LIBRARY MARKETING INDICATORS AND STUDENTS’ PATRONAGE
1.1 Background of the Study
Academic libraries have been depending on their parent institutions for a number of things ranging from funding to the publicity of their services. This has not been working very well for the libraries as Madhusudhan (2008) reported that librarians and information specialists have debated the idea of marketingfor the information sector. Several things like the emergence of other information service providing companies and electronic resources which these information providing companies render to information users and students have compelled librarians to learn about marketing and begin doing it especially now that the whole world has turned into a global arena where time, space, geographical location/distance is no longer a barrier to information access. The library today is a busy information centre, where information is packaged in various formats to the advantage of the users.
The value of the library collection depends not only on the quantity of information sources but on the effective ways and means of providing and interpreting them to users. It is obvious that academic libraries are experiencing rapid change in the use and mode of access to their resources and services. This can be attributed to emerging information technology which led to the creation of a new gateway for delivering information services to library clientele. Information products and services in a multiplicity of formats have made libraries and information centers to publicize the arrival and existence of some of their resources to clientele.
According to Olajide and Adio (2017), the major aim of any university library is to support teaching, learning and research activities of its parent institution. The library today is a busy information centre, where information is packaged in various formats, not only on the quantity of information sources but on the effective ways and means of providing and interpreting them to users.Few students visit libraries regularly except during examination periods when they need to read their personal notes for the benefit of passing their examinations. Considering the role of academic libraries as libraries attached to higher institutions of learning above the secondary level, which is responsible for providing information resources and services to support teaching, learning and research needs of students, staff and other clientele of their institutions. Academic libraries serve complementary purposes includingsupporting the research of the university, faculties and students. The support of teaching requires materials for learning and research and of what use are the library resources if their clienteles do not effectively utilize them.
University library clientele are diverse with varying information needs’, these library clientele include undergraduate and postgraduate students, visiting researchers, academic staff and other staff of the university. To a large extent, the library is often regarded as the heart of the intellectual system of the university or better still the nerve center of the university. Aguolu (2002) posited that university libraries are integral part of the university system. The author added that, they should not exist as inertia of knowledge, but as dynamic instruments of education to enable their institutions to achieve their goals.
Information technologies change rapidly and information products and services are in a multiplicity of formats in libraries. For libraries and information services to stay viable in the current climate, it is important that they adopt marketing strategies to help meet organizational mission, goals and objectives. Marketing has long been associated with the selling of a product in order to make a profit, but was extended to the non-profit sector including libraries (Enache, 2008). Rowley (2003) opines that services are the intangible products that libraries now have to promote in order to compete with external competitors. Libraries are therefore faced with numerous challenges such as restricted funding and increasing user expectations, as they identify, develop, deliver and monitor information service rendered that are superior to their emerging competitors.
However, these challenges offer opportunities to provide better services for users by redefining customer relationships through the use of marketing strategies to build and strengthen ongoing relationships with customers. Relationship marketing is relevant to services marketing and creates much value because it builds a viable and long-term relationship with the clientele that seek to use resources and services so that the customers are retained.For libraries, marketing is about a set of activities including awareness creation, branding, understanding client needs, selective dissemination of information, exhibition, advocacy, conducive environment, identifying products and services and building client relationships for increased student patronage of information services (Welch, 2006).
Unlike traditional marketing that is organization-focused and for a specific product, libraries and information agencies are client-focused organizations focusing on clients and meeting their needs, and need to adopt services marketing . In this digital age, academic libraries are facing a variety of challenges such as ongoing budget cuts, application of new information technologies, changing internal and external environments, and changing demands of research and teaching. A managerial tool assisting libraries to face challenges now and in the future is effective promotion and marketing. Today, academic libraries are no longer the only choice for students, faculty, staff and other clients to go to for information.
To attract clients, generate non-user awareness, and raise awareness of available services and resources, libraries need to find ways to promote services and resources to clients as effectively as possible. As such, marketing indicators are used to convey the availability and value of services and resources to target markets and should be designed to cause library users and non-users to act (Helinsky, 2008). The indicators must be developed in such a way that they gain user attention, providing a reason for the library’s services and resources to be selected over those of competing services (Chartered Institute of Marketing, 2009).According to Fisher and Pride (2006), the promotional techniques that can be used by academic libraries to market their services and resources include: digital media, such as the library’s Website, e-mail lists, blogs and podcasts; print materials such as posters, handouts and giveaways; events such as orientation tours and workshops; and other tools such as library publications, contests, brochures, direct mail, Web 2.0 applications and displays.
