I recently spent some time reviewing 2020 usage trends for LibraryAware, NoveList’s promotion and communication software, hoping to learn a little about how this year of COVID-19, natural disasters, and social unrest have changed communication approaches for public libraries. Not surprisingly, the use of digital channels surged in March as many of you adapted to meet the information needs of your communities, whether your libraries closed or stayed open. And in the past couple of months, more libraries are creating print flyers, posters, and bookmarks as people return to your physical locations. 

One communication channel has risen to the top of the usage charts in 2020: email. Libraries have sent 34% more emails to subscribers this year than last year, and open and click rates have remained strong as people have relied on email to understand which services, programs, books, and other library offerings are available. Two types of emails have driven consistently high subscriber engagement, measured by open and click percentages, this year:  

Reading recommendations: Book suggestions of all types have scored high with email recipients in 2020. Whether genre-specific recommendations, staff picks, a list of new titles acquired by your library, anti-racist reading suggestions, or e-books to enjoy at home, readers have been eager to experience escape, exhilaration, or education from a good book. Some reading recommendation emails have resulted in click rates over 100%, which means recipients clicked on multiple titles in an email or read it more than once. If your library isn’t currently emailing reading recommendations, you could start by creating email versions of book lists and book displays you’re already producing.  

Pro tip: LibraryAware subscriptions include access to NextReads, librarian-curated newsletters for more than 20 genres and topics that make it fast and easy for your library to offer reading suggestions to your patrons.  

Updates on library service availability: This category may seem obvious given our ever-evolving circumstances, but subscriber engagement with these emails – open and click rates frequently 3 or 4 times the average – has demonstrated patrons’ strong interest in staying connected with their libraries. Garnering the highest subscriber interaction have been emails about services like curbside pickup, wifi access, and setting appointments for library visits.  You’re probably already emailing your patrons about new and updated service offerings, but in case you’ve been relying primarily on other channels of communication, try adding email notifications to your mix.    

Pro tip: LibraryAware customers can find professionally designed email templates about service updates that are ready to edit and send. Search for “COVID” or “wifi” to see examples.  

Have other types of emails been successful with your library's subscribers this year? I’d welcome hearing about them. You can reach out to me at libraryaware@ebsco.com.  

Jenny Schafer is the Manager of Product Management at NoveList. She is currently reading The Red Lotus by Chris Bohjalian.