Toronto Public Library to advertise on date-due slips

July 20, 2012  |  Chris Powell  |  Comments

This copy of Fast Food Nation brought to you by McDonald’s?

In an attempt to diversify its revenue and funding sources, the Toronto Public Library (TPL) is seeking an agency partner to provide it with advertising services on the back of the date-due slips issued to borrowers.

The TPL has also issued a second RFP for a consultant to evaluate “all library channels and vehicles” – including in-branch posters and brochure displays; online text and display ads on its website; and its truck fleet, excluding Bookmobiles – for advertising opportunities.

One of the principles of the TPL’s newly developed advertising policy is to develop what it calls “mutually beneficial” advertising relationships between the library, the business community and other organizations while using ad revenue to support the delivery of library service.

Linda Hazzan, director of communications, programming and customer engagement with the TPL, said it’s unclear how much incremental revenue the program would generate.

In many ways, the TPL is venturing into uncharted territory. A review of paid advertising approaches of other North American libraries conducted before the RFP was issued found that library systems generally do not have advertising policies or programs in place.

“We don’t have a lot of examples to base revenue models on,” Hazzan told Marketing in an e-mail interview. “This is one of the reasons we have issued an RFP for advertising and media consultation services – to determine both the revenue potential of the various library advertising vehicles and the infrastructure requirements and costs associated with implementing and managing a successful advertising program.”

The TPL has already embarked on a program to expand advertising around its What’s On? publication, which currently generates an estimated $35,000 in annual revenue. Hazzan said the TPL has only just begun expanding its advertising base, and expects to see new advertisers for the publication’s 2013 issues.

The TPL also operates advertiser-supported programs such as the TD Summer Reading Club.

Asked if there was any concern about public outrage over further advertiser incursion into the public realm, Hazzan said that the TPL would strive to ensure that any advertising program balances the organization’s primary public service role with the need to generate revenue.

According to the RFP, the winning vendor will be responsible for the sale, production/printing, testing and quality assurance of display ads on the reverse of the date-due slips as well as the installation, testing, function and maintenance of equipment required to facilitate the printing or display of advertising on the reverse side of date-due slips.

In February, Toronto council accepted a $10 million cut to the TPL’s budget that was to be derived from internal efficiencies, new revenues and 100 job cuts, but not major service reductions.

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