15 February 2021
Writing in a notebook. Image credit: Unsplash.com.

No matter what your position is within your organization, sooner or later, you are going to be approached to write something. It may be a description for an upcoming program, a press release, a grant proposal, or something as simple as an email to a patron or colleague. For some, writing any of these would be easy. Beautiful prose would flow from their brains to their fingers and out to the keyboard, pen, or pencil. For others, writing anything is about as appealing as a root canal – something that is done only out of necessity.

Regardless of which camp you call home, any job inside any library has a direct connection to communication. The easiest and most common is the direct one-to-one communication we share with co-workers and patrons, but the idea of reaching out to a wider or larger audience can freeze many people in their tracks, like a deer in headlights. The old joke about how one gets to Carnegie Hall (practice, practice, practice) applies to writing, as well.  The more we write, the easier it becomes and the better we become at it.  
I am part of a library marketers book club. We read books about marketing, then apply the tips, tricks, and tools to a library perspective. One book we read recently is Everybody Writes by Ann Handley. If you haven’t read this book, I HIGHLY recommend it. In her book, Handley becomes the human equivalent of a seeing eye dog for writers. She leads readers, step-by-step, through the writing process, eliminating the mystery and mystique, leaving only the practical and useful tactics that make writing easier for anyone.  Another excellent book is Write Tight: Say Exactly What You Mean with Precision and Power by William Brohaugh. Brohaugh offers guidelines for writing directly and concisely. Skipping filler and fluff allows the writer to share more information with greater impact in a short amount of time.

The My Library Is . . . website exists to give libraries and librarians a forum to discuss what works and what doesn’t in their facilities. Any and every aspect of life in the library is open for examination. My work life focuses on marketing our library and programming both live and virtual events in our spaces. The #1 rule of writing is generally acknowledged to be “Write what you know,” so my blog posts tend to be about how we are doing some of the programming in our library.  Maybe your area of expertise is Youth or Children’s services. Writing about what is going on in the Children’s department at your library should be easy. If you are focused on collection development, sharing information about the most-requested books or popular new authors should be a breeze. The point is, YOU are the expert on what is going on in your department at your library. You know what is working and what isn’t. Sharing what is working could be a major benefit for another struggling librarian in another library or district. Sharing what isn’t working serves as a cautionary tale for us all.

If you have never written anything for wider distribution before, this is your opportunity to stretch and grow in a “safe” space. You are cordially invited to share your story here. Pick something happening in your library that has been a success for you. Or something that failed miserably but was a learning experience. Or something coming up that you are excited about. Congratulations! You have a topic!  

Compose your blog post and submit it. If you don’t think you are ready for that, send photos of book display ideas, copies of recent press releases, or any of the other choices available in the Sharing Showcase, along with a descriptive paragraph or two. Libraries exist to be a collaborative community, so please – collaborate with us!  We can’t wait to hear from you!

Our guest blogger today is Donna Forbis. Donna is the Marketing & Events Coordinator at the Illinois Prairie District Public Library in Woodford County, IL. Donna is also a member of the My Library Is.. Advisory Team. You can send blog posts to communications@railslibraries.info



I would be VERY interested in

I would be VERY interested in a crash course in writing provided by RAILS. I have wanted to take one in my spare time, but if it was offered as a form of professional continuing ed, it would be easier to make time for it, as well as justify the cost. I would also feel more confident writing blog posts for this awesome webstie after a brush-up. I am sure there are more library professionals out there that may benefit from this type of cours/webinar.

Hi Katey, great question! If

Hi Katey, great question! If you look in the Training section of this website, there's a link to an archived CE event called Facts Tell, Stories Sell: Marketing Your Library's Message. Anyone with an L2 account can access it. The event covers a lot of great storytelling suggestions including how to craft an effective message. It might not be exactly what you are looking for, but I would check it out.