I Didn’t Know My Library Had That! Tips to Increase Patron Knowledge of Library Resources

Library Resources | Kathy Lussier| July 10, 2018

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Kathy Lussier, Customer Engagement Coordinator for NoveList, leverages information from a LibraryAware pilot program to share tips for librarians looking to increase usage of databases and other online library resources through email campaigns.

How many times have you heard, “I didn’t know my library had that!”? The LibraryAware team at NoveList ran a pilot project with two dozen libraries from across the U.S. and Canada.  

It seems nearly every day, someone is surprised to find out their library offers e-books, e-magazines, online learning and more. Librarians tell us that once people know about their databases and online services, they love using them. So how can you grab people’s attention and get them to use these valuable library resources? We focused on whether promoting online resources using email campaigns in a new and strategic way could move the needle on usage. The results were remarkable.

Here’s what we did and how it went.

We created email templates in LibraryAware featuring a large, compelling image that reflected the benefit or result of using the service. The text was minimal (we let the image do the main sales pitch) with a link to the resources page on the library’s website. 

The focus was on benefits-driven messaging, showing people that their library has just what they need, and it’s all available with their library card. For example, we didn’t say we had “a great database to help you start a business.” We zeroed in on the benefits and emotional appeal of the solutions libraries provide.

Libraries highlighted one database or service per email, selecting resources of high value to patrons. If people were paying for a similar service elsewhere, it was a good candidate since the library offered the service at no charge. Library services for e-books, audiobooks, e-magazines, online learning and language classes were top picks.

Emails were sent once a month over six months; one “welcome” email from the library director introducing the series, followed by five monthly emails each promoting a specific database. That kept things manageable yet effective for smaller staffs and recipients weren’t bombarded with emails (never a good idea!).

The results were far better than expected. The average open rate was 29.37%, outperforming the average open rate for emails from non-profits which hovers in the mid-20s. Across the board, libraries were pleasantly surprised to see a very low unsubscribe rate. Some even received thank you emails from people who appreciated hearing about these valuable services. Most importantly, usage of online resources doubled and even tripled from before the campaign.

Andrea Taylor, Technology Coordinator at Sarasota County Libraries and Historical Resources, had a good experience with this campaign. “We saw a 388% increase in Flipster downloads after sending this email campaign to our patrons via LibraryAware.” [and a 55% increase sustained nine months later]

The most successful libraries made it a team effort. They made sure all staff knew that an email was going out about a certain service or database so they could be prepared to answer questions. An added benefit was a staff that’s well-versed in the library’s key offerings.

We found that by using a short-term email campaign focused on benefits-driven messages with compelling graphics and a simple way to try out the service, usage went up. Libraries that included strategies like related programming kept people coming back to use the resource for months after the initial email.

Andrea Taylor, Technology Coordinator at Sarasota County Libraries and Historical Resources, had a good experience with this campaign. “We saw a 388% increase in Flipster downloads after sending this email campaign to our patrons via LibraryAware.” [and a 55% increase sustained nine months later]

The goal of this type of campaign is to move people from unawareness to awareness and from trial to engagement. When people know about the ways your library benefits them, they’ll value your library more, and will be stronger advocates for your library. You’ve heard it before, “what’s in it for them” really does matter. This point can’t be stressed enough — targeted, well-designed emails with messages that clearly state the benefits of using your database are key.

Here’s how you can do it too!

Want to get started on your own email campaign? Be sure to get our white paper and webinar recording. You’ll find real-world tips for increasing usage of library resources, including detailed steps to implement an effective email marketing campaign at your library, examples of some of the email templates, plus “10 Questions to Ask When Choosing an Email Marketing Service” and more.

Learn More About LibraryAware

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Kathy Lussier
Customer Engagement Coordinator, NoveList

Helping organizations tell their story is Kathy’s passion. Combine that with her love of libraries, and she’s found her dream job with NoveList where she helps libraries of all sizes communicate about their collections, products, and services in fresh and creative ways. With a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin, Kathy holds national accreditation in public relations from the Public Relations Society of America.

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