Digital communication for libraries

Top tips from a Ned Potter workshop.

When it comes to using digital tools to market your library and its services, remember - you can’t do everything.  Neither can you know about every tool. 

Ned Potter is the author of The Library Marketing Toolkit and an expert speaker and trainer on all things library marketing.  His focus is on the achievable, the practical and the measurable.  This article shares some ideas and tips from one of his workshops.

Knowing your community and customising your message

  • Remember – most advertising doesn’t work.  Generic off the peg communication really doesn’t work.  Do what you can to divide your audience and tailor the message to them to make a difference
  • It’s not about how good the tool is but about which tools connects best with your users
  • Aim for 'ambient awareness'.  A single piece of advertising won’t make a difference.  Raise awareness over a period of time so that when they have a need, your users will think of you.

Publishing online

Users don’t find PDFs – and almost no-one opens them.  Ned recommends that libraries use a tool to make them more engaging.

  • Tools such as  or Scribd are great for publishing library guides and brochures
  • Your documents will be hosted by the site and embedded on your website
  • This has the added benefit of increasing the findability of your documents, extending reach and building your reputation
  • Make sure you are not publishing sensitive content and be aware your institution may have a policy regarding third party hosting
  • Blogs are great for SEO because Google loves frequently updated content.  Remember your users don’t need to know – or even care – if the content is published in a blog

Visual communication

  • A well-chosen image can be very powerful
  • Be careful about licensing images on Flickr – modifying happens if you add any words to the image
  • Don’t underestimate the power of a great font.  Ned recommends  You may need to become an institutional super user temporarily so you can download as many fonts as you like


Search for your library on FourSquare – even if you haven’t logged your library here, other people might have done.  And they may not have been positive!

Ned recommends you reclaim your account if this is the case.

QR codes

These are easy to use – but ask the question – will your users USE them?

  • You must offer some sort of reward
  • They are helpful to cut down on long URLs
  • Can be useful if targeted at your tech-savvy users
  • Examples of use are directing users directly to a Google Map location; taking users to an e-book when the physical book is not on shelf; QR codes in a health library setting


  • Is your library website mobile ready? 
  • Responsive design means responds to size of screen and is gold standard. 
  • Library apps – examples include apps that help users locate available PCs in the library


Vimeo or YouTube?  Vimeo is the home to more ‘quality’ content.  You can ‘lock down’ your content and brand it – this is not possible on YouTube.  However, most of your users/potential users will be on YouTube.

  • Ned recommends – post everything to YouTube.  Post your ‘showcase’ videos to Vimeo too
  • Always assume mobile viewing when creating video
  • Make sure your videos work without sound
  • Most people turn off a video after five seconds – you need to make an impact immediately
  • Example of library videos:  the Harold B. Lee Library; Warwickshire Libraries

Social media

More young people are on social media than have email accounts.  The sands are always shifting but Ned recommends the following:

  • Have an Instagram account – it’s dynamic and preferred by young people
  • Link all your social media together
  • Twitter is a great way to build a network
  • You must measure and evaluate your activity – Twitter analytics are now open to all
  • Focus on the best time to tweet – and schedule if appropriate. Use to see when your followers are most online
  • Pinterest – not only is this a growing network, but users are likely to take actions after using it.
  • Examples of libraries on Pinterest – Peter Alsbjer

Ned Potter is an academic librarian at the University of York. He is the author of the Library Marketing Toolkit published by Facet Publishing.  He can be found online at here. Ned was running a UKeiG workshop Digital Marketing Toolkit.