I find lately that I’m obsessed of late with library web pages. I’ve set aside time every week to look at how different libraries around the world set up their websites. What do library’s feature or highlight their homepage? How robust is their search engine? What’s in their drop-down menu? How is their library staff set up?

That last question usually ends with me scrolling through a library’s “About Us” page. And it’s there that I really get a sense of that organization, how it views itself, and how it views its relationship to its cardholders. This research brought me recently to this conclusion: Most libraries, including mine, need to update their About Us page.

Your library’s About Us page can be a gateway to all kinds of traffic to your website. Perhaps your analytics show that you aren’t getting any visits to that section of your website and therefore, you might think you don’t need to mess with it. But if you want to increase your market penetration or if you are considering any campaigns or direct marketing messages to increase the number of cardholders you serve, you’re going to want a kick a** About Us page. Likewise, if your library is in the midst of a levy campaign or waging any kind of battle with your city or county over funding, hours, or locations, your About Us page could help you in that battle. And that page will need to look inspire to win new users and funding.

The concept of a revolutionary change in the way About Us web pages are written and formatted is something that gets a lot of discussion in marketing circles for major brands. I hear it all the time at Content Marketing World. Many big companies have moved away from a traditional approach–a long and wordy mission statement in non-conversational language that usually includes goals which have no meaning to the customer. They’re writing in a conversational tone, including specific calls to action for customers, and striving for full transparency. They’re using their About Us page to connect with potential customers, build trust, and communicate what their brand stands for and what the customer can expect from a relationship with that brand. And I think it’s about time for the library world to get on board.

Chicago Public Library’s page is minimalist with clear language and an easy-to-navigate menu.

We should transform our About Us pages into something that really has meaning to our community. This is the web page where decisions are made by all of your stakeholders. You want the page to make potential cardholders feel “at home” and community leaders understand what it is that your library does and why it’s vital.

Here are four ways to transform your About Us page from an abstract section of your website into an amazing marketing tool.

Focus on the cardholder. Here’s a thought that many libraries have a hard time grasping: your About Us page isn’t actually about you. It’s about your cardholders. What is it that your library can do for the cardholder? Take your mission, vision, and values statement, which is likely written in lofty language, and rewrite it in a conversational tone. Or drop it from the page altogether! I know that’s a controversial standpoint but if your mission, vision, values statement is written with a bureaucratic bent, it won’t have any meaning to anyone outside your organization. Instead, think of your About Us page as a conversation between you and a non-library user. How would you, in normal conversation, tell someone about all the things your organization does? That’s what your About Us page should say. You might also take the opportunity to answer the most frequent questions your library gets from new cardholders.

I love how the Columbus Public Library answers the #1 most frequent question right on their About Us page.

Tell your Library’s story. Whether your library has been around for decades or is newly formed, there’s a fantastic story about its birth and its longevity. Tell it on your About Us page, in a paragraph, with inspiring and optimistic language. Keep your bragging to a minimum. If your library has won many awards, you can mention them briefly and put them into the context of how that award translates to better service for your cardholders.

The Perth, Australia library’s About Us page includes all the essentials-how to get a card, sign up for a newsletter, and what is happening today at the library.

Less is more. Many libraries, including mine, have a long list of accomplishments and sub-headers on their About Us page. My library has 19 clickable sub-links!  Pare it down. White space is good. Pick the five most important things you’d want people to know and move the rest to another section of your website. Remember, your About Us page isn’t really about you… it’s about your cardholder. What are the five things a person would need to know to convince them to get a library card or to give you more money?

The Scottsdale, Arizona library takes a minimalist approach and it works!

Visuals are key.  Great, high-resolution photos that show people using your library and the workers who man the buildings are essential. Photos of faces are scientifically proven to be a more effective communication tool that text. Bold, easy to read fonts and primary colors work best for communicating ideas and drawing the eye to the page. Keep text to a minimum and pare down to five concepts that will tell your story.

I like how the Toledo Public Library’s page is heavy on visuals and includes easy-to-navigate sub links written in plain language.

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