MSc Dissertation - Jo Alcock Consulting
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MSc Dissertation

MSc Dissertation

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The time has finally come – I just can’t put it off any more! I’ve been taking a break from studying whilst I settle into my new job, but I can’t really use that excuse anymore as I’ve been in this job for over a year now.

I’ve been researching ideas for my dissertation for a while now, and have been spending a lot of time reading, researching and thinking – now it’s time to do some real work. I’ve been talking to lots of people about my ideas; I must mention special thanks to Sarah Oxford from University of Worcester who I visited in the summer (for a totally different reason!) and really inspired me to start properly thinking about my dissertation and continue research in a similar area to her own.

I have finally narrowed down my topic to marketing in HE libraries in the UK, although I’m still refining the methodology. Having worked on a part-time basis with my boyfriend and his marketing business, I am interested in the strategic marketing side of things, as I feel libraries should probably be doing more of this. I’d like to find out what, if any, market research UK academic libraries are currently involved in, if they have a marketing strategy, and who holds responsibility for the direction of the marketing.

I’m also interested in innovative marketing methods, and hope to do a case study approach for a few of these. I would like to know more about how academic libraries in the UK are currently using social media, so one of these may be good as a case study (e.g. a successful library blog/Facebook/Twitter account) but from a marketing point of view rather than a technical point of view.

I submitted a dissertation proposal earlier this month but haven’t heard anything back yet. The working title is “Marketing UK Higher Education libraries: a current perspective”. I imagine there will be some alterations and suggestions for improvement, but I hope the research area is agreed in principle and that I can be assigned a dissertation supervisor soon. I have to be honest, I have found distance learning difficult – it’s great to be able to work at your own pace and when I was really keen to work through the Diploma everything was fine, but it’s been isolating at times, especially when home life or work life takes over and you lose motivation for studying. I went to the research study school to prepare for the dissertation in September 2008, which seems like a lifetime away now.

Hopefully I’ll be able to start work on my dissertation properly next year, and if you work in a UK academic library (and particularly if you have responsibility for marketing!) I may well be in touch begging for help!

This may well be my last blog post before Christmas – if so, Seasons Greetings to all readers and I hope you enjoy the festivities whatever you get up to. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Chris Armstrong
    Posted at 18:09h, 22 December Reply

    Hi – You may find parts of the JISC National e-Book Observatory reports relevant – both ‘E-book use by academic staff and students in UK universities: focus groups report’ and ‘E-book collection management in UK university libraries: focus groups report’ contain sections and comments on the promotional work done by libraries. See:

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 17:39h, 30 December Reply

      Thanks Chris โ€“ will take a look at these in more detail ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jenny
    Posted at 18:10h, 22 December Reply

    Hi Jo – we recently had a marketing session with Anthony Brewerton from Warwick. I’d get in touch with him if you haven’t already – he’s the man when it comes to that kind of thing. He did a really good presentation and training session with us which lasted pretty much all day, and used loads of examples of his work from both Warwick and Oxford Brookes. Because these are two very different universities, it was really interesting to see the contrasting campaigns he used in each library. I have a copy of his presentation slides somewhere if you’re interested, but he was really cool so you might just want to get in touch with him.

    Good luck with it! I’m just submitting my draft lit review, and to be honest I’m not sure if I’m going in the right direction, but my supervisor has been really helpful and I know she’ll have some good feedback – even if the review isn’t great! Hope it all goes well – it’ll be worth it in the end, when us 2006ers can finally get our gowns!

    Have a great xmas and new year, and remember to focus on all you’ve achieved so far – I saw your latest article in the CILIP mage a couple of weeks ago – nice one!


    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 17:39h, 30 December Reply

      I havenโ€™t contacted Anthony yet but am a huge admirer of his marketing campaigns so certainly hope to do so; Iโ€™ve included some of his stuff in my initial literature scan for the proposal. Good luck with your lit review โ€“ itโ€™s great to hear that you have such a good supervisor, Iโ€™m looking forward to being assigned a supervisor, hopefully will help keep me motivated and organised so I donโ€™t let them down! Thanks for the positive comments, 2006 seems so long ago and in some respects the MSc is dragging โ€“ but like you say you just have to think about what youโ€™ve achieved since then and it suddenly seems worth the effort! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • les
    Posted at 09:24h, 23 December Reply

    Jo, you might be interested in Brian Mathews ( new book Marketing Today’s Academic Library: A Bold New Approach to Communicating with Students ( An American approach but an interesting read none the less. Best of luck and happy holidays.

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 09:58h, 23 December Reply

      Thanks Les – I have a copy of this book and am currently reading it, it is very interesting. I agree with Brian that we need to communicate more with students, understand their needs, and adapt our services to those needs – although of course it’s not just students that use our libraries so we also need to consider other users.

      • brian
        Posted at 21:51h, 01 February Reply

        And I didn’t mean to ignore “other users” it was just that for a book of that size and scope I wanted to focus on a very specific audience. Hopefully you found some useful info.

