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Marketing to Libraries: The Library Market in General

Tips for authors, small publishers, and others who wish to reach the library market.


Understanding the library market begins with a review of the main types of libraries and the materials they buy.

Public libraries, some 9,000 in number, have been established across the United States to serve almost all populated areas.  About 80% of these libraries service populations under 25,000. All typically buy popular reading for children, young adults, and adults in all formats, popular magazines, audio and video recordings, e-books, databases, and specialized material, such as large-print books.  Public libraries, particularly the larger ones, may buy multiple copies of popular titles to meet demands. Selection follows a collection development policy for the individual library; in larger systems with branches, selection responsibilities may be shared with branch personnel, or centralized, or a combination. According to the Public Libraries Survey, prepared by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, public libraries collectively spent nearly $1.3 billion on collections in fiscal year 2014.

Academic libraries serve the students, faculty, and staff of the nation's community colleges, undergraduate colleges, and universities offering advanced degrees.  These libraries acquire materials to support the curricula offered, and the larger ones will seek to develop a collection of some depth in selected subject areas. They typically buy few multiples. Selection will follow collection development policies and will be overseen by library staff, with many models of faculty involvement. According to the Academic Library Statistics program, administered by the Association for College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association, the 1,499 institutions responding to the 2015 survey spent $2.3 billion on "one-time physical material purchases," e-books, "ongoing commitment to subscriptions," and other.

According to the 2012 Academic Library Survey, published by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2014, the 3,793 reporting libraries spent a total of $2.8 billion for books, serials, document delivery, databases, preservation, and audiovisual materials.

School libraries serve students in the nation's estimated 116,240 schools, including 85,530 traditional public schools, 4,480 public charter schools, and  26,230 private schools, also serving grades K-12.   For stand-alone schools, selection will be at the building level, following a collection development plan that supports the curriculum and student recreational reading needs. In larger systems, there may be system-wide centralization. For the 90,000 public schools, the materials expenditures reported in the 2010-11 report was an average of $9,340 for the 81,200 schools with a library media center, or very roughly $750 million.

Special libraries and government libraries serve the clientele of their parent organizations.  These organizations may be law firms, hospitals, museums, corporations, cultural institutions, or more.  The librarian will typically be the chief selector, with input from the users of the collection.  The collection policy will be tightly defined to support the institutional needs. Sources of information about expenditures for these libraries may be included in the library's entry in the American Library Directory, published by Information Today, or as part of the tables included in The Library and Book Trade Almanac, also published by Information today.

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