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Associations and InstitutionsAnnual 

64th IFLA Conference Logo

   64th IFLA General Conference
   August 16 - August 21, 1998


Code Number: 126-86-E
Division Number: 0
Professional Group: Contributed Paper Session II
Joint Meeting with: -
Meeting Number: 86.
Simultaneous Interpretation:   Yes

Marketing Information Technology (IT)
Products and Services Through Libraries: Malaysian Experiences

Shahar Banun Jaafar
National Library of Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur


In recent years, libraries in developing countries have taken initiatives to introduce Information Technology (IT) products and services to add value to their services. The advent of new technologies such as: dramatic increase of digital storage media; convergence of telecommunication and broadcasting, the availability of wealth of information resources accessible through the Internet and also increasing reduce cost of computers in the marketplace, make it possible for librarians to introduce IT products and services to fulfill information needs of their customers. Libraries should promote the use of IT as an integral part of library services in meeting the changing information needs of the community. Libraries must ensure that these new services are visible and meaningful to the community they served. Connecting libraries with communities using IT products and services is vital. The author discusses the Malaysian's government plan to transform the country into digital nation and how libraries can play their strategic roles in making IT product and services easily accessible to the community. Marketing IT products and services that benefit the community at large are some of the strategies that libraries should consider in order to improve their services in the digital era. Marketing strategies of IT products and services act as the driving force in achieving quality library services that meet information needs of the community. In developing marketing strategies, the author discusses the need to undertake environmental analysis to determine market trends that have major influence in the information needs of library customers, conduct market research before marketing programs can be introduced, develop marketing strategies through forward marketing, internal marketing and reverse marketing, and finally institute a monitoring and review system in order to maintain continuous customers' satisfactions of services offered by libraries.



Malaysia is located in the heart of Southeast Asia. It consists of the Peninsular Malaysia and the states of Sabah, Sarawak, and the Federal Territory of Labuan in the north-western coastal area of Borneo Island. The South China Sea separates the two regions. Antiquity writers once referred to the Peninsular Malaya as the Golden Chersonese. Malaysia has a population of about 21 million. About 51% of Malaysian populations reside in urban area. The result of the 1996 survey of Reading Habit among Malaysian population indicates that the literacy rate of Malaysian is 93% and that 12% of urban population have accessed to computer.

Presently there are approximately 10,000 libraries of different sizes in Malaysia. These libraries are: the National library of Malaysia, 14 university libraries (11 public and 3 private), 112 academic libraries, 330 special libraries attached to Ministries, government departments, private corporations, associations, 14 state public libraries with 89 branch/district libraries, 12 regional libraries, 274 village libraries and 97 mobile libraries, and about than 8,620 school libraries. Whilst the National Library, university libraries, academic libraries, state public libraries, and some special libraries are managed by professional librarians, school libraries/resource centres are mended by teacher librarians or student librarians. There are 4 library schools in Malaysia. They are at the MARA Institute of Technology, the University of Malaya, the International Islamic University, and at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. All library schools are giving emphasis on the study of IT and management of IT resources.

Funding for the National Library of Malaysia, government sponsored university libraries and school libraries/resource centres are from the Federal Government. Special libraries received their funding either from the government or from their parent organisations. State libraries receive their funding both from State Governments as well as from the Federal Government. The Federal government allocates development and part of the operational budgets to state libraries through the National Library of Malaysia. These funding are for building of new library buildings for state and branch libraries or for renovations of library buildings, purchasing of library furniture, equipment, mobile libraries, computer systems and buying library materials which include IT products as well as for organising reading campaign programs.