        • Jo Alcock
          Posted at 19:20h, 03 February Reply

          Hi Brian, I did find it very useful thanks. What I particularly like in the book are the small ideas that can really make a difference such as just communicating more with students which represent a cross section of the student body, finding out what things affect them and figuring out where (and how) the library can help them.

          I appreciate you can’t cover all users within the scope of the book, and think it makes it more interesting by focusing on students – my dissertation is likely to mainly focus on marketing to students. However, my own place of work is currently trying to ensure we consider the needs of other users as the vast majority of our efforts are in supporting students (not academics, support staff, business links, or the local community).

  • les
    Posted at 10:06h, 23 December Reply

    Sorry, should have added, but I expect you know, Meredith Farkas talks about using the social web for users in a recent Talis Podcast ( which states ‘Meredith has become a little jaded about the way libraries are using social software, with some libraries seeing it as a magic wand for community building and engaging with their users. This chimed well with the thoughts of the Gang, who were drawn to the conclusion that like most software, it is just a tool. How you use a tool to communicate with your users, is far more important than the tool itself. Librarians wondering why their blog posts are not receiving comments, should be checking their content for comment-ability.’
    One final comment to make you smile. The other day a certain library closed its computer room, leaving 4 pc/catalogues in a major wing of the library. The IT guy was asked well what about the students? The rsponse (I swear its true) ‘they only use the computers for facebook and email’.

  • Joeyanne Libraryanne » Twelve month itch
    Posted at 15:01h, 30 December Reply

    […] I have my dissertation which I hope to begin soon (I sent my proposal off recently – see my recent blog post) and as mentioned I’m hoping to start my Chartership also, and I’ve just become part of […]

  • Sarah Oxford
    Posted at 10:02h, 04 January Reply

    Me? Inspire you? Wow, thanks! Though I’m certainly not inspiring myself today, it being the first day back at work and all ๐Ÿ™‚

    Just catching up with your last few blog posts through the old Google Reader, thanks for the mention. Happy New Year!!

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 12:37h, 04 January Reply

      Yes you! ๐Ÿ™‚ Sadly I haven’t heard anything back from Aberystwyth yet, but I’m hoping they’ll be in touch soon and let me know if the topic is possible and what I need to do next.

  • Joeyanne Libraryanne » Bite-Sized Marketing Webinar
    Posted at 16:28h, 13 January Reply

    […] was particularly interested in the webinar due to my interest in marketing and my (proposed) dissertation topic, and I also hoped to see if there were any ideas I could use either at my place of work, or for my […]

  • Caroline Anderson
    Posted at 22:00h, 01 February Reply

    Hi Joeyanne, I have been following you on Twitter and read about your dissertation and your blog so I have come to make a couple of comments. Firstly, best wishes with your dissertation. You have a very exciting topic. I did an MLIS by distance a few years ago. I had not worked in a library before doing this. I was lucky enough to get a job in the library of my choice during my studies and I love working there. It was quite scary doing my research project as it is easy to feel very alone. It is very important to keep in touch with your supervisor. I was lucky to have a lovely supervisor who supported me all the way. Anthony Brewerton inspired me duirng my studies. One of his articles about library marketing was required reading for one of the MLIS courses. Although your article is about UK libraries, you may want to have a look at what ASU Libraries in the US are doing with their ‘Library Channel’ and ‘Library Minute’ marketing:

    Perhaps you could weave what other academic libraries in the world are doing into your dissertation to give context.

    I am passionate about library marketing. It can take many forms and it is important to know one’s audience. I read an article recently about making sure that we market librarians, not just libraries. I have forgotten the name of the writer, to my shame. It made me notice how much we bang on about libraries but we forget to mention (loudly) the librarians. I think a good marketing approach should emphaise the librarians and what they can do for the patrons, not just the library and the collection. That is one of the reasons I like ASU’s approach – because it puts a human (librarian) face at the forefront of its marketing (in the Library Minute). Students can relate to a friendly, smiling face and realise that this person is a librarian who wants to help them with their studies. Somewhere I read that the thing people want most from organizations is ‘friendly help’. Students want help to do their studies and they like to deal with people who are friendly. So if our marketing targets these two things I think we are well on the way to successful marketing. Good luck with your dissertation. Kind regards, Caroline Anderson, Christchurch, New Zealand.

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 20:52h, 03 February Reply

      Hi Caroline, thank you so much for your best wishes and such an informative comment! ๐Ÿ™‚

      I totally agree with you that we also need to market the librarians (and other library staff) as well as the resources and space for study which are often the focus of marketing. Something which really stuck with me following a marketing event I attended was something Terry Kendrick mentioned – that most people aren’t interested in the “stuff” the library has, so stop trying to market the “stuff”, and instead market how you can help people achieve their goals (usually assignments in the case of academic libraries). I think all too often in libraries we focus our efforts on marketing new resources or services, whereas we really need to demonstrate how people can use the library and library staff to help them.

      Thanks for including a link to ASU Libraries, it’s always interesting to see what other libraries are doing, particularly from further afield than the UK. Library Minute is great, and I love the open online comments – it’s great to see them and the responses publicly accessible, and really helps build the human side to the library ๐Ÿ™‚

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