When you’re in the business of marketing to libraries, the first thing you want to know is the details of the demographic you’re targeting. We all know the picture we have of the common librarian: Elderly, female, wearing a clasped cardigan, hair in a bun. Of course, that’s absurd — but what are the true demographics of librarians? What kinds of people can we expect to run into when we’re marketing to libraries?
In truth, librarians shake out like just about any other profession: They come in a broad range of ages, backgrounds and ethnicities. And while there generally may be more female librarians than male, that doesn’t mean there’s necessarily a “gender gap,” or that gender should play a role in how you approach marketing to libraries.
But there are a few notable aspects of the library demographic. Stanley Wilder, the assistant dean for technical and financial services at Louisiana State University’s library system, discovered several unique things about the age range of academic librarians in particular. Here’s a sampling of what he found:
Reference librarians generally skew younger. It’s one of those common beliefs that, upon closer inspection, turns out to be true: Reference librarians are generally younger that catalogue librarians. Less than 30 percent of academic reference librarians are over age 50. Mostly, Wilder found, this is because reference librarians are hired at a faster rate than catalogue librarians. When marketing to libraries, it’s good to keep this in mind. If you’re selling a product that’s aimed at reference librarians, you’ll likely be dealing with someone in their 30s or 40s (or, at smaller schools, even someone in their 20s). This might have some impact on which staff member you assign a particular account to.
Because the position requires a strong degree of experience, the majority of library directors are in their late 40s or early 50s. And while most directors don’t remain in their positions after age 65, the library director in his or her 30s is a rare find indeed. What’s more, male library directors tend to be older than female library directors. Because marketing to libraries often means pitching sales to the big decision-makers on staff, it’s important to know what to expect when you speak to the head honcho.
There’s a whole slew of federal laws, retirement requirements, and employment patterns that affect the demographic makeup of research librarians in the United States and Canada, but ultimately, Canadian librarians tend to be older than their counterparts to the south. The percentage of Canadian research librarians under age 40 is much smaller than in the United States, and more Canadian librarians are over age 50 than their US colleagues.
OK, OK, this wasn’t in Wilder’s original study, but anecdotally, it turns out librarians enjoy quilting to a degree that doesn’t coincide with other professions as much. Consider it a possible opening topic of discussion (“You like quilting? I like quilting too!”).