CULC/CBUC Toolkit on Recovery & Reimagined Public Library Services Post COVID-19

Marketing & Communicatons

Key Considerations


  1. The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting public libraries in every community, and each public library requires a localized response. Constraints to operate and health precautions vary regionally; directives and guidelines are subject to change.
  2. Marketing, as a discipline, includes research, planning, promotion, evaluation and communication to anticipate and meet customer needs. Social marketing is specifically used in the library sector to anticipate and meet community needs. For the purposes of this toolkit, the general term “marketing” will be used.
  3. Library marketing staff, or those with marketing responsibilities, are the intended target audience for this toolkit.
  4. Library marketing staff must carefully set the right tone for communications, recognizing the tension between a fear of returning to public spaces and the eagerness to return to favourite places. From either perspective, the library experience will be different.
  5. The new library experience requires a critical review of existing website content, signage, stock images, promotional material and wayfinding. Branch locations, digital services and social media channels must reflect the new reality and be flexible enough to change again if required.

Strategic Questions

  • When restoring services, consider your local context. Which community needs can your library meet today, given your current capacity? Which services could be restored with safe, incremental changes to your operating environment? Think of the following examples: municipal/regional plans and protocols, public health directives, provincial/territorial guidelines.
  • Take a phased approach to communications. Raise awareness of what the library can offer now and consider these existing services as a foundation to build on. How can your library create an information cascade: timely, accurate updates of what is available now, and what is to follow?
  • It’s worth repeating. Emphasize that a safe and sound approach to reopening will mean a gradual return of services; unfortunately, not every service. Remind patrons that each library service must adapt to a new operating environment. What are the best ways to keep your patrons informed of these immediate and long-term changes to their library system? Think of delivering the right message, at the right time, in the right format, while service is evolving.
  • Community conversations. Do you have a plan to communicate with your partners, your funders and your supporters to secure their continued interest and involvement? What roles can they play in your recovery efforts? What information do they need to support the library?
  • It’s time for innovative thinking. While some library services may no longer be viable in the ways they once were, new opportunities are emerging. Can you take your vision statement in a new direction? Can you deliver your mandate by doing things differently, and doing different things? Be specific.
  • Our brand is “trust.” While most people associate libraries with books, we are universally known as honest brokers. Our marketing efforts must be honest and authentic, consistent with everything we deliver as a library system. How will we have candid and thoughtful community conversations about the ways libraries are changing? How can libraries demonstrate their relevance and communicate their value, without alienating library users that preferred the way things used to be?

Glossary of Marketing Terms