Since the end of 1980s, libraries in Malaysia, especially the National Library and university libraries have build up major bibliographic databases under the MALMARC project. In the early 1990s, some major libraries have installed their own computer systems and developed their own databases. In 1994, JARING ILMU (knowledge network) was introduced using Internet as a platform for linking libraries. Under the JARING ILMU project, the National Library installed computers with Internet facilities to 14 state libraries and 35 special libraries in the Ministries and Federal Government department libraries. Libraries that subscribe to Internet through Mimos Bhd, which acts as Internet service centre in Malaysia, will automatically become part of the JARING ILMU. Presently, there are about 150 libraries that have access to Internet. JARING ILMU is the beginning of library network that allows libraries within Malaysia to have accessed the Worldwide Webs. Internet provides opportunities for libraries to leapfrog into a new era of information technologies. Present, there are pockets of databases developed by different institutions, some of which can be accessible through Internet.


IT products refer to sources of information and knowledge contents that are available in electronic forms such as CD-ROMs, interactive video, films, audio digital products, online publishing, public domain and commercial online databases available through Internet and other propriety databases available through various private network providers. In addition, there are cable and satellite TV programs with varieties of channels that provide information to masses. This fast development of Information Technologies has provided new possibilities for libraries to introduce IT products and services to its customers.

Since late 1980, many libraries in Malaysia have created Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC). Through most libraries have their OPAC accessible at their own premises, some have them accessible through the Internet. The National Library of Malaysia has its OPAC accessible through Internet and its databases on Malaysian resources such as indexes to Malaysian journals, conference proceedings and selected articles available in CD-ROM. The National Library of Malaysia also maintains a collection of off-air recordings on various local TV programs related to business and IT, such as the Business Trends, Cyberwaves, important speeches by Malaysia leaders, and a number of educational programs, for researchers to refer at their convenient times. There are also specialized databases developed by research institutions such as the SIRIMLINIK, PALMOILIS, MASTICLINK, SITTDEC, and CIVIL SERVICE LINK accessible either through Internet and some through private networks. Some major local newspapers are available through the Internet through NSTP Online can only be accessible through subscription to private network. Local software houses are beginning to develop local software in CD-ROM though there are still small in number.

A number of libraries have subscribed to Information sources in CD-ROM. Union list of CD-ROM in Malaysian libraries can be obtained from the National Library of Malaysia's homepage.

Under the JARINGAN ILMU (KNOWLEDGE NETWORK), the National Library of Malaysia, encourages libraries to create and develop databases on sources of information pertaining to their core competencies and make these databases and sources of local information available through their homepages. Developing homepages are another means of promoting library services using IT.

A number of public libraries in Malaysia are developing Hypermedia Children Centers where children can view and interact with computers for group storytelling sessions, creative graphics and compose their /own stories using computer or learn science with its varieties CD-ROM collections.

Libraries should market its IT products and services so that the investment made by the government or their parent organizations will benefit the society at large, and that IT resources are fully utilized by library users. A marketing programs for IT products and services must be introduced. Marketing IT products and services will enhance the library image as a knowledge resource center. Peter Drucker once stated that "the purpose of a business is to create and keep its customers". Libraries should adopt marketing approach in the provision of library services. The focus of the marketing programs must ensure that library users (customers) are satisfied with IT products and services being offered. Customer satisfaction is important for libraries as it provide the following advantages. Firstly, libraries will continue to receive financial support from the government and public contributions. Secondly, libraries will be able to continuously add new IT products and services that will entice library users to come. Thirdly, by introducing IT products and services, it will create new images for libraries as infomedia, infotainment and edutainment centers, hence creating learning environment that are enjoyable and entertaining for library users.


Marketing acts as a driving force in achieving quality IT products and services, and maximizing customers' satisfactions at the lowest delivery cost. A market orientation program that promote the use of IT products and services in libraries need to be instituted in order to create superior values to customer by increasing benefit relative to the cost of IT products and services. This involves undertaking a market opportunity analysis. Market opportunity analysis refers to "a formal methodology that assesses macroenvironmental trends, customers, competitions and distribution channels in order to focus on the needs of a market segment". To create customer satisfactions, it requires libraries to scan market environment that has major impact on the information needs of its present and potential customers.

