Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


Promoting Libraries Through Newsletters

Tuesday, April 12, 2005, 9:00 am

Anita O'Malley, NJLA Newsletter Production Manager, began this program with some great, practical, professional tips for creating an effective newsletter. Anita produces the newsletter for the New Jersey State Library, as well as several corporations. She has been teaching newsletter creation techniques for about 20 years. The following are some highlights from her talk:

  • Reading level is inversely proportional to font size: the lower the reading level, the higher the font size should be. The standard font size is 10 pt.

  • Don’t use more than two fonts throughout the newsletter.

  • If you have long stories, use few columns (a two-column layout is recommended). If you want to use some short stories and photos, use a three-column layout.

  • Full color is nice, but black plus one color is also very professional. Printers call this a “two-color press.” The one color should have 10 different shades available. Consult your printer about this.

  • Anita says to “create a nameplate that sings.” Use action words in your newsletter’s title and try to give it a graphical appearance.

  • You can get good clip-art from clipart.com, though there is a subscription fee. You can also create fun graphics by enlarging Wingdings (it’s a standard font – check your word processor’s font menu).

  • Some photo tips: Crop out objects in the photo other than your subject. Don’t use pictures of people stiff at their desks. Try to use action photos or an unusual angle. You can get royalty-free stock photos for $2 each at istockphoto.com.

  • ”Use space like a pro”: leave 20% of each page white; use a consistent number of columns throughout the newsletter; eliminate clutter.

Some overall tips:

  • Start simple. You can start with one 11x17 sheet (folder in half – that’s four pages) and see how easy or difficult it is to fill that.

  • Use restraint. Professionals do not use ten different fonts and four clip-art images per page. Use these effects sparingly and meaningfully.

  • It might be worth it to pay a professional to create a template for you which you can just fill in with content each time you do your newsletter.

Jane Crocker, chair of the NJLA Editorial Board, shared some key concepts to keep in mind as a newsletter editor:

  • Purpose: Think about what you are trying to accomplish and apply that to selection of content.

  • Audience: Who is your audience and what is their attitude toward your purpose? Think about their needs when you create the newsletter.

  • Tone: Think about what kind of tone you’d like have. Remember that humor can be difficult to sustain and that you run the risk of offending those who do not share your sense of humor.

Jane also suggests creating or choosing clear and interesting content, doing your best to be accurate and spending some time thinking about the presentation, as this is what will draw readers to the newsletter.

Arlene Sahraie, NJLA Editorial Board member, suggests that you ask yourself: Would someone pay for this? No one is going to pay for it, of course, but it should be good enough to pay for. She also points out that you can try to get your newsletter sent out with something else, such as your municipal newsletter, or the local weekly paper.

Sahraie recommended the following types of content as topics readers seem to be interested in consistently: new products, classesl, cultural evfents, readers’ advisory, title reviews, genre lists, important library information, renovations and fundraising news.


  • At 8:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Is the newsletter Anita said sth like Blogger.com (anyone can create a blog website without experiece) and ShopFleet.com (any store can create an ecommerce website without experience)?

    Anita said we shouldn't use more than two fonts. I don't agree. Different font sizes/colors are used in a newsletter to differentiate headers, titles, substitle, special focus, and so on. Although for same style of contents we should try using same font size/color, but we shouldn't limit ourselves to 2 fonts.

    Also wonder how much it would cost for using NJLA service.


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