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Marketing and Promotion

Hospital Library Advocacy Resources

For decades Librarians of all stripes were not only characterized by the shushing Librarian of old, and they also bought into the notion that the best Librarian is a quiet, nose to the grindstone Librarian. Unfortunately that no longer suffices for a professional Library operation. Administrators who hear nothing from or about their medical Libraries assume that nothing is happening there and that, therefore, the operation is dispensable. This calls for a management style that makes room for marketing and promotion.
[In the real world, this means that you are not allowed to say that you do not have time to do this. It is a priority matter and must be accommodated.]
There are many ways to be visible.

Official Ways

  • Mission Statement: Be sure that you mission statement is clear, concise and focused (easily understood), that it encompasses all of the informational activities that you are able to do, and provides a clear rationale for things that you ought to do. Thus, you can say "We did that, and we did that well, because it's our mission to do that."
  • Goals and Objectives: For most institutions, mission statements are not enough. They also want goals and objectives. One suspects that this is because they wish to have a variety of yardsticks to use when doing the annual review. Be sure that your goals and objectives elaborate on your mission statement, that they again encompass the things that you want and ought to do, but do not go outside of your mission statement. Too many goals and objectives, or too disparate goals and objectives mean that you have too many areas to focus on. Make sure these are things that you can accomplish in the given time to do them.
  • Strategic Plan: This is similar to Goals and Objectives but is a long range planning tool. You can write a 3 to 5 year strategic plan listing your goals and plans of action for each goal. Then, if possible, present this plan to your administration for approval. Once approval is given, you now have a long range plan on which to base your operations. Administration will hopefully be impressed with your effort to design a long range plan. Yearly, you should submit a report about your progress on the strategic plan.
    • Over time, some of the goals may become outdated.
    • Review the plan itself yearly in case changes need to be made.
    • To justify your reasons for your goals/objectives and strategic planning, it is very useful to have done a survey/needs assessment of some sort to determine what your clientele finds useful , wants and needs. Then when explaining the need for more money for a service/resource, you can point to the survey results to back up your request. So, you are not just asking for money because you, the librarian, think a service would be useful, you are asking on behalf of the physicians, nurses, etc.  For a more in-depth discussion, see "Conducting a user-centered information needs assessment: the Via Christi Libraries' experience." Perley CM, Gentry CA, Fleming AS, Sen KM. J Med Libr Assoc. 2007 Apr;95(2): 173-81.
  • Annual Reports:
    Administrators like annual reports that read like executive summaries. Bullet points are preferred. These should show activity on a continuum of your goals and objectives. They should also include statistics that make your activities stand out. Remember to focus on activities in which your administrators have an interest. Librarians collect an awful lot of statistics that don't interest anyone. One or two pertinent stories maybe very useful: i.e a surgeon wanting updated information on a procedure he is performing the next morning. You do a search, print and interlibrary loan the newest, most pertinent articles on the subject. You have this to him by the end of the day and he goes into surgery much better prepared to give good patient care.

Less official ways, but as important


  • Create a Library logo.
    • Consistently using your logo, and perhaps your motto or other brief mission statement, on all of your stationery, your slips and forms, your OPAC and electronic databases as well as all of your promotional materials creates an image.
    • The impact of the image is directly related to the quality of your services and after time represents those services to the public even when they are not immediately in contact with them.
  • Give your library it's own "skin." Many computer applications now give the user the option of changing the theme or looks of the screen. Sometimes they are called skins. What "skin" covers your Library?
  • Place the company's logo on all of your slips, announcements, and other documents. It is easy to scan logos into jpeg files, and by using the logo you subconsciously bond your Library to the organization, you are now part of the team.
  • Survey your printing options.
    • Do you have an in-house printing service?
    • Does it charge back to your department? Or not?
    • Do you have a color printer? A color scanner?
    • Recycled scrap paper or new? Librarians often reprocess scrap paper for a myriad of uses, and while this is noble, it gives a ragged image of the operation.
  • Adopt a single paper color to associate these with your Library
    • Do you have access to color paper? Use it exclusively for all those little notice slips, the ones that accompany your handouts, your articles,? your search results, your Table of Contents notices, so that even from across the room your client can see it on his/her desk and know that Library service has been received.
    • Use these all the time. Do not let up. Remember that it takes multiple hits to establish recognition. If your service is good, all it takes is for your client to see that color to feel good about your Librarary.
  • Atmosphere
    • Is your Library clean? Well organized? Inviting?
    • Are you friendly? Concerned? Devoted to your mission?