In Malaysia, there are major government policies and programs that require libraries in Malaysia to change their paradigm, to reposition their roles, to change the library's image as a "knowledge reservoir" instead of acting as a storehouse of printed materials.

Some of the Malaysian government policies and programs that have major influences to information needs of the Malaysian societies are:

Advancement of technologies such as dramatic increase of digital storage media, the convergence of telecommunication and broadcasting, the availability of wealth of resources accessible through internet and reducing cost of computers with multimedia and Internet capabilities will certainly have major influenced in information needs of library users. There are also an exponential growth rate of electronic publications either online or in CD-ROMs. The emergence of Internet and its worldwide Webs expose libraries to the wealth of global information resources available in major libraries and institutions worldwide. Libraries in advanced countries are beginning to undertake digitalization projects to convert their national in-prints into digital formats, some make them available through the Internet.

In such an environment, libraries in Malaysia cannot remain as a storehouse/museum of printed materials but must change its function as a "reservoir of knowledge" which continuously source our and deliver information in variety of forms, including in electronic forms, to its users.

As Malaysians improve their standard of living and are exposed to global information sources through various electronic media, their information behavior seeking will also change. They begin to demand for quality services in all aspects, including library and information services. Libraries have no choice but to introduce innovative IT products and services that cater to the changing information needs of Malaysian society. Libraries as "reservoir of knowledge" must market its IT products and services to its users in order to reach out to its potential users.


Before embarking on any marketing program, it is essential for a library to conduct marketing research in order to determine information needs of its present and potential consumers (library users), thereby providing services that satisfy and meet their information needs.

In 1996, the government of Malaysia has commissioned a research firm to conduct a survey on reading habit of Malaysians. The survey gave valuable information on the literacy rate, IT literacy, and to a certain extent, provided an overview of information needs of the Malaysian society. The results of the survey showed the following data: (i) the literacy rate of Malaysia is 93% (compared to 85% as indicated in the 1981 survey). (ii) Only 87% of Malaysians are practicing reading with an average of 2 books a year. (iii) About 12% of urban Malaysians have accessed to personal computers, and out of this, 49% use computers for playing computer games, 19% use with graphics, 15% play educational games, 31% use computers for general knowledge, and 18% use computer for reading stored materials. The survey shows that computer literacy is 12% among the 10-14 age group, 16% among the 25-34 age group, 10% in the 35-44 age group, 6% among the 45-54 age group, 1% for the age group of 55 an above; (iv) Only about 29% of Malaysian use library services.

The survey indicates that computer literacy among Malaysian is still low though is increasing, and that the use of library among Malaysians is still low. To encourage more Malaysians to buy computers for their family, the government is giving tax rebate for family that buys computers. There is no import tax for computer facilities. With the changing education system toward IT-based, it is expected that by the year 2020, everyone who goes through the school system will be computer literate. Introducing IT products and services as an integral part of library services, accompanied by good advertisement as well as introducing systematic user education programs will encourage library users to come to library.

Strategic marketing requires library to maintain an information system that collect data pertaining to library users for planning future library services throughout the country. Information and data pertaining to changing information needs of library users compiled from regular surveys, trends relating to subject/ topics that are frequently referred to by library user, frequently asked reference inquiries, that reference librarians received, statistic on usage of library resources, profile of library users registered for special services, profile of expert groups who can be tapped for specialized information sources, directory of libraries and the strength of their special collections and services rendered, directory of library IT vendors and IT publishers, and their performance indicators, etc must be maintained. It is essential that libraries constantly scan the external environment in term of economic, cultural, educational, technological and political developments that will have major impact to library services.


Information services that libraries offer must fulfill information needs of their present and future library services. Strategic marketing requires libraries to understand their customers changing information needs in order to provide customer-focused services. Environmental changes that are taking place at national and international levels have and will continue to influence information needs of the Malaysian society. In the era of information explosion where there is wealth of information being published and transmitted through electronic media, libraries must take proactive measures to introduce IT products and services to cater for information needs of the society that are fast transforming toward a digital society.

