; collaborative and easy-to-use software for use in creating a web presence.
RSS Feeds: A group of technologies used to disseminate frequently updated online content such as blogs, newsfeeds, or podcasts. RSS includes Rich Site Summary, Really Simple Syndication and RDF (resource description format) Summary standards.
Target Market: The customer group being targeted in the promotional plan.
Marketing Plan: A document outlining proposed marketing strategies.
Blogs: Term derived from Web log. An interactive online journal where readers may leave comments. A blog may contain images and web links.
ACRL Guidelines for Distance Learning Library Services: A set of standards developed by librarians in the Association of College and Research Libraries Distance Learning section intended to provide direction for those providing library services to distance learners.
Publicity: News or advertising about the library, it’s services and products.