Lane Medical Library at Stanford University

Fall-Winter 2016
Project Type
Full team
Project Focus
Marketing & Communications
Organization Type


Lane Library’s mission is to enable biomedical discovery by connecting people with knowledge. It is the library of record for Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care Hospital, and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. The Library’s entire collection is online. About two thirds of their annual budget goes to licensing biomedical journals, textbooks, clinical calculators, and research databases/tools. A staff of thirty people provides collection management, technical expertise, classes, librarian guided or supported research, and customer support. They create, acquire, deliver, and integrate information to support excellence in research, education, and patient care. Their primary audiences, numbering about ten thousand people, are research teams, clinicians, and medical students.


The shift to digital collections has resulted in far more utilization by a larger base of users who no longer have to come to the library to gain access. Lane Library’s management is concerned that users are not finding potentially valuable information, are inefficient in their search efforts and are otherwise unaware of how to use the Library’s state-of-the-art search capabilities to fill more of their knowledge gaps. Traditional librarian-driven search assistance, while a major Lane service, does not scale; Lane offers instructional programs and leading search technology to support more users than individual librarians can.

Project Objectives

The ACT team was primarily asked to develop a marketing/communication/promotion plan that Lane Library could feasibly implement and maintain over time. The team was also asked to recommend product/service management processes that could be coordinated with the marketing/communications plan.

Project Overview

The ACT team conducted a situational review of Lane Library and its relationship to its “suppliers” (primarily biomedical publishers) and “customers” (Lane’s user community). The team then reviewed Lane’s marketing strategy, including past and current marketing communications programs and results, as well as “wish list” programs and initiatives. Finally, the team developed and conducted a survey of users and their needs, analyzed the results, and presented findings, conclusions, and recommendations in two reports to the Lane Library team.

Key Recommendations

The survey analysis supports nurses as Lane’s highest-priority marketing target. Based on user counts and their familiarity with Lane’s products, this should generate the highest return on investment in communication.

Lane should target residents/fellows as the homogeneous user group that should generate second greatest return on investment in communication.

Start by creating content masters for each product (tutorials, web descriptions, etc.), containing features, usage examples, and benefits. This material needs to be adapted to be as segment-specific as possible/practical and, ideally, delivered to users when, where, and how they will best derive value from it.

Enlist assistance of respondents volunteering to “help Lane” to refine content, timing, and delivery details.

Key Conclusions

Efficient operation of a service business requires:

  • creating products that provide value to specific user types;
  • delivering products cost-effectively;
  • marketing and communicating the benefits and value of products to targeted groups to create demand for Lane’s services;
  • and continual monitoring of product values, costs of delivery, and effectiveness of communications.

Lane is a ‘fixed cost’ operation. Expenses (costs) do not vary with volume of service provided (value delivered) in a given academic year. This means that effective marketing can significantly lower per-use costs and greatly expand the total value Lane delivers to Stanford Medicine with close to zero added expense.

Increasing service utilization through effective marketing is a key objective of Lane Library.

Only activities that can be measured effectively can be managed efficiently, but metrics themselves have cost-benefit tradeoffs.

Lane has much readily available data on product/service usage. These data are, by and large, not used for marketing management.

The ACT team’s analysis involved looking for patterns among user segments and library offerings (collection resources, services, and website features) that suggest opportunities to extend or improve availability and utilization of all library products by those who value them most highly.

Final Report Outline

  • ACT overview
  • Project overview: objectives, timing and activities
  • Summary of mid-project findings
  • Library user survey
  • Survey results — segments’ library use, evaluation & needs
  • Survey results — communication & learning preferences
  • Marketing/communication recommendations
  • Q & A, discussion