If you can answer yes to these questions, then your "skin" will call all these things to mind.


Do not be afraid to promote your activity.

  • Utilize the company's internal newsletters and web sites to promote specific activities [not statistics].
  • Get to know your PR department. Do not be afraid to ask them for help. Do not, however, count on them to really know the Library's activities or its value to the institution, and be prepared to write all of the copy for the release.
    [In practical terms this means that you must either know how to write or learn how to write. Not being able to write is again not an option. It is your obligation to present the Library in the best light, which is often illuminated by your own ability to extol its services. Writing is a learnable skill. Believe that, and you will learn it.]
    • Have a brochure describing your Library's services and resources.Make it as attractive and professional as possible, but remember that content trumps looks.
    • Ask the Nursing Education Department to place the Library on the orientation tour and when you speak, reference the brochure so that the new nurses think to keep theirs around.
    • Keep a supply of your brochure on display in the Library.
    • Update it annually and distribute it at least to your physicians and departmental directors.
    • Make sure it gets distributed at orientation.
    • Publish one of the many patient oriented news items that come out weekly [from the NLM, perhaps] as a part of your web site
    • Add as a link on your catalog as payback to your healthcare providers, something for them to use to take care of themselves
    • Write that service up for the in-house news organ.
    • Send current reports as noted by the NLM and send them to physicians, nurses and allied health providers in the various departments.  [This means that you must create and periodically update your email distribution groups by specialty. This is another thing that is not optional.]
    • Create Library mouse pads
      • SirsiDynix provides mouse pads, which double as note pads, in their training sessions. They pad about 30 sheets together and you tear off the page whenever you fill it up. It gives you a clean mouse pad every time you renew it.
      • Distribute it at your benefits fair, etc. 
      • It provides space for promotion of Library services and contact information for your Library.

Your Catalog

You need to have an online catalog no matter what size your Library is. The OPAC is the face of your Library. It touches your clients when you are not available. Its contents, organization, and ease of use reflect the quality service your Library delivers. It will provide places where catalog text may be customized, and your logo can usually be placed on the front screen.

  • There are many to choose from, some free and some very expensive. There is even a middle range.
  • An online catalog, particularly one where your files are housed at the vendor's site, can be viewed from within your firewall (with the assistance of your IT department), as well as from home or practice. This is infinitely better than being only accessible from within the firewall, where no one can get to anything after work when they have time.
  • In addition to listing your holdings, a good OPAC will also hold .PDF files and URLs, links to your online journals and texts.
  • Its home screen can include links to documents of immediate importance to your institution as well as space for promotional notices, such as your recent award for outstanding Librarianship.
  • It also provides a direct link to your email address.

Your In-House Web Page

Anymore, most medical centers have an Intranet site to provide information within the organization. Generally the Medical Library can have a page (or more than one) associated with the site. Such sites are usually maintained by the Information Services or Information Technology Services or some such division within the institution.

  • After getting permission to have such a site
    • Will they allow you to have access to the site to keep it up to date and to modify its look and feel over time?
      • Some IS departments want to have complete control over the site.
      • These departments agree to make the modifications you request, but that can take considerable time and negotiation as you work to have it as you would like it.
      • A better solution, from the Library's point of view, is for the Librarian to be given the software application necessary to maintain the web site.
        • It takes less time and gives a better look and feel to the material.
        • It remains necessary to stay on good terms with the IS department, but a good one will be grateful that the load is off their plate.
  • Make every effort to get the link to your page prominently displayed on your institution's home page. The location of your link can make a big difference in accessibility to your services.
  • The web page provides the ability to present a wide variety of information and links to information that will benefit the healthcare providers in your facility.
  • Some suggestions include:
    • A description of your Library's location, hours and contact information, the Library's brochure, and maybe a nice fact sheet about the library
    • Links to materials on cultural competency and diversity (one library last year served non-English speakers of 26 different languages)
    • Links to continuing education opportunities for physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers
    • Links to training material hosted on your web pages
    • Links to mission-related sites such as passport application
    • Links to various institutional forms and documents
    • Links to canned searches on special topics
    • Links to various online databases
    • And a link to your online catalog
    • You can imagine any number of additional good things.


One suspects that many Librarians got into the field because of their love of books and research, both of which are solitary pursuits. Good Librarians also like people and are sympathetic to the needs of their patrons. Networking accommodates Library services by extending the range of available resources and thereby the Librarian's ability to service the needs of their clients. An effectively networked Librarian can provide better, quicker, more reliable services and thus impact their word-of-mouth promotion.

