Photo courtesy Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. People in the newspaper room, circa 1900.

I love to read anything in print. The texture and smell of the paper, the actual physical weight the words have in your hands, and the ability to re-read and annotate the pages give a sense of importance to the printed piece that you can’t get when you read something online.

Digital exhaustion is a real phenomenon, and the pandemic has only made it worse. According to Statista, the average daily time spent with digital media is expected to increase from seven hours and 50 minutes in 2020 to just under eight hours in 2022.

Even though people are spending more time online, that online space is crowded. It’s harder for the library’s message to break through all the content noise.

People want a more personal connection to their marketing. A printed promotional piece appeals to the senses. It’s tangible. It occupies physical space and creates the value of possession. Your audience must physically interact with it, and that makes it authentic and reliable.  

And for members of our community who don’t have access to the internet, or who don’t have a connection strong enough to support streaming videos or high-resolution downloads, print is the key to marketing success.

Most libraries have a printed newsletter. I want to challenge your library to take that piece and transform it into a powerhouse marketing tool.

To do that, you’re going to trim down the number of events in the piece and add stories about your library and its patrons.

Here’s how you can transform your newsletter into a promotional masterpiece that people will want to read. There are examples of great library print pieces at the end of this post!

Make a plan and an outline.

Divide your publication into pages. Then, plot out what you are going to put on each page.

You’ll want to create a balance between the sections of your piece. Start by dividing your publication into thirds.

  • One third will be dedicated to promoting collection items, including booklists, streaming music and movies, your physical movie and music collection, and magazines.
  • One third will be dedicated to events and programs.
  • The final third will be stories about patrons and staff and the ways the library has impacted their lives.

Pick one big story to serve as your cover.

Some cover stories we used at my library included:

A father and son who visited all 41 branches of our library in one day.

A middle schooler who gave a speech about library funding.

A 103-year-old woman who read three books a week, thanks to the work of our outreach department.

How to use the library to determine if stories on the internet are fact or fiction.

Once you determine your cover story, place it in your outline about halfway through your publication. You want people to have to read several pages to get to it.

Here are some other ideas for stories to put in your publication.

  • Staff and patron reading recommendations, including quotes about why they love and recommend the books.
  • Stories behind the forming of a book club.
  • A profile of a teacher or a school librarian who takes advantage of services like teacher collections and support from the library.
  • How your library has helped someone find a job or earn a degree.
  • Profile of a small business that used your library to launch a successful company.
  • Behind the scenes of a certain department at your library. For example, I interviewed the manager of our Preservation Lab, which restores and preserves rare items in the library’s collection such as military uniforms, books written on palm leaves, and all kinds of historically valuable photographs. In another issue, we took people along for a ride with our Outreach Services and talked to the people whose lives were changed by the simple act of bringing books to their homes.

Make sure each page includes at least one call to action.

Calls to action are very important, even in print. Remember, if you want your cardholders to do something, you must tell them to do it explicitly!

End each article with a call to action, like, “To learn more, email us.” Or “To join this book club, visit our website.”

The whole point of your print publication is promotion. Make sure that you give your readers a way to interact with your library and take the next step.

Give yourself time to edit and review.

Typically, it took me about a month from start to finish to write, edit, and review my 12-page print publication. Specifically, my timeline looked like this:

  • Four weeks before we went to print, articles written by other staff were due.
  • Three weeks before we went to print, I thoroughly read and edited each article. I used my own punctuation and grammar skills, plus Microsoft Word’s review editor, and a Grammarly extension on my browser to perfect each article.
  • Two weeks before we went to print, I made copies of the publication and passed them around to at least five staff members inside and outside of my department. I asked them to carefully read the articles and mark any mistakes they noticed.
  • One week before we went to print, I gave copies to senior leaders for final approval.
  • I also made a copy for myself and read it out loud. This is a trick I learned from journalism school that I still use today for this blog! Your brain may automatically correct errors when you read silently in your head but if you read each word out loud, as if you are doing it for an audience, you’ll find missing words or grammar errors that you never noticed before.

Some examples of great library print promotional pieces that incorporate promotions and stories about the library (that you can read online!)

Niles-Maine District Library Newsletter

Department of Library Services Newsletter from the University of Pretoria

The Storyline from Oak Park Public Library

Next Page from Bucknell University

Source from the Howard County Library System

Between the Columns from Eastern Kentucky University Libraries

Does your library have a print publication that you’re really proud of? I’d love to see it! Please let me know where I can read it by hitting the Feedback button on the bottom left-hand side of this page.

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