Quality marketing requires an integration of 3 marketing strategies, namely: forward marketing that focuses on customers, internal/inward marketing that focuses on staff development, and reverse marketing whereby libraries form strategic alliances/ partnership with IT suppliers. The integration of these 3 marketing strategies is vital for total quality marketing of IT products and services. Libraries should develop long-term strategies to make their visions to become part of the nation-wide digital libraries a reality. In Malaysian, plans for developing nation-wide digital library are being undertaken by special committee at the National Library of Malaysia. The committee comprises of representatives of librarians from different library sectors. The digital library will include the following components: (a) integration of all libraries and knowledge-based institutions in the country through networking. (b) Library acts a repository of multimedia digital knowledge and information resources. (c) Library is actively involved in the creation of local information/knowledge digital contents. (d) Library makes its databases accessible by anyone, from any locations and at any time. (e) Library makes available Internet facilities for the public to access WWW. (f) Library acts as one stop knowledge and information center for the community. (g) Library develops as infotainment, edutainment and infomedia centers. (h) Library provides distant learning, education-on-demand and video conferencing facilities. (i) Library can provide incubator services that allows small entrepreneurs to use library's computer systems to create databases and web pages until such time when they are able to have their own computer systems. (j) Library provides remote services through Interactive Online Services for reference inquiries, request for document delivery services, and reservation. (k) Library is actively participating in relevant listserves, online forums and video-conferencing. (l) Library acts as center for acculturation of IT. (m) Library acts as clearinghouse for intellectual property rights, and (n) use of smart cards among libraries.


In order to promote the use of IT products and services, libraries must develop marketing plans to market its services. The marketing plan should include the following services:


For effective marketing of IT products and services, libraries must promote its services through various form of advertisements so that library users are aware of new services being offers. A systematic and organized marketing plan will raise the library image as innovative library rather than as storehouse of printed materials. The library will gain higher status and recognition from stakeholders for funding. Promotion of its IT products and services can be made through the following means:


The library should institute a monitoring system when new library services being introduced. Monitoring system is designed to measure the effectiveness of IT resource being used and the reaction of library users as well as to assess the effectiveness of the marketing strategy to promote IT products and services. As IT products have shorter life cycle, librarians need to monitor its use and the extent that the new IT services being introduced sustain the interest of library users. Innovative and creative ways of marketing IT products and services must be considered.

It is also essential to monitor changes that continue to take place in the external environment and in the IT marketplaces as these changes may lead to changes being taken in the process. Introduction of IT means changing new ways of doing things, and may have profound effect upon the culture and social structures of libraries. The possibilities of library users accessing OPAC from remote places and made request for reservation, loans, and even membership registration online can alter the library's boundary with the external environment by changing its relationship with its users, book suppliers, and other libraries as well as opening its resources to the global community. All these should be closely monitored to avoid conflict among staff.

The review process involves feedback from staffs involves in the change process, feedback for the library users as well as library suppliers. Data collected as the result of monitoring and reviewing the IT services is analyzed and conclusion is drawn about the effectiveness of the marketing strategy. The information is used to shift the strategy toward a more effective direction. Non-productive services and facilities should be phased out and reexamined to determine the reasons for its failure. Efforts and resources should be redirected and focused an area where demand is greater. Complaints and failures should be addressed and problems dealt with.

Benchmarking with other libraries to measure and to compare its service performances with other libraries/ information centers is also important. Having an information system enable librarians to make quality decision making in introducing innovative IT products and services.


In the digital era, IT products and services must be made as an integral part of library services. Libraries that have introduced IT services should promote its use to the society. Libraries must have marketing strategies to connect libraries and communities through IT and services. Marketing strategies of IT products and services act as a driving force in achieving quality library services that meet information needs of the community. For quality marketing of IT products and services, it requires an integration of three marketing strategies, namely: forward marketing, internal marketing and reverse marketing.


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