For the Library: Blog or Email Newsletter?

by Elizabeth on July 21, 2011 · 9 comments

in librarianship, libraries, medical libraries

I’ve been having this dilemma for a while.  How to incorporate social media into my library?  Start a Facebook fan page?  A Twitter feed?  A blog?  Go old school with an email newsletter?  Go even more old-school with a paper newsletter?

As I run through the list, I scratch many of them off.  Not many doctors (at least the ones I work with) are on Twitter (unlike librarians who flock to Twitter like it’s the second coming).  A paper newsletter would just get thrown out.  Do doctors want to see updates from their librarians on Facebook?  Would we even get any “likes”?

We started a blog (through Blogger) about a year ago, but like many other things do in the world of solo librarianship, it got pushed aside and barely got updated.  We weren’t really sure what we were trying to accomplish by it or what we should post, and it became abundantly clear that we had very few (if any) readers.

I’ve been toying with the idea of an email newsletter, and, in true librarian style, did some research.  I even put up a sign asking for people to sign up to join.  But, as evident by the lack of response from the sign-up sheet, no one is really interested.

So, dear readers, I turn to you for advice.  My goal is to drive new users into the library, update current users with information on new books and journals, and highlight interesting articles, apps, and websites I find that I think are relevant to them.  What is the best way to reach these (very busy) doctors?  Facebook?  A better blog?  An email newsletter?  What’s the best way to drive traffic to whatever I decide to go with?

Anyone have any ideas?

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Christine July 21, 2011 at 8:51 am

I would vote no for the email newsletter. Pretty much every email newsletter I get from the hospital gets deleted. Maybe a blog? or Twitter? I think the doctors (at least the younger set) would be more likely to actually read twitter updates rather than a newsletter.


2 Amber July 21, 2011 at 9:38 am

I agree with no for the email newsletter.

I’m kinda in the same place. My office (Student Services) has a Facebook page and a Twitter (which is never updated), which is great for quick updates, but I’m looking into implementing a blog to engage students, keep them informed, and introduce them to the University, the College, and our office. We’ll see how that goes. 😉


3 Amelia July 21, 2011 at 10:02 am

My suggestion is linking the multiple delivery methods to reach as many people as possible. You mention that you already have a blog set up through Blogger, you can link that up with a Facebook and/or a Twitter account so when you post an update to the blog, it will post to those feeds as well. Blogger also makes it easy for email subscriptions so for those that might prefer an email they can have that. I know I follow quite a few blogs through online feeds like Google Reader so that is yet another way to reach people. In my opinion this way you only have to update in one location and the patrons have multiple access points to access the information that fits best with their preferences.


4 Amy July 21, 2011 at 11:35 am

If no one will read a simple email newsletter, no one will read a blog either. Honestly, I think flyers and physical mail will work best simply because it is harder to discard a physical item without looking at it than it is to do so with virtual correspondence.


5 Chi July 21, 2011 at 12:13 pm

I agree with the others that it would be very difficult to get traffic through social networking; however, I think one of the better ways is to do an “Open House” or a “Lunch ‘N’ Learn”. Your goal can be accomplished without using social network since it’s not incorporated into your work culture.

Open House – you can use your baking skills to great use and have some cookies and coffee ready and maybe just have a slideshow running on one wall (don’t know if that’s possible…)

Lunch n Learn – encourage people to eat lunch (if they are allowed) in the library while they learn about resources they can use! Maybe a sign up sheet that will limit the amount of people, or you can already organize them by department.

I would also write Grey’s Anatomy’s writers and ask them to incorporate a Medical Librarian into the drama. “research”dates in the library, making out behind the stacks, high heeled librarian with rimmed glasses … I’m sure they can make it work 😛


6 Jess July 21, 2011 at 6:22 pm

I’d go with whatever you think your users are most likely to use, though there are ways to do all three – send updates to both Twitter and Facebook for example. Plus, you can post things to your blog and then share them on Facebook or Twitter for wider distribution.

I’d also say start something you know you can keep up with. Facebook and Twitter require pretty frequent updating, so if you wont have time in the future, it may be not be worth your time now. I do the social media at my library and it just takes time, period. We’re working hard on communication and have seen some returns on the time in terms of contact with students and other campus organizations, though. We do actually do a quarterly newsletter as well (by email) though it mostly goes out to Friends of the Libraries and creating HTML emails is a total PITA.

You might want to consider checking out “Content Rules” or “Trust Agents.” “Trust Agents” really shaped how I thought about social media and “Content Rules” has lots of great ideas for content.

Finally, my biggest tip (gleaned from reading stuff like these books) is to not just talk about yourself/your library. To build an audience, you have to talk about what interests them (which it sounds like you’ve thought about). I’ve posted links to Lifehacker articles about working in public places, for example or shared a tweet about the soup of the day in the library’s cafe. It’s not always about us or our stuff. But it helps build the audience so we can share our stuff when the time is right.


7 Annabelle July 21, 2011 at 10:59 pm

I second Amelia’s suggestion above – sync your blog to a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, so that people have their choice of preferred method to get your info. I work for a public library, and we use Twitter and Facebook quite effectively – and different people use each service. I’d be surprised if doctors (who wander around all day with iPhones and iPads) wouldn’t want to add you to their Twitter, or follow you through RSS.

I also advise against an e-newsletter! People can subscribe through the blog if they want, but these days, e-newsletters are seen as pretty old-fashioned. From what I’ve discovered, many people hardly ever check their email – but check FB and Twitter obsessively.


8 Elizabeth July 22, 2011 at 1:33 pm

It looks the consensus is keep up the blog with lots of interesting, and not always 100% library-related, posts and then link it to a Facebook or Twitter feed. Most of my users aren’t on Twitter, but I think a Facebook page is a great idea.

Thanks everyone for your input! I really appreciate it!


9 Alisha Miles September 19, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Well, I started a library wiki and blog. The wiki failed miserably. The blog is still going strong but it is not used in the conventional sense. I use the blog to feed the front page of the library. Yes users can subscribe but not many do. It is just a quick way to update your patrons.

I also started RSS feeds. I review RSS feeds for all of our journal subscriptions and other items. I then tag these items, which creates a separate RSS feed, and this feed is then mashed into an email newsletter that is sent out to subscribers. The email newsletter contains literature alerts that are specific to a specialty in medicine. Then if there is an important library update, say a change in password for a database or something, then I add it to the top of the email newsletter. I only do this occasionally. I do not want to bombard my users with too much.
So far the email newsletter has been pretty successful. The great part is if someone wants an RSS feed then I have that too (It is what feeds the email newsletter).

Good Luck with everything.



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