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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: June 2018

5 - Priorities: making sound choices


By the end of this chapter you will have considered how to allocate marketing priorities by using a number of tools and techniques from the well-known SWOT analysis to the relative sophistication of the directional policy matrix.

Having understood the marketplace in which your public library operates and created a practical segmentation, you now need to choose how to achieve the library's ambition. Public library priorities are often set, at least in part, by local and national government, and these will form the important context for the planning period. These may include such important priorities as strengthening services to children and senior citizens, broader social initiatives (e.g. inclusion, cohesion) and commitment to encouraging and supporting lifelong learning. All of these priorities benefit from user segmentation to help identify users who might best help the public library meet the current set of priorities.

In addition, alert public library managers will look beyond priority government policies to make sure that while implementing such priorities in full the public library service does not lurch from initiative to initiative, compromising the underlying health of its relationship with existing users and potential users. An analysis of Americans’ priorities for public library service in 2003 by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion found 14 priorities: reading programmes for children; open hours in the evening and at weekends; computers for public use; homework help centres; programmes for senior citizens; staff to help with computers; access to reference help by phone, fax or e-mail; access to other government services in library buildings; cultural programmes or exhibits; audiobooks on tape/CD; indexing of local newspapers; rooms for community meetings; book discussion groups; and movies or DVDs. Although these priorities were collected for the American context it is a good list from which to start and to amend when considering local priorities in other parts of the world.

Any analysis of the market for public library services will reveal many opportunities over and above those identified by local and national government. Everyone is a legitimate public library user, and the range of products and services which could be developed is limited only by the librarian's imagination. All public libraries will be working on limited marketing budgets and staffing levels which are insufficient to win all of these opportunities so, despite best intentions to serve all in full, some marketing priorities must be established.