Library services can be marketed effectively through awareness creation. Awareness creation is a technique which involves using several communication activities that attempt to provide added value to a service rendered that will stimulate students’ patronage. Awareness creation arouses interest, creates a reading desire; sparks an immediate reaction from customers, students and researchers, for example, book exhibition. The purpose of this awareness creation is to attract more users of library product thereby increasing the number of clientele. To successfully create awareness, it is important that the product be branded for future reference.
Narayan (1991) asserts that branding a library makes it relevant and enhances patronage from students’. A brand is made up of the logo, the brand’s colors, the typeface used when spelling out the brand name, the brand tagline, signage inside and outside the library premises; name tags that library staff wears and library cards. A brand is also made up of any experience that an individual might have with the organization. Branding a library is a way of exhibiting the available resources and it will definitely increase more patronage from clientele.
Exhibition is a marketing vehicle that involves conveying information of services to the public through the media be it print or electronic. Exhibition is given to products and services by various advertising methods. For example, library book fairs, marketing library information service in university bulletins which are distributed round university campuses, library website and general study course entitled “The use of Library and study skills” are used for disseminating information related to programs and activities in the library. Mathews (2009) asserts that a good website helps to bring services and resources together in a unique way, because it is a direct link between the library and its specific users (for example students and academics) and the services it is seeking to promote. Davidson (2001) emphasised on the importance of marketing library and information services through displays and exhibitions.
The author opined that exhibition can boost current awareness in the library because it avails the library clientele the opportunity to know the existence of materials in the library. The author also opined that for the public confidence to be fully won and established, librarians should be able to carry along the community members by organizing library orientation, talks and seminar on the importance of displays and exhibitions. According to Shapiro (1999) library displays racks are very good forms of advertisement in the library. Display racks should be placed in strategic areas of the library where it would draw attention of the clientele, and the shelves should be boldly and clearly labelled for easy identification and retrieval of information resources. Once this marketing strategy is fully implemented in libraries it will aid in an increase in user patronage of information service.
Advocacy in libraries is an initiative to increase public awareness of the value, impact and services provided by libraries and library professionals. The goal is to ensure there is one clear, energetic voice for the profession, showcase the transformative nature of today’s libraries and elevate the critical role libraries play in the digital age. It involves establishing relationships with the decision makers and citizens and attending hearings or sessions that are of crucial importance to libraries. According to Adegoke (2015), advocacy as a marketing indicator or strategy is very crucial to student patronage. The author made reference to library programs like library orientation as a type of advocacy program usually organized for fresh students’ where tours through the library are done educating them on the services the library offers. The aim is to bring the prospective clientele closer to the library to enable effective user patronage with minimum problems for the purpose of learning, research and recreation.
Advocating the library services to the public and the society enhances good selective dissemination of information with the library’s patrons, this will in turn bring about an increase in the library’s patronage. Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI) in the library is a deliberate, planned, and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between the library and the public (users). SDI activities help to provide a coordinated effort to communicate a positive image of the library and promote the availability of the library’s materials, programs, and services. Murray (2005) asserts that the importance of SDI activities cannot be overlooked in any library; especially in academic libraries. The significance of academic libraries specifically university libraries cannot be over emphasized. SDI is an effective part of a library’s overall marketing strategy. It establishes favorable press relations to get news out about the library on a regular basis and creates goodwill for the library.
Since one of the coordinated efforts of SDI is communicating a positive image of the library, the environment must be conducive to be able to achieve this goal. Conducive environment is the creation of an enabling library environment that is well organized, neat, quite, properly ventilated with a good lighting system and automated for easy access and retrieval of information resources to satisfy the information needs of the library’s patrons. The library environment is a great determinant of library use among any group of users in a library. For instance, a library with adequate seating and well air conditioned space, adequate and up-to-date information resources, good customer services, stable electricity supply and automated that is, with internet access (both within and outside the library) will always attract users to the library. Adams (2002) opines that reading can be effective and interesting if it is done in a conducive environment. Conducive environment of the library will definitely increase effective patronage of information service from the library’s clientele.
