Three-Year Marketing Plan for Libraries - FY2008-FY2010


The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) is the state agency that supports, improves and promotes library services throughout the Commonwealth. This Marketing Plan is a three-year plan that was developed through the efforts of the MBLC Public Relations Advisory Committee. The Public Relations Advisory Committee will advise the MBLC in the selection of the firm chosen to execute this Marketing Plan, as well as oversee the implementation of the strategies and tactics indicated in the Plan.


A primary intent of the Library Services and Technology Act/Massachusetts Long Range Plan is to position libraries and library staff to meet the rapidly evolving public need for access to information resources in both print and electronic formats. Therefore, the MBLC is seeking to develop a concerted statewide marketing effort to increase awareness of the intrinsic value of libraries in promoting personal and economic growth for residents in every community through a wide array of programs and services that libraries offer.

A considerable amount of research has been done on the need to build awareness of and increase community connectivity to libraries. Some assumptions that can be made based upon this research include:

  • Libraries are in intense competition with online information providers and bookstore/cafes for the attention of the public. A high percentage of residents are not aware of online electronic offerings at Massachusetts libraries.

  • Libraries generally enjoy a high approval rating among the public, even non-library users; however, this amounts to a kind of “benign neglect” and, at times, may not translate into funding/support for libraries with residents’ tax dollars.

  • Political leadership and the public believe that libraries should remain free and offer open access to the public; maintain core library services including efficient, friendly, customer- service-oriented library staff, current books and reference materials, programs for adults and children; and have well-maintained buildings.

  • There is a need to increase public awareness and use of the library as one of the most comprehensive and credible sources for information.

Previous public relations/marketing efforts of the MBLC have focused on such topics as the summer reading program and general public awareness of library services. These promotional efforts have targeted a variety of audiences including library staff, library trustees, Friends of libraries, general public, city/town officials, and school-age children.  The media mix utilized by the MBLC in previous efforts has included posters, point-of-purchase materials (fliers, bookmarks), brochures, bus signs, outdoor, and public service announcements on both broadcast television and radio.


The key objective of this Marketing Plan is to create a three-year campaign that:

  • Increases library usage in Massachusetts

  • Promotes the technological resources available through Massachusetts libraries

  • Introduces a 21st century image of Massachusetts libraries

  • Creates excitement among target audiences

  • Builds a sense of the value of Massachusetts libraries


The primary target markets for the MBLC statewide marketing campaign are non-users of libraries in the following groups:

I. Parents

This market is defined as including traditional and non-traditional families having children aged from birth to approximately 14 years old.

II. College-Educated 20-Somethings

This market is defined as residents approximately 22 years old to 29 years old; college educated and employed but with considerable debt; technologically sophisticated.

Please note that secondary audiences within both markets include:

  • Current library users

  • Residents and their children who speak a language other than English in the home

Geographically, the target markets encompass the communities and constituencies served by all libraries within Massachusetts including public, school, college, private and special interest libraries, regional library systems and automated library networks.


The PR Advisory Committee has identified specific message points to be promoted to each of the target markets. These message points are to be the focus of the promotional materials produced for each of the target markets.

The following core messages of the library marketing campaign should be incorporated in some way into all promotional materials, regardless of the specific audience that is being targeted.

Libraries are:

  • Free

  • 24/7 access

  • Reliable

  • Welcoming

The selected marketing firm will provide media selections and recommendations that will further enhance the message points by reaching the essential audiences for these messages in support of the Committee’s plan to target the desired market groups.

I. Parents

For the purposes of this Marketing Plan, the Parents market encompasses parents of both pre-school and school-age children. It is understood that messages will vary for the different age groups of children, but many messages will overlap, as will the media mix.

Pre-school children

  • Fun and good for kids – cozy environment/place to meet

  • Best start – early readers make better students

  • Plentiful developmental materials and programs

School-age children

  • The library is a 24/7 portal to reliable information, resources and research tools

  • Librarians as teachers – help for both parents & students

  • Library use leads to better achievement

  • Parents need to recognize the value of school libraries

II. College-educated 20-somethings

  • Quick, convenient online content available 24/7 wherever you are

    • 24/7 book downloads

    • Internet search assistance

    • Wi Fi access

    • Catalog browsing

    • Online ordering of materials

  • Every public library is your library


The marketing firm selected by the MBLC will provide the creative strategies and tactics to be used to achieve the Marketing Plan objectives and reach the appropriate target markets. In addition, the marketing firm will design the home page and format of interior pages for a new web site portal to be maintained by the MBLC that will serve as an entry point for the general public to libraries and statewide online content.

Paid Media Mix

Media mix recommendations should show effective penetration into the target markets, as well as cost-effectiveness. Marketing firms are encouraged to consider media strategies that go beyond population density as the determining factor in media mix recommendations. As a state agency, the MBLC is concerned that efforts be made to reach residents in rural areas that are not traditionally included in population density-focused media plans. 

Public Relations

Public relations efforts will be used to extend the reach of the paid media schedule.

Focus Groups Research

The selected marketing firm will conduct focus groups to clarify and solidify marketing messages targeted to the College-Educated 20-Somethings market.

Marketing Tool Kits

A campaign education kit must be developed for distribution to all libraries prior to the kickoff of the marketing campaign. This kit will serve as a guide for library personnel to participate in the campaign including, but not limited to, a calendar of important dates and events and tips on customizing available marketing materials.

Customization of Collateral

The marketing materials developed must be designed so that they can be cost-effectively customized and localized by individual libraries, regions and networks to allow opportunities for participation in the statewide marketing campaign.

Multi-lingual Marketing

By the end of the third year of the Marketing Plan, marketing materials shall be produced in at least three languages other than English, to be chosen by the MBLC. 


The MBLC requires that the selected marketing firm present an evaluation report on the effectiveness of the marketing strategies and tactics used to achieve the Marketing Plan objectives at the 12-month mark, and every 6-12 months thereafter, depending on the rollout of the campaign. Measurable tools and methods of evaluation are to be recommended by the firm and subject to review and approval by the MBLC and the PR Advisory Committee.


The MBLC expects to select a marketing firm to execute this Marketing Plan by July 1, 2007. The first phase of the marketing campaign should launch by September 2007.

Year I

  • Focus on marketing messages/campaign targeting Parents

  • Research focus groups on College-Educated 20-Somethings with results of focus groups research to be presented to Committee during first 3 months of year I

  • Refined marketing messages/campaign to be developed for College-Educated 20-Somethings market in second quarter of Year I

  • Marketing campaign expanded to include existing Parents campaign and introduce College-Educated -20-Somethings campaign

Year 2

  • Evaluate results of Year I

  • Introduce any adjustments to messages/additions to marketing messages to be included in Year 2 marketing campaign

  • Focus on College-Educated 20-Somethings market while continuing promotional efforts to Parents market

Year 3

  • Evaluate results of Year 2

  • Adjust marketing messages as indicated by results

  • Continue marketing to both Parents and 20-Somethings, focus to turn more to 20-Somethings


The recommended cost of this three-year Marketing Plan is approximately $1 million over three years. Costs should be identified for each of the various functions of the marketing plan. The PR Advisory Committee will review the supporting statements for the need of each cost item as it relates to the objective of the marketing plan and the target markets. The MBLC is also open to suggestions and recommendations for partnering possibilities that are in keeping with the mission and goals of the MBLC and its short- and long-range marketing plan.

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Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency that fosters innovation, leadership and a lifetime of learning.