Networking is also a path to influence within the profession. It is essential to remember that, while Libraries have an aura of quiet solitude, which is not an especially supportive image. To a greater extent than one might realize, it is possible to participate in the national dialogue and to have an impact on the future of the profession. Right now there is a cloud over the future of the profession in light of modern technology. Now is the time for dialog and action and you can be a part of that. To some extent, perhaps a great extent, you have an obligation to have an influence on the future.

Networking activities also reflect positively on the image of the Librarian. A Librarian who is seen as an actor in local, regional and/or national organizations reflects positively on themselves and on their profession.

There are many ways to network.

  • Conventions
    One of the most common is to be a conventioneer, attending one or more of the many professional conventions (ALA, SLA, MLA, or their regional groups) each year to get the lay of the land and to meet those who may be, will be, or are influential within the profession. If you are lucky, your institution will pay for your trip. If you are not, you should pay for at least one yourself. Attend with another Librarian.
  • Local Organizations
    In some areas [for instance, Kansas City or Colorado] Librarians have come together to form local networks to support each other and to expand their resources and professional activities. Activities can include consortium purchasing at considerable savings, continuing education opportunities, local advocacy programs, shared emergency coverage, and reciprocal borrowing through Interlibrary loan and more. Each of these activities needs hands on management and service to the group is respected. While virtue is its own reward, there are many practical benefits which support your ability to serve your own clientele. Shared emergency service, for instance, is a good sell to your supervisor. Consortium purchasing can make a good OPAC affordable. Continuing education at the local level is inexpensive and effective. And local advocacy programs can help the Librarian make put together real support for your activities.
  • Advocacy
    The Health Science Library Network of Kansas City, HSLNKC, has approximately 30 institutional members in Missouri and Kansas. In 2004 the association created five major awards to be given out annually at its Annual Meeting in January. Plaques with accompanying certificates are awarded. Pictures are taken and a press kit is sent to the Public Relations offices of their respective institutions. The net impact over the years has been to considerably improve the visibility of the winning Libraries within the administrative landscape.
    • In 2009, the HSLNKC membership approved a program to certify member Libraries annually. Libraries where the staff works solely within the area of information services are certified with commendation. This gives the Library something to promote on an annual basis. It also provides another item to mount on the wall in the Library.
    • While advocacy can be accomplished by the lone Librarian, it is best when the activity is advanced by a local, regional or national organization. Not only does it give the Librarian a pool of professionals to with whom to discuss options, it also leverages the esteem of the professional organization behind the local activities or awards.
    • If you do not have a local professional organization, create one.
  • Colleagues
    This is another area where there is really not much of an option. Your best friends in this profession are your colleagues. While reticence in public has been a hallmark of Librarians in the past, reticence is no longer reasonable. You can learn impressive organizational and advocacy skills by participating in these organizations at the local level. It is the training ground for participation at the regional and national levels, and the need for effective leadership across the board is only going to grow. Too many of our colleagues do not esteem themselves enough to step forward. When they do, they discover that it is easier than they thought, that it displays more strength than they thought they had, and that it is personally and professionally more rewarding than anything they have ever done. It pays not to delay.]
  • Internal Networking
    All institutions have internal working committees; hospitals are no exception. In addition to hospital committees, which can have a diverse membership, there are also physician conferences. It is advantageous to get on any of these committees. It is often easier to get into the physician conferences devoted to specific areas, than to get on the hospital committees. Virtually every hospital has a Cancer or Tumor conference of some kind, and the physicians who run these conferences are usually pleased to have the Librarian attend. In addition to following up committee sessions and conferences with literature searches on topics discussed, it gives the Librarian insight into the individual healthcare providers and lets you forward articles and reports that they are likely to appreciate. Professionally this is known as SDI, Selective Dissemination of Information, and it is an important promotional activity.
  • Goodies Files and Anecdotal material
    Everyone who works should have a "Goodies File." A goodies file is either an electronic or a physical file, preferably both, where one collects good things from other people. It can contain CE certificates, kudos notes from satisfied patrons, grade sheets from formal courses, or anything else of which you can be proud. The electronic folder generally gets the electronic thank-yous and praise notes from your clients. It is good to keep them all and to pass the really good ones, or even the pretty good ones, on to your supervisor as an indication of your successes. Anecdotal material of any kind is used to bolster, or flesh out, your statistical or other dry reports.

Contact Chris Pryor, Library Engagement Coordinator, with questions or comments or for assistance in developing advocacy programs.