Students’ patronage of information service according to Zhixian Yi (2016) in libraries is brought about through the marriage between library marketing indicators/ strategies and current information products. Information technologies change rapidly. Information products and services are in a multiplicity of formats in libraries. For libraries and information services to stay viable in the current climate, it is important that they adopt marketing strategies to help meet organizational mission, goals and objectives. Marketing has long been associated with the selling of a product in order to make a profit, but was extended to the non-profit sector including libraries in the 1960s (Enache, 2008).
The author opined that for libraries, marketing is about a set of activities including awareness creation, branding, understanding client needs, selective dissemination of information, exhibition, advocacy, conducive environment, identifying products and services and building client relationships for increased student patronage of information services usually known as the marketing mix which refers to a set of variables that can be used by a library to promote its services and resources to users (de Saez, 2002; Rowley, 2003; Welch, 2006; Potter, 2012). The marketing mix commonly referred to as the 4 Ps: price, product, promotion and place; now has the fifth P, people, included.
Although the marketing mix was developed for imparting the advantages of a tangible product, with the focus on product marketing, the researcher is of the opinion that it is important to apply this focus to students’ patronage of information service. As the need for promotion of services has grown and is now more widely recognised, the marketing mix has been refined and adapted to include services, not just products (Mollel, 2013). Welch (2006) opines that unlike traditional marketing that is organization-focused and for a specific product, libraries and information institutions are client-focused organizations, focusing on clients and meeting their needs, and need to adopt services marketing. Services are the intangible products that libraries have to promote in order to compete with external competitors.
According to Rowley (2003) Libraries are saddled with numerous challenges such as restricted funding and increasing user expectations, as they identify, develop, deliver and monitor information service offerings that are superior to their competitors. However, these challenges offer diverse opportunities to provide better information service to users by redefining clientele relationships through the use of marketing indicators/strategies to build and strengthen ongoing relationships with customers. Relationship marketing is relevant to services marketing and creates much value because it builds a viable and long-term relationship with the clients that seek to use library resources and information service so that the users’ or clientele are retained.
Cullen (2001) observed that academic libraries are currently facing their greatest challenge since the explosion in tertiary and academic publishing which began after World War II.
The emergence of the virtual university, supported by the virtual library, calls into question many of our basic assumptions about the role of the academic library, and the security of its future. Retaining and growing their customer base, and focusing more energy on meeting their customers’ expectations is the only way for academic libraries to survive in this volatile environment. The strength of this research therefore lies in its effort to establish the influence of Library marketing indicators and students’ patronage of Information services in Federal University Libraries of South-South, Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
It has been observed by the researcher that marketing of library and information service is not practiced as expected in most university libraries. As information technology evolves, the library is no longer the only source of providing information to users. The researcher through personal interactions with the library users discovered that library users now tend to patronize other sources of information providing companies or organizations, for example the cyber cafes, the Internet, blogs and other social media platforms to satisfy their information needs, making the library to seem toloose its relevance and pride of place in the academic environment. This is perceived by the researcher as being responsible for the low patronage and underutilization of information resources and services by library patrons. This statement is in line with the report of Kaur and Rani (2007) that library resources are so expensive, but often remain underutilized resulting in wastage of money, time, energy and space. The authors opined that “university libraries invest huge amount of money on collection development, processing and storage of information resources” and to ensure maximum utilization of these resources, there is the need for librarians to embark on marketing or sensitization of clientele so as to promote the use of their information services.
Although there are researches on marketing of library services in different parts of the world and in Africa such as in Nigeria, there is hardly an empirical research on marketing indicators of awareness creation, branding, exhibition, selective dissemination of information, advocacy, conducive environment and students’ patronage of information servicesin federal university libraries in South-South Nigeria in a combined study. Therefore, there is an unexplained influence between the library marketing indicators and students’ patronage of information services. Thus, any issue on this with regards to South-South university libraries in Nigeria is speculative.
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