Empathy by Design: Empathy-Driven Marketing for Libraries

ACRL announces the publication of Empathy by Design: Empathy-Driven Marketing for Libraries by Sabine Jean Dantus. The book offers step-by-step strategies for understanding why people visit the library and tailoring your marketing with personalization that resonates with users on a deeper level.

Learn more about Empathy by Design in this excerpt from the Preface, © Sabine Jean Dantus.


Crafting a Foundation for Empowerment and Change: Exploring the Use of Empathy in Library Marketing and DEIA Values

The library is a universal resource where knowledge and information meet. However, over the years, these public spaces have been subjected to certain expectations and practices that no longer serve the advancement of equal access in positive ways. In light of the recent global pandemic, wars, and racial issues, libraries must develop strategies, campaigns, and messages that show they care about the lives of their diverse communities. I must admit that writing this book was challenging but rewarding because I wanted to make sure that library marketers would not only understand the importance of using empathy in marketing but also as a tool for advancing our profession’s values for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA). The strategies outlined in this book can help bridge the gap between tradition and modernity by giving you the tools to make your marketing more targeted and empathic.

With this open, empathic dialogue of mutual respect, I hope libraries will become safe places for users of all backgrounds to learn, think, and discover. Empathy is an essential skill for people working in libraries, and this book will help my colleagues develop and improve their skills in empathic marketing. Also, I hope Empathy by Design will help people in libraries learn more about empathy and inspire them to do more research on the subject. Empathy has been crucial to my work as a library marketer. Even though each audience I’ve spoken to has been different, my ability to understand others has helped me explain our mission and vision to many different groups. Because I empathize with other people, I can understand their backgrounds and points of view. Understanding the users lets me be creative and realistic in crafting my messages and ensure they reach users meaningfully. Empathy allows me to take pride in sharing our library’s successes and being involved in communities that help advance our mission. Researching empathy-based practices in library marketing has opened my eyes to how empathy can help us better understand our patrons’ needs and create an inclusive environment.

As a strategist, I believe that when it comes to marketing libraries, an empathy-based approach is essential to ensure that all library resources are seen as relevant and accessible. My experience in creating empathetic strategies goes beyond superficial idealism; it involves recognizing that different people can be impacted differently by messages and campaigns and designing solutions to account for this. When empathy-driven initiatives are at the core of my strategies, it ensures that all aspects of library marketing efforts are thought through. It is also critical for comprehending and connecting with various audiences, which can help create a more inviting atmosphere. With empathy as the basis of our collective endeavors, I am confident that we can come together to support and promote the positive works of libraries.

Also, empathy is a crucial tool for libraries as we work to bridge divides in a society that is often quick to judge and mischaracterize people from different cultures, communities, or identity groups. Empathy can assist libraries in expanding their mission from simply providing services to actively embracing a wide variety of people and inspiring them to engage more with the library’s resources. Empathy becomes a significant factor in crafting a successful marketing strategy by understanding that each library user has different needs, curiosities, backgrounds, and reasons for visiting the library. Compassionate libraries can create more positive experiences for their patrons, develop more effective marketing strategies, and create a sense of belonging and community. I aim to give libraries the tools they need to break down barriers and foster empathic marketing strategies that reach all users.

Overview of the Book

Empathy by Design: Empathy-driven Marketing for Libraries is motivated by empathy for libraries and users. I aim to give you (the reader) a deeper understanding of empathy as a tool so that your library can make empathic, meaningful, and long-lasting changes to your marketing efforts. Empathy by Design is an empathic approach to marketing that focuses on understanding and appreciating what library users and visitors genuinely desire. To successfully market libraries, it’s essential to recognize the nuances of how people think and feel about libraries. Empathy by Design uses various research techniques, such as qualitative interviews and focus groups, to gain insight into user needs and preferences. This information can then create tailored campaigns that meet user expectations.

This type of marketing strategy goes beyond simply providing users with resource information or programs; it seeks to understand the motivations behind why people visit the library in the first place. By taking an empathetic approach, marketing for libraries can be much more effective because it allows for personalization that resonates with users on a deeper level. Empathy by Design also considers various demographics, such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, and educational background, when developing library marketing campaigns. This ensures that campaigns are designed with all types of library users in mind, so they are relevant to everyone’s individual needs. Additionally, this method allows for the segmentation of messages to be tailored specifically toward different groups within the population.

Librarians can craft successful messages by understanding their audience’s wants and needs. Furthermore, this type of marketing considers any potential barriers (such as price points or technological requirements) that may exist so solutions can be created to ensure everyone has access to library resources regardless of these constraints. Overall, Empathy by Design presents ways to better connect with patrons and maximize a library’s outreach efforts while meeting the unique needs of every library visitor—no matter their background or motivation for using the library’s services. With empathy, librarians can better understand current issues from an intersectional perspective and learn more about the diverse users in their community. My goal is for you to understand empathy in marketing so well that you can make informed decisions that lead to more impactful marketing and outreach plans.

Empathy by Design also explores how empathy helps us recognize the nuances within our communities that often go unnoticed without careful consideration. In doing so, we create experiences for patrons that meet their needs and respect their unique backgrounds and experiences. By recognizing and valuing this diversity of perspectives within our communities, libraries can gain valuable insights into which services are desired by each group they serve. With a clear understanding of what drives people’s decisions and behaviors, libraries can craft marketing campaigns that move beyond simply getting consumers’ attention—they can start motivating them to act or engage further with relevant offerings provided by the library. Equipped with this knowledge, library professionals can create messages explicitly designed for different groups within their community and ensure different types of users feel seen and heard meaningfully.

The chapters in this book provide step-by-step instructions on strategically using empathy and empathic design in library marketing. It offers real-world solutions on how libraries can better understand their target audience through empathy. Additionally, you will learn how to develop messages that foster meaningful connections with your audiences and inspire engagement from library professionals, users, and potential users.

Rather than responding reactively, empathy-driven marketing techniques can help library professionals proactively step into the shoes of their users to gain insight into and understand their points of view. This approach to library marketing allows for more effective, efficient campaigns that ultimately lead to greater customer satisfaction across all demographics.

Empathy by Design is an incredibly valuable source of information for libraries seeking equitable results for their entire user base—helping them foster greater customer satisfaction and loyalty. Utilizing principles associated with empathic design also helps you identify groups of potential users who may have been previously overlooked.

Also included is advice on analyzing user feedback as part of an ongoing evaluation process so that you can further refine existing strategies or develop new ones based on data-backed insights.