Marketing to School Librarians: Influence the Influencer

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are roughly 114,000 K-12 schools in this country with a library staffed by a school librarian.1 And while for decades they have been plagued with the stereotype of being women who check out books and tell children to “shush,” librarians have much more influential roles in their schools. They often join school leadership as instructional leaders, influencing purchases of curriculum and technology. Librarians are experts in inquiry-based learning. They collaborate with teachers in their schools to guide them as they plan instructional units for their students. Decades ago, when technology was first being introduced in schools, the labs were often put in the school library media center, and the librarian was charged with “making it work.” And make it work they did, adding “technology leader” to their role in their school, particularly at the elementary level.

Technology has become a part of almost every facet of a school.

A 2023 survey by School Library Journal reports that only 55% of school libraries offer tech-related activities, down from 79% in 2019. Librarians are helping with other tech-purchasing decisions, such as buying databases to be used school-wide or technology learning tools such circuitry kits or robots.2 The average library media center budget may be around $6,355, but school librarians are asked to weigh in on other school purchases, ranging from instructional resources to technology.3

Due to a wide variety of factors, the number of school librarians has dropped by nearly 20% since 20004. However, they continue to be an important part of the school buying cycle because of their unique background and training. Yes, librarians influence the purchase of more than just books!

Here are five tips for marketing to these important purchasing influencers:

  1. Be sure your messaging will resonate with school librarians. They care about helping students build critical thinking skills and digital literacy skills. Think about how your products or resources support those skills, and build it into your messaging.
  • Check out your programs’ alignment to the National School Library Standards. These standards are all aligned to other state and national K-12 standards that a district may have adopted. You will find the alignment information on the American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) website, and you can weave that information into appropriate marketing campaigns.
  • Go where they are! In addition to standards, school librarians have their own state and national conferences. AASL hosts a national conference biannually, and most state groups have an annual conference. The state conferences are typically quite affordable to exhibit at or sponsor, and they give you a great opportunity to influence the influencer face-to-face.
  • Take advantage of School Library Month (April) to develop a campaign that celebrates librarians, the value of their education and training, and their important role in schools.
  • Develop an email marketing campaign. If you are selling something school librarians purchase, terrific. If you want to give them information to influence decisions in their schools, that is terrific as well. MDR has more than 102,000 school librarians/media specialists in our database. We’d love to help you build a great campaign to get your message out.

As We Are Teachers reports, the loss of school librarians is hurting both kids and teachers. The education community should recognize them, celebrate them, and leverage them as purchasing influencers in their schools.

Sources: 1NCES Fast Facts: Libraries

2SLJ Technology Survey: AI Under Debate

3During COVID, Libraries Prioritized Electronic Resources, Fiction | SLJ 2021 Spending Survey

4U.S. Public Schools Have Lost Nearly 20% Of Their Librarians Since 2000