Marketing intangibles: the case of library services in higher education institutions

Date12 February 2020
Published date12 February 2020
AuthorWilhemina Odarkor Ofori,Evelyn Markwei,Nana Tuhufo Quagraine
subjectMatterLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,Library technology,Library & information services
Marketing intangibles: the case of library services
in higher education institutions
Wilhemina Odarkor Ofori, Evelyn Markwei and Nana Tuhufo Quagraine
Information provision in the twenty-
first century is no longer a monopoly of
libraries. Libraries across the globe,
including academic libraries, are
competing with other service industries
such as big publishing houses, online
book dealers, academic database
vendors, the internet and others
enhancing easy access to information.
Thus, libraries today have no choice
than to adopt a marketing approach in
their operations and services to remain
visible, valuable and relevant to their
communities and patrons (Kumbar,
2004). However, Alemna (2001) is
of the view that the application of
marketing concepts to the operations of
library and information services is a
common phenomenon globally. Many
libraries have begun to identify that
marketing services remain a critical
factor in their survival. Other factors
identified by Jestin and Parameswari
(2005) to the adoption of marketing by
libraries are the information explosion,
the technology revolution and the case
of escalating library costs. Baro and
Ebhomeya (2013) add that marketing
within a university library implies a
need for the library to align its products
and service offerings to identified
objectives and users and meeting their
The need for marketing is equally
premised on the idea that knowledge
about the existence of libraries alone does
not necessarily guarantee knowledge
about the libraries’ use or the potential of
such facilities being visited by patrons.
However, by making students aware of all
that the library has in stock, in terms of
products, services and facilities; the
image of the library is boosted. Marketing
has been found to bring about several
benefits to libraries, including
achievement of organizational goals; an
understanding of the perspectives of
university administration; and also
boosting faculty and student usage of the
library, further leading to more effective
information provision and delivery
(Spalding and Wang, 2006). Marketing
may be easier for public libraries as they
are often very involved in community
engagement and programming and
services outside of the library.
Several authors have indicated that
surprisingly many libraries have shown
apathy in the adoption of marketing
techniques in enhancing their
operations (Kaur and Rani, 2008;Kaur,
2009;Baro and Ebhomeya, 2013), even
though academic libraries are making
huge investments in building their
collections through the purchase of
electronic resources (e-resources) to
help boost their support services to
academic activities of their parent
institutions. In spite of the huge
investments made into building
these collections, some studies have
demonstrated that these resources are
often underused, resulting in a waste of
time, space and money (often difficult
to come by) (Manda, 2005;Ndinoshiho,
2010;Kinengyere, 2007 and Baro et al.,
2011). Among the possible solutions to
this is marketing which should help
publicize these resources and encourage
their use (Baro and Ebhomeya, 2013;
Ekpenyong, 2003;Spalding and Wang,
2006;Adeyoyin, 2005;Mallon, 2013;
Martey, 2000).
Kotler and Armstrong (2012) give a
broad definition of marketing as “the
process by which companies create
value for customers and build strong
customer relationships in order to
capture value from customers in return”
With regards to non-profit organizations
including library and other information
services, there is a general recognition
that their continued existence is highly
dependent on marketing (Alemna,
2001). Sharma and Bhardwaj (2009)
refer to marketing as instruments
through which both raw and processed
information are transmitted to its
members. Rowley (2003, p. 15),
described marketing of information as
“the marketing of information-based
products and services”, including
books, journals, CDs, databases,
electronic journals and newspapers
among others. Ekpenyong (2003) also
defined marketing as a relationship
between the library and its users to
provide total satisfaction and
information needs. Shontz et al. (2004)
and Baro and Ebhomeya (2013) agree
that marketing refers to a particular
set of activities which encourages
purposeful exchanges between library
staff and also users towards meeting
their information needs and objectives.
Although there is no accepted definition
for information marketing, its meaning
is quite consistent among scholars
within the field. Meanwhile, it is
intrinsic to note from the definitions that
marketing must involve the use of some
promotional tool(s) and must have a
target audience.
General marketing tools and strategies
Many users particularly those in
academic environments are finding
fewer reasons to visit libraries because
they are able to easily access
information resources via the World
Wide Web (WWW) without having to
physically visit the library premises
(Makori, 2010;Nooshinfard and Ziaei,
2011;Sharma and Bhardwaj, 2009;
Spalding and Wang, 2006). Libraries
find themselves in competition with
other information services providers
like online websites and publishers of
electronic resources. Academic libraries
must communicate to current and
potential users about the benefits of
using the library to ensure that they still
remain relevant in this very dynamic
world as majority of users remain
ignorant of the mass of research
LIBRARY HITECH NEWS Number 3 2020, pp. 15-20, V
CEmerald Publishing Limited, 0741-9058, DOI 10.1108/LHTN-11-2019-0085 15

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