I’m still thinking about the Toronto Public Library’s decision to put ads on their date due slips.
What does the ad agency get out of this arrangement? As I understand it, the TPL farms out the ads to a contractor who sells the ad space, takes a cut, and gives the leftovers to the TPL. How much do you think an ad on the back of a library date due slip sells for? Why would a business want an ad there? It seems to me that the people who really benefit from this are the ad agencies and the contractors. But if we’re not going to be giving out patron info (and we’re not, right? I mean, even if you’re not a member of the ALA or ascribe to the Code of Ethics, I think we can all agree on this) what is the ultimate benefit for the ad agency? The potential payout to the TPL is ridiculously small. Economics aren’t the only reason to decide against ads on date due slips, but it’s unlikely that the contractor or ad agency are thinking beyond the economics.
And that’s not all. If you read the PDF provided in the Torontoist article, you can see that the advertising plan is not just about date due slips. In fact, date due slips is only part 2 of the first step in a multi-step process that involves hiring a consultant to “focus on understanding the potential for revenue generation, the relative merits of different Library channels and vehicles for advertising, and the costs, resources, impacts and infrastructure requirements involved in the implementation and management of a successful advertising program.” These library channels include but are not limited to: In-branch posters and brochure displays; Online text and display ads on the Library’s website; Networked computer screens including the Library’s in-branch wireless network, public computers and LCD screens; and the Library’s truck fleet, excluding the Bookmobiles. I’d be willing to bet that any social media presence the TPL might have will also be fair game.
Let me say it again. The library will be hiring a consultant to identify potential for advertising in a library space, the revenue from which will be small once everyone has taken their cut. I’d like to see a cost-benefit analysis of this, or at the very least a spreadsheet of projected revenue versus projected outlay. Because this isn’t